Hikers and bicyclists spend the day going around Cades Cove (2021)

Hikers and bicyclists spend the day going around Cades Cove in 2020, enjoying an ongoing pilot program to keeping Cades Cove Loop Road closed to vehicle traffic on Wednesdays through the summer. For 2021, the program starts May 5.

Starting this week, Cades Cove Loop Road vehicle-free Wednesdays will continue to benefit joggers, walkers and bikers in 2021, with a few tweaks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials said.

The no-vehicle Wednesday program — still in its pilot phase — will last from May 5 through Sept. 1, park officials said in a press release. Those officials request that those visitors come in the afternoons and early evenings “to spread use out throughout the day.”

Parking at Cades Cove is limited, according to the release, and lots often fill up in the morning.

“I heard from many people who loved having the full day to walk or ride their bikes around the cove. The credit for the idea goes to the local field staff who brought the concept forward in an effort to allow people more time to enjoy the loop road and to reduce congestion,” GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash said.

But, he added, few things will be slightly different this year. “We look forward to offering this unique experience again, but we are making some modifications to better protect our roadside infrastructure and camping experience from out-of-bounds parking,” Cash said.

One of those modifications includes staff-managed parking to “improve visitor safety, minimize impacts to campground operations and reduce roadside parking on non-durable surfaces,” according to the release.

Additionally, the announcement said GSMNP staff are developing information systems to better alert visitors when parking lots are full before they enter the park.

They also are exploring shuttle opportunities to safely bring people to the cove from the Townsend area.

These may be in place later this summer.

The park also reminded cyclists that Tennessee requires children up to age 16 to wear helmets, but strongly encouraged all riders to wear them.

During summer and fall, the park rents out bicycles at the Cades Cove Campground store on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, call 865-448-9034.

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