Looking for a super short and family friendly hike (or stroll?) in the Great Smoky Mountains? This half mile (round trip!) hike to the John Oliver Cabin is a great trail to stretch your legs and take in a little history of the Cades Cove area without much effort!
Read on to learn more about visiting the John Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove and what to expect before you head that way!
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John Oliver Cabin Trail Information
- Round Trip Length: 0.5 miles
- Trail Location: Cades Cove Loop
- Directions: John Oliver Parking Area in Cades Cove Loop
- Trail Features: Historic cabin, Scenic Views
- Round Trip Hours: 15-30 minutes
- Difficulty: Easy
A round trip hike to and from the John Oliver Cabin usually takes us about 15-25 minutes. While the hike to the cabin only takes about 5-6 minutes (one way), we try to allot plenty of time for exploring and taking in the surrounding views!
Learn More About Cades Cove
Cades Cove of the Great Smoky Mountains is full of rich history of the early settlers in this region. John Oliver was noted as the first white settler in the Cades Cove area.
Be sure to read up a little more about what it was like to live in Cades Cove, as it makes visiting this part of the park even more meaningful! Here are a few of our favorite books about the history of the Cades Cove area in the Great Smoky Mountains:
For more history and information about the Smokies, be sure to check out more Great Smoky Mountains Books and Guides here!
How Do I Get to the John Oliver Cabin?
The easiest way to locate the trailhead for the John Oliver Cabin is to make your way to the entrance of the Cades Cove Loop.
From the Townsend Wye, it is about 7.5 miles on Laurel Creek Road. This road leads straight into the Cades Cove Loop Road.
There is also a visitor pavilion at the entrance that you can stop at and grab a Cades Cove Loop Guide for $1.00 that will tell you more about each stop around the loop.
Once on the Cades Cove Loop, you will look for a parking area on your right immediately after you pass Sparks Lane. This first parking lot will lead you through the woods to the cabin or you can go to the second parking area and walk through the field.
History of John Oliver and Family
John Oliver and his family were the first permanent white settlers in the Cades Cove area. John, his wife, and daughter, Mary arrived in the cove around 1817-1818.
According to records in the National Archives, John Oliver served in the War of 1812. The records also indicate that he served in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814.
Shortly after, he married his wife, Lurena Frazier on April 28, 1814 in Carter County, Tennessee. Together they had nine children, one of which died as an infant in 1824.
They attended the Primitive Baptist Church in Cades Cove, which is where both John and Lurena and most of their children are buried.
You can find most of their tombstones in the Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery located directly behind the church.
History of the John Oliver Cabin
It is estimated that the John Oliver Cabin was built in the early 1820’s. And even though the exact date isn’t known for sure, this is one of the oldest preserved structures remaining in the National Park.
If you look closely at the corners of the cabin, you can see the detail work that was put into constructing the cabin. The half-dovetail notch was used in constructing this cabin which helped drain water away from the notch (which helped discourage rot.)
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park helps protect and preserve cabins and many more historical structures through the park. For additional history about the construction of cabins, gristmills, barns and more, you can read details in the Historic Buildings of the Smokies book that goes into greater depth about these historical structures.
Our family would regularly visit the Cades Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains when I was growing up.
I have fond memories of picnicking, riding around the loop in the back of a truck, bike riding and so much more in Cades Cove as a kid. It will always be a special place to me with all the memories that were made there as a child.
Of course my mom’s side of the family all lived and grew up in the Smoky Mountains. And this area is no exception.
Part of our lineage actually traces back through the Ledbetters, Shields and Olivers that lived in Cades Cove. In fact, John Oliver would technically be my Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather…ha!
Cades Cove is full of rich history and will always be a favorite place to take our kids to visit and make memories as well!
Hiking to the John Oliver Cabin
The trail to the John Oliver Cabin can be a fairly busy area at times. The first pull off for parking is often full during peak seasons…but no worries! There is a second parking area just around the corner, so you can usually find parking there as well!
Locating the Trailhead
From the first parking lot, you will want to look for a sign on the right. It’s pretty easy to locate.
From there it is only a hop, skip and a jump to the John Oliver Cabin.
If you end up parking in the second parking area, then it is a straight shot to the cabin. You can actually see the cabin from the road.
On the Trail
If you do manage to score a parking spot in the first lot, you will take a nice little stroll through the woods. It is pretty flat and only a few roots crossing the trail along the way. Other than that, it is fairly easy!
Just around the bend, you will come up on your first view of the John Oliver Cabin.
At the John Oliver Cabin
Once there, you will find an NPS sign with extra facts and information about the John Oliver Cabin.
Be sure to take time to explore around the cabin. Go inside or sit on the porch for a bit and take in the beautiful scenery.
Over on the back side of the cabin, you will find a little trail leading down to a creek bed. You can walk down and check it out. I imagine that’s probably where they spent their time on wash day doing their laundry and various other household chores.
Once you have had plenty of time to explore, you can head on back the same way you came or take a different route. We decided to go back the other way for a change of scenery. You can catch some pretty views of the mountains that direction.
A Few Things To Consider
- Consider taking a picnic lunch to eat at the picnic area in Cades Cove before or after your drive around the Loop. Or take a blanket and you can always pull off and find a quiet place to eat along the 11 mile drive!
- Plan your bathroom breaks accordingly. There are restrooms near the Campground that you can go to beforehand or you can plan to stop at the Visitor’s Center that has restrooms that are located about half way through the 11 mile drive.
The John Oliver Cabin is a great place to take the whole family when visiting Cades Cove. Be sure to take time to visit several other stops along the 11 mile journey as well! There is plenty to see and do at Cades Cove!
Have you been to the John Oliver Cabin before? What are some of your favorite stops along Cades Cove Loop Road?
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