4 Best Places to See Black Bears in the Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the country where black bears can live safe and free in their natural habitat. It is estimated that around 1,500 black bears call the Smokies home. While they can be found all around the park, there are a few places they prefer. Here are the 4 best places to see black bears in the Smoky Mountains:
1. Cades Cove
Cades Cove is one of the most popular places in the Smoky Mountains to see black bears. With an 11-mile loop that you can drive or bike, this section of the park is perfect for wildlife viewing. With a gorgeous mountain background and open valleys, many bears enjoy the space that Cades Cove provides. You will sometimes see mother black bears with her cubs walking around the path. If you’d like to take pictures of them, make sure you’re keeping a safe distance between you and these bears at all times.
2. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Roaring Fork is a lesser known, scenic drive right outside of Gatlinburg that provides all the beautiful views of the Smokies without the traffic. While this 5.5-mile drive is close to the hustle and bustle of Gatlinburg, it is still a popular place to see black bears! Another great thing about this drive is that there are plenty of trails and historic sites along the path, so you can get out of your car and explore if you’d like. You may see a few bears on these trails so remember to respect the wildlife and their environment.
3. Newfound Gap Road
Newfound Gap Road, also known as highway 441, travels from the Tennessee side of the Smokies to the North Carolina State line. This scenic drive is a well-traveled path for black bears and many have been spotted here throughout the years. While the best place on the road to see these bears is debated, the Chimney’s Picnic area is definitely one of the best spots. Newfound Gap Road provides awesome views of black bears in the Smoky Mountains all from the safety of your car!
4. Bear Habitat at Three Bears General Store
Believe it or not, you can actually find a few black bears at a Smoky Mountains retail store! The Three Bears General Store is located right on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge and has a 5,000 foot black bear habitat equipped with a pond, waterfall, and individual dens for each bear. These featured bears were rescued from a hunting farm and have been in the care of Three Bears General Store since! You can observe the bears from two different levels and can even purchase a cup of food to feed them.
What To Do if You See a Bear
While they may look cute and cuddly, it is important to remember that black bears are wild animals. Their behavior can be unpredictable, and while attacks on people are very rare, they have occurred. Treat these creatures with extreme caution and respect their space. If you see a bear, keep a close eye on it at all times and do not approach it or allow it to approach you. If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops eating, changes its path, watches you) then you are too close. If you are attacked by a bear, do not play dead! As scary as it may be, you need to fight back with whatever available objects you have!
Now that you know the best places to see black bears in the Smoky Mountains, we hope you spot a few on your next vacation! Just remember to always respect their space and view them from afar. Learn more about what to do when you see other animals in the Smokies and start planning your trip today!