Planning Tips for Your Cades Cove Engagement Photos in the Smokies
Cades Cove is THE quintessential location in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This mountain oasis location has it all – picnic areas, a campground store, mountain views, historic structures, expansive fields, and famous wildlife. Therefore, it’s no wonder why so many couples want to take Cades Cove engagement photos. As a Smoky Mountain Photographer, I have traveled to Cades Cove on numerous occasions, and I have the inside scoop as to what to expect.
1. Hire A Permitted Photographer
Did you know that in order to have Cades Cove engagement photos you are REQUIRED to have a photographer with a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA)? I cannot emphasize the importance of highering a photographer who has secured their CUA. Photographers with a CUA are allowed to perform business activities in the Smokies and have the appropriate Tennessee business license and applicable insurance.
Further, permitted photographers are familiar with many areas inside Cades Cove. I can direct many couples to popular photography spots with ease and can make quick photo decisions based on the traffic, sunset, and weather inside the 11-mile one-way loop.
2. No Cell Service
Once you enter The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, there is NO cell service. Period. Therefore, you need to have a plan in advance with your photographer as to where to meet. I would highly recommend meeting somewhere outside of the National Park boundaries, and caravan with the photographer to Cades Cove.
The single, number one rule for engagement photos in Cades Cove is this: never get on the 11-mile loop without your photographer. Ever. There will be no way to communicate your location to each other, and you will be left wandering the loop for hours without any photos.
3. Traffic, Traffic, Traffic
Be prepared to get frustrated. And once you get on the one-way loop, you can be stuck in traffic as you move from one location to another. The most popular time in Cades Cove is in the month of October when all of the fall colors are in full display! The estimated time on the loop can vary between 3-5 hours.
Luckily, there are two cut-through lanes in Cades Cove. The first is Sparks Lane, and the second is Hyatt Lane. Both offer opportunities for us to shorten the drive-time around Cades Cove Loop, while still allowing plenty of time for mountain photos.
4. Restrooms and Changing Locations
Restrooms are located in the Cades Cove Campground and Picnic area before you get on Cades Cove Loop. There are also restrooms at the Visitor Center as well. Please note, that the restrooms are closed in the months of December through March. Therefore, if you are interested in an outfit change, be prepared to change at your vehicle.
5. Wednesdays Are Closed to Motor Vehicles
Cades Cove Loop Road is closed be all motor vehicles each Wednesday from May 4, 2022, through September 28, 2022, to provide for pedestrian and bicycle use. The first Vehicle-Free Wednesday was June 17, 2020. The vehicle-free days are popular, and I expect this program to continue in 2023 during the summer months.
6. Park and Road Closings
The Smokies frequently close the roads when bad weather occurs. This includes flooding, high winds, and snow. The best way to learn about closings is to visit the Smokies Road Closure Twitter Account.
7. Seasons Matter
Each season of the Smokies offers unique experiences. In planning your Cades Cove engagement photos, you may want to consider the season.
Spring (March 20-June 21)
Spring brings rainfall, and the weather can be unpredictable. Occasionally, the mountains can receive snowfalls in early March. Don’t worry. I will bring umbrellas. There are some cool, sunny days that are ideal for going on a tour of Cades Cove. This time of the year sees fewer visitors than other seasons, and would highly recommend scheduling a session with me in the Spring.
Summer (June 21-September 22)
Many visitors choose summer as the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains. School is out and vacations are in full swing! A typical summer day in the Smokies is warm, humid, and hazy with afternoon and evening thundershowers. Wildlife like deer, bears, and turkeys are very active during the summer season and many of these animals are visible in Cades Cove.
Fall (September 22-December 21)
Fall color begins to show in early October. The prime viewing time is the week before and after Halloween. This makes the Smokies, and particularly Cades Cove, especially busy. I would highly recommend venturing into Cades Cove on a Saturday or Sunday during this time.
Winter (December 21-March 20)
Can you say winter wonderland? The colder temperatures transform the landscape of the Smokies into a lovely winter wonderland, and if the roads are open, Cades Cove is picturesque. With stunning snow-capped mountains, winter is an incredible time to travel around the loop.
Hire Erin Morrison Photography
Hi, my name is Erin Morrison and I am a permitted Smoky Mountain Photographer. I have extensive knowledge and expertise for your Cades Cove engagement photos, and I would love to explore this natural wonder with you. My calendar books up well in advance! Please view my Smokies Portfolio or download one of my Smoky Mountain Guides. Contact me at your earliest convenience to schedule with me!