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4 of the Best Places to See Smoky Mountain Wildlife

black bear resting in a tree
February 19, 2019

The Smokies are home to a wide variety of wildlife, and you can see them all for yourself when you visit! From popular attractions in town to scenic destinations in the national park, there are so many spots where you can enjoy the different native species. To help you plan for your trip, here are 4 of the best places to see Smoky Mountain wildlife.

1. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

This 5.5-mile loop road is one of the top places to spot Smoky Mountain wildlife. The best part is that you’ll be able to do so from the comfort of your vehicle. The Roaring Fork Motor NatureTrail also offers gorgeous views of rushing mountain streams, an old-growth forest, and a number of historic buildings. Please note that this road is closed during the winter.

2. Cades Cove

Deer in the Cades Cove valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Due to the dense forest, viewing wildlife in the national park can be challenging at times, but Cades Cove is an exception to the rule! This open area offers some of the best opportunities to see native species in their natural habitat. White-tailed deer are especially common there, as are, black bears, and turkeys. It’s easier to find Smoky Mountain wildlife in the national park during the winter months because the deciduous trees have lost their leaves. It’s also a good idea to bring binoculars so that you can catch a glimpse of these amazing animals from a safe distance.

3. Wildlife Encounter at Ober Gatlinburg

The Wildlife Encounter at Ober Gatlinburg is a privately funded, municipally sponsored zoo. When you visit, you’ll be able to see river otters playing from the underwater viewing area. There’s also an enclosed aviary where you can watch the beautiful bobcats and birds of prey. In the Nocturnal House, you’ll find raccoons, skunks, flying squirrels, turtles, and snakes. They also have an adorable black bear family for you to see! Just keep in mind that some of these animals hibernate during the winter months. So, if you plan on visiting during this season, you might want to call ahead to double check if they are still available for viewing.

4. Three Bears General Store

three bears general store

Another great place to see Smoky Mountain wildlife, particularly black bears, is the Three Bears General Store ! This unique attraction has 2 floors full of entertainment for the whole family to enjoy! The best part by far is the live bear habitat that features black bears that were rescued from a nearby hunting farm. You’ll have a blast watching them play and roam around their pond and waterfall. After you see these amazing creatures, you and your family can also enjoy the Make Ur Bear Factory, Old Time Photo studio, and Family Arcade there.

Now that you know all the best places to spot Smoky Mountain wildlife, it’s time to start planning your trip! Be sure to check out our area resources page to learn more about all the best places to eat, shop, and be entertained while you’re visiting.

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