black bear
March 28, 2022

Many visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park hope to catch at least one glimpse of the park’s famous black bear! It has been estimated that about 1,500 bears live in the park, which is equal to a population density of roughly two bears per square mile. Therefore, your odds are pretty good if you plan to spend any significant amount of time in the park! If you want to increase your chances of seeing a bear, there are several locations where sightings are especially common! Here are the top 4 places to see bears in the Smoky Mountains:

1. Cades Cove

Cades Cove bear

Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations in see black bears in the Smoky Mountains, and the area is easily accessible with the 11 mile loop road. Since Cades Cove features a stunning mountain backdrop and wide open valleys, many bears enjoy this beautiful space in the park. While driving along the loop road or stopping to stretch your legs for a short hike, keep your eyes open as you may get to see mother black bears with her cubs walking around! As a bonus, Cades Cove offers plenty of other wildlife too, including white tailed deer and coyotes!

2. Newfound Gap Road

Another one of the top places to see bears in the Smoky Mountains is along Newfound Gap Road, which is also known as Highway 441. This scenic 33 mile route travels through some of the highest elevations of the national park, so there are plenty of gorgeous mountain overlooks to enjoy too! Many bears have been spotted along Newfound Gap Road for years, especially in sections that are close to rivers and streams since bears like those areas for food. The Chimneys Picnic Area also provides an excellent chance of spotting a bear!

3. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Roaring Fork

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a beautiful 5.5 mile one-way loop road that starts and ends in Gatlinburg, making it convenient for those who want to make a quick side trip from downtown Gatlinburg! The loop road is not only a great place to spot bears in the Smoky Moutains, but it’s also famous for fantastic hiking trails, historical structures, rushing streams and majestic waterfalls! When it comes to bear sightings, the best time to drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is during the early morning or evening hours.

4. Little River Road

The Little River Road is an excellent place to see bears as the road runs parallel to the Little River for 18 miles, traveling between the Cades Cove park entrance in Townsend to the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg. The drive also includes scenic overlooks, hiking trails, picnic areas and even a waterfall that can be seen from the road!

Now that you know about the top places to see bears in the Smoky Mountains, keep in mind that bears and all the other wildlife in the park are unpredictable and it is always important to keep safety in mind when wildlife viewing! Therefore, take a look at our tips for safe wildlife viewing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to have a safe and enjoyable visit to the park!