Cades Cove is a lush valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, rich in the history of a developing nation and abundant in wildlife. Europeans settled in Cades Cove in the early 1800’s and due to the desirable location, the population grew quickly. Buildings from the 18th and 19th century, including a church, a one-room schoolhouse and a mill remain for visitors to explore. The Cades Cove Loop is an eleven-mile motorist trail encircling the valley and it is among the best and most popular locations for wildlife viewing for species the native to the Smoky Mountains.
Turn-outs are offered along the Cades Cove Loop and cars are frequently pulled over to watch herds of white-tailed deer, the most commonly seen animal in the park. Elk were completely gone from the area due to overhunting until 2001 when the National Park Service reintroduced them to the Smoky Mountains. Summertime and weekend days year round are busy on the loop; however the best time to view deer and elk is winter, when the trees are bare and they are more easily spotted. Other wildlife to look out for include black bears, skunks, raccoon, turkeys, chipmunks and coyote.
Though rarely seen, the greatest opportunity to catch a glimpse of the black bear is in the spring following their hibernation and summer, which is mating season. The black bear population is diminished in the Eastern U.S. and bears are sparse throughout the Smoky Mountains, but lucky visitors may see a lone specimen or a mother bear with her cubs.
Early morning and evening hours are prime viewing hours for most animals as that is when they tend to be most active. Binoculars and telescopic camera lenses are excellent ways to wildlife watch but be sure not to get too close, though the wild life of Cades Cove is adapt to having people pass through the main areas on a regular basis they are still wild animals and are temperamental and can be very dangerous.