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Top 3 Places to Visit to See Bears in the Smoky Mountains

Cades Cove bear
August 15, 2022

Many visitors to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge hope to see a bear during their vacation in the Smoky Mountains. After all, the black bear is an unofficial symbol for the Smokies and is found on t-shirts, magnets, and postcards at every gift shop in the area! While there is never a guarantee that you will spot a black bear in the wild, there are several places you can visit to see these amazing animals. Here are the top 3 places to visit to see bears in the Smoky Mountains:

1. Ober Gatlinburg Wildlife Encounter

Gatlinburg bears

One of the top places to see Gatlinburg bears in the Smoky Mountains is at the Ober Gatlinburg Wildlife Encounter . This privately funded zoo provides a unique opportunity to see native wildlife up close in a safe environment, making it a great place to see a bear in Gatlinburg. The highlight of Ober Gatlinburg’s Wildlife Encounter is a black bear family consisting of Minnie and BJ, as well as their grown children Holly and Chief! Be sure to bring your camera to capture these bears in action as they go about their daily routine. Other exhibits that you can explore include the Birds of Prey, Nocturnal House, and the underwater viewing area for the River Otters.

2. Bear Habitat at the Three Bears General Store

While a retail shop might be the last place you would expect to see bears, that is exactly what you will find when visiting the Bear Habitat at the Three Bears General Store in Pigeon Forge! This 5,000-square-foot habitat comes complete with a pond and a waterfall, and each bear has an individual den that is warm in winter and cool in summer. You can observe the bears from two different levels and can even purchase a cup of bear food to feed them! The bears were rescued from a nearby hunting farm and have been cared for by the team at the Three Bears General Store for more than 25 years.

3. Cades Cove

Another great place to see bears in the Smoky Mountains is in the Cades Cove section of the national park. This area is usually perfect for wildlife viewing because it is a wide valley surrounded by mountains, and Cades Cove bears are often sighted in the open valley. You may also have the opportunity to spot white-tailed deer, coyote, groundhogs, turkeys, raccoons, skunks, and other animals. The best way to explore Cades Cove is by driving along the 11 mile, one-way loop road. You should allow a minimum of 2 to 4 hours to tour Cades Cove, but you may want to allocate more time if you want to walk along some of the area trails.

Other Places to See Gatlinburg Bears

If you’re staying in one of our Gatlinburg cabins, you might just see a black bear in Gatlinburg! Sometimes Gatlinburg bears show up in the back yard or around the woods of cabins. If you see a bear, be sure to stay at least 50 yards away. Another place you might see a bear in Gatlinburg would be along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. Black bears are known to roam along this scenic, one-way road. Just be sure to watch the bears from afar!

Where to Stay

3 bedroom cabin - river view

Make the most of your vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains with a stay in one of our cabins! Our affordable cabins are in beautiful locations among the Smokies and have everything you need for a wonderful getaway! We have cabins of all sizes to meet your needs. You can find 1 bedroom cabins for couples and even 17 bedroom cabins for families and large groups. While staying with us, enjoy a fantastic selection of amenities, including indoor pools, home theaters, fully equipped kitchens, amazing mountain views, hot tubs, game rooms, and more!

Check out all of our cabins in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge today to stay near these places to see bears in the Smoky Mountains! We look forward to seeing you soon!

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