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Cades Cove

Historic Attractions of the Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains has a rich Southern Appalachian heritage

By Julie Matthews

One of the oldest mountains in the world, the Great Smoky Mountains has a rich Southern Appalachian heritage that can be experienced today through its preserved historic buildings and structures, including its remarkable collection of log buildings. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to more than 90 historic structures, some of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Examine the park’s interesting history up close by visiting these areas during your next trip.

Cades Cove

Beautiful Cades Cove, a valley bordered by mountains, is a top destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Along with offering spectacular wildlife viewing, Cades Cove has the largest variety of historic buildings in the park. The cove has an 11-mile loop, where visitors can observe churches, barns, log houses, a gristmill and other restored 18th and 19th-century structures. Be sure to look for the historic John Oliver Cabin.


At Cataloochee, view 19th and early 20th-century historic buildings from churches, including the Little Cataloochee Church, to homes and a school. This valley was once the biggest and most booming settlements in the area.


Here you will find a visitor center to help enhance your Great Smoky Mountains history learning experience. Mountain Farm Museum displays preserved log buildings, including a barn, house, mill and smokehouse, and holds gardening demonstrations. A short distance away is the Mingus Mill, a gristmill built in 1886.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a popular spot for people visiting the park. This 5.5-mile loop road provides sightseers interesting views of streams, gristmills log cabins and other historic buildings. Nearby enjoy two favorite waterfalls in the park, Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls.


Located by Elkmont Campground, the park’s largest campground, this area was once a flourishing logging community but eventually became a ghost town. Learn about Elkmont’s intriguing history and see the assortment of log cabins that remain.

Little Greenbrier
The Walker Sisters Cabin is a must-see for visitors wanting to learn about the park’s history. Located in the park’s Little Greenbrier area, see a log cabin built starting around the 1840s and learn the story of the Walker Sisters and their deep connection with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Also visit the Little Greenbrier School, which was used as both a school and church for the community.

Look for self-guiding tour booklets available for purchase on site to learn more about these areas and their fascinating history.

Want more local history?

Check out this article about Museums to Visit in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains!

Want more things to do?

Check out this article about Things to Do at Great Smoky Mountains National Park