Top Places to See Bears in the Smoky Mountains

As the weather warms up and wildflowers begin to peek their heads out, we aren’t the only ones who are starting to make our way outdoors. Our friends the black bears will also be making their first appearances. In fact, Great Smoky Mountain National Park officials observe countless spottings and markings this time of year. Want to see the beautiful creatures that call the Smokies home? Here are some of the top places to see black bears in the Smoky Mountains. Don't forget to read about bear safety before you explore.

WARNING: Willfully approaching a black bear within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces a bear, is illegal in the park. Violation of this federal regulation can result in fines and arrest. Use binoculars, telephoto lens, or a spotting scope to view the animals. [NPS]

Cades Cove

Being one of the parks most famous trails, Cades Cove is an 11-mile loop of pastureland. It is a way to preserve the farming history of the park. Not only will you very likely see black bears roaming around, but also many other wildlife. Due to the openness of Cades Cove, there are fantastic views.

Cades Cove

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Hands down, more times than not you will see our furry black friends roaming around on this trail. It is a one-lane stretch that allows you to stay within the comforts of your own vehicle and takes you through downtown Gatlinburg to Roaring Fork in less than a hour. Be sure to pay close attention to the trees. This is where they love to play, especially the cubs.

Bear Info & Safety
See Bears In The Smoky Mountains

Little River Auto Tour

Starting out at the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg and ending at the Cades Cove entrance in Townsend, this 18-mile stretch runs alongside the Little River. It gives incredible views and a chance to see some black bears. Watch your speed and enjoy the scenic views along the riverbend as you go bear spotting. You might find them alongside the river hunting for fish or splashing in the water.

Hiking Trails & Picnic Areas

It is very likely that you could see some black bears roaming around picnic areas, campgrounds, or hiking trails. Little to no surprise, they are attracted to food. Do not be tempted to feed the bears! If you're venturing out on a hike, be sure to prepare yourself and know what to do if you see a bear.

Bear Safety

The Smokies also has an incredible organization, the Appalachian Bear Rescue, located just outside the park in Townsend. Bears who are in need of medical care or are orphaned are rehabilitated by the ABR and then put back into the wild when it is their time.

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