weekend

Cyclists enjoy a vehicle-free Wednesday at Cades Cove.

Submitted

NATIONAL PARK — Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are now offering a shuttle opportunity for visitors to access Cades Cove on Vehicle-Free Wednesdays beginning July 7 through Sept. 1.

The shuttle service will be provided by Rocky Top Tours from Townsend to Cades Cove between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. each Wednesday.

“Vehicle-free Wednesdays in Cades Cove continues to be extremely popular,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Our staff has worked hard to manage safe parking access, including making improvements to a field traditionally used for parking that allowed us to add 85 more spots this year. But, the demand still far exceeds the space and we’re hopeful the shuttle service will allow more people the opportunity to enjoy this unique experience.”

Park staff and volunteers actively manage parking at Cades Cove on Wednesdays to improve visitor safety, prevent disruptions to campground operations, and to reduce damaging roadside parking along Laurel Creek Road.

In the 2021 season, parking lots have typically filled by 8 a.m. and stayed full until 1 p.m., resulting in hundreds of cars being turned away during that time period. Shuttle service will provide an opportunity for visitors to guarantee access during the morning hours. Advanced reservations are encouraged.

Shuttle service may be booked online at www.rockytoptours.com. Tickets for the roundtrip shuttle service, including transport of personal bikes, is provided for a flat rate of $25 per person. Participants who choose not to ride the shuttle are encouraged to plan their visit to Cades Cove in the late afternoons and early evenings to spread use out throughout the day. Vehicle-free Wednesdays began on May 5 and will run through Sept. 1.

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 age 16 and under wear a helmet. All riders are strongly encouraged to wear helmets and to ride properly fitted and well-maintained bicycles.

More volunteers are needed to join the team who manage this opportunity every Wednesday. Volunteers help direct visitor flow, provide orientation and safety information, and monitor visitor use. Training and a uniform will be provided to all selected volunteers. If interested, sign up at https://tinyurl.com/GRSMCCVFD for more information. To be considered for this opportunity, volunteers must be available each Wednesday through Sept. 1.