TOWNSEND, Tenn. (WATE) — From May through September, one of the most popular roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be closed Wednesdays to motor vehicles. Cades Cove Loop Road will host vehicle-free Wednesdays for cyclists and pedestrians to enjoy.

The pilot project for vehicle-free Wednesdays along Cades Cove Loop Road began in 2020, when park managers first implemented it to test whether visitor use to the Smokies could be improved by addressing congestion, parking, and safety issues that often cropped up in the park. They brought it back in 2021 as a continuation of the pilot program.

Cades Cove Loop Road’s vehicle-free Wednesdays will begin May 4 and run through Sept. 28, 2022.

(Photo: WATE)

Smokies Park officials say participants are encouraged to visit in the afternoons and early evenings in order to spread visitor use out throughout the day — because parking on-site is limited. Parking lots are often filling to capacity during the early morning hours.

The National Park Service on Thursday also shared the following information regarding the upcoming vehicle-free Wednesdays in Cades Cove:

  • Staff and volunteers will be managing on-site parking to improve visitor safety, minimize impacts to campground operations, and eliminate roadside parking on non-durable surfaces.
  • Roadside parking damages shoulders and creates unsafe conditions for visitors walking from their car to their destination. 
  • When parking lots are full, visitors will need to come back later in the day or enjoy other areas of the park.
  • Cyclists are reminded to properly prepare for a safe experience. Serious cycling accidents have occurred along the Cades Cove Loop Road.
  • The State of Tennessee requires that children under the age of 16 wear a helmet. All riders are strongly encouraged to wear helmets and to ride properly fitted and well-maintained bicycles.
  • During summer and fall, bicycles may be rented at the campground store located near the Cades Cove Campground on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • For information call 865-448-9034.

Park officials also say that when Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to vehicles, there are many other scenic routes in the Smokies in which vehicles can travel: Other options include the Foothills Parkway between Chilhowee Lake and Wears Valley for scenic views; Little River Road for a scenic drive along a river; and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail for a scenic drive with opportunities to explore historic structures.