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The first weekend the park is reopened after the shutdown, fall break, and beautiful weather combined to make it a very busy day in Cades Cove

(WBIR, Townsend) - Leaves are changing across East Tennessee, and that means many people are heading to the mountains this weekend now that the national park is back open.

One of the most popular October destinations is Cades Cove, and it was busy Friday as tourists and locals packed the 11 mile loop.

The loop was so busy it took several hours to drive it, but people say the changing colors and spectacular views made it all worth it.

"We've watched them as they've started changing and they are beautiful," said Donna Frost from Florida.

People packed the popular tourist destination trying to catch of glimpse of the multi-colored Smoky Mountains, a sight that can only be seen for a few weeks each October.

"It's a busy day, but I'll tell you it's packed because it's a beautiful day. The leaves are just now starting to change and people are out enjoying it," said Steve Elam from Farragut.

After being closed for more than two weeks during the busiest season, drive times on the 11 mile loop ranged from two to three hours, but most didn't mind.

"We got a lot of pictures of the deer. Lot's of deer. One bear. So we had a great time," said Elam's daughters.

Steve Elam didn't have to drive too far to get here. His kids are on fall break, so the family from Farragut decided to head to the Smokies.

"They've never been to Cades Cove. We're on our way to Clingman's Dome now, so we are making a day of it," said Elam.

Others drove from across the country. For many it's annual trip, that was almost ruined this year because of the shutdown.

"We love it. We get to see all the animals.We get to see bears and deer and different types of animals. So we really enjoy that," said Ray Dufrene from Louisiana.

The national park is expected to be busy this weekend. Officials say to plan several hours for your trip into the park.

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