Archived Outdoors

Vehicle-free Wednesdays will continue at Cades Cove

Cyclists take a break during a ride on Cades Cove Loop Road. NPS photo Cyclists take a break during a ride on Cades Cove Loop Road. NPS photo

A pilot project that last year kept Cades Cove Loop Road vehicle-free on Wednesdays will continue this year. 

From May 5 through Sept. 1, the road will be closed to motor vehicles but open to pedestrians and cyclists every Wednesday. Park managers implemented this policy last year in an effort to improve visitor experience and reduce congestion associated with the vehicle-free mornings that had previously been offered until 10 a.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays. 

The park received 47 comments giving feedback on the pilot project, of which more than 60 percent were “extremely positive.” However, early morning congestion still caused an issue for some campers, and some visitors were disappointed they couldn’t drive the loop road on Wednesdays. 

Nearly 30,000 cyclists and pedestrians participated in the vehicle-free days last year, 25 percent more than had done so Wednesday and Saturday mornings in 2019. On average, 1,800 people used the road each Wednesday. 

Park managers are still concerned about parking congestion and will monitor use levels, availability, visitor experience and congestion throughout the year. In 2020, parking lots were full during 30 percent of the observation period and roadside shoulders along the Laurel Creek Road were used for parking during 60 percent of the observation period. This season, park managers will take action to prevent roadside parking on Laurel Creek Road, which can damage the road and create safety hazards, and to ease pressure on campground and picnic area lots.

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