Our Thanksgiving trip was a journey of two extremely opposite campgrounds: Cades Cove Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains just off The Loop, and Carolina Pines RV Resort in Conway, SC, 15 minutes from Myrtle Beach. As opposite the two spots are, both may be a contender for the best campground ever.
Situated in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove is nestled in the trees surrounded by mountains. The campground offers fewer than 100 sites. The B loop allows the use of generators, the C loop does not. Neither loop offers water or electricity. We were in the quiet B loop. The campground does have several bathhouses without showers, as well as a dump station, and a great camp store that also serves as a gift shop and snack bar popular with those driving and biking the loop.
We were within a couple hundred feet of a trailhead for a one mile hike. On our first attempt, we made it a quarter mile before coming too close to a large black bear on the trail. We quickly headed back down the trail. The next morning, we tried the same trail again and made it a third of a mile before we spotted a young bear near the trail and a second in a tree. Quickly back down the way we came up again. After talking to a park volunteer, we learned that bears frequent that trail and are in the campground most nights. Good reminder for us to double check our site to be bear safe and stay bear aware the whole time.
We took time to enjoy the location and the campground. Sunday morning, before the park got busy, we drove the Cades Cove Loop Road. We relaxed by the creek near the campground, walked the campground and spotted turkey, and relaxed by a fire. At night, the campground is dark and quiet. No outdoor TVs or street lights; just campfires and stars.
We previously biked the 11 mile loop on a Saturday morning as the loop is closed to cars on Wednesdays and Saturdays June through September. This time we were biking on a November Sunday afternoon. It is still a great ride, but the roads are narrow and the traffic is heavy, we opted for the abbreviated four mile route.
Next stop on this trip might be the stop you'll want to make your next trip: Carolina Pines!
Shane and Jessica
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