Cades Cove on the Tennessee side of the Great Smokies is the park’s most popular destination, receiving more than two million visitors a year. There are good reasons for this. In addition to the scenic beauty of the miles-wide valley, black bear sightings are not uncommon, anglers can try their luck in several trout streams, and those interested in history can spend hours learning about the park’s pioneer inhabitants by strolling through dozens of old structures, including barns, cabins, churches, and a grist mill. Bicyclists come here to ride the cove’s 11-mile loop road, and casual walkers learn about the park’s environment by taking the short nature trail, or the relatively easy five-mile roundtrip jaunt to 25-foot Abrams Falls.
This is all well and good, but it also means you will need to go a little farther afield to enjoy some solitude. That’s why I’m writing to tell you about the hike to Rich Mountain from Cades Cove Road. By following the Rich Mountain Loop, Indian Grave Gap, and Crooked Arm Ridge trails, you can escape the crowds, but also take in much of what the cove has to offer. The approximately eight-mile route crosses a number of good fishing streams, rises to the ridges where there are a few good views of the cove, and passes by a cabin built by one of the pioneers in the 1820s.
The Trails Illustrated Great Smoky Mountains National Park map shows the trails traced out along topographic elevation lines.