black bear climbing a tree in Cades Cove
September 20, 2022

If you have your heart set on seeing wildlife during your visit to the Smokies, there are several things you can do to increase your chances! While there is never a guarantee you’ll spot a specific animal, there are certain places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that offer excellent wildlife viewing opportunities! You’ll also find that the time of day, as well as the time of year, plays an important role in increasing your chances of seeing black bears, white-tailed deer, and other critters! Here are the top 4 ways to increase the odds of spotting wildlife in the Smoky Mountains:

1. Explore the Cades Cove Area of the Park

The majority of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is covered by dense forest, which can make wildlife viewing a challenge! However, you can find some of the best opportunities to see wildlife in Cades Cove! This beautiful open valley is surrounded by mountains and you can often see large numbers of white-tailed deer, as well as black bears, coyotes, groundhogs, turkeys, and raccoons! The best part is that you can easily explore the area on the Cades Cove Loop Road, an 11-mile one-way loop where you can sightsee at your own pace! You’ll not only get to see animals, but also historical structures and other fascinating things in Cades Cove!

2. Consider an Early Morning or Evening Visit

sunrise in the Smoky Mountains

Another way to increase the odds of spotting wildlife in the Smoky Mountains is by visiting in the early morning or evening hours! Since most animals are more active at night, it can be advantageous to take a hike through the park at these times! As a bonus, many of the more popular trails in the park are less busy during off-peak times. If you do happen to come across any wildlife, just remember to keep a safe distance at all times as their behavior can be unpredictable!

3. Carry Binoculars in Your Backpack

It’s an excellent idea to carry binoculars with you on your journey into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as you never know what you might spot in the distance! If you’re taking an afternoon hike, be sure to scan the trees because many animals enjoy spending lazy days among the branches! Binoculars can also come in handy for bird watching since the Smoky Mountains are one of the nation’s best bird-watching areas!

4. Plan a Winter Vacation to the Smokies

deer in Cades Cove with snow on the ground

A winter vacation to the Smokies can boost your odds of spotting wildlife in the Smoky Mountains because the deciduous trees have lost their leaves! You’ll discover that wildlife is more visible at this time of year, and the beauty of the mountains in the winter season can be stunning! If you are discouraged about visiting in the winter due to the unlikelihood of seeing a black bear, you’ll be surprised to know that bears do not truly hibernate. In fact, they may leave their dens for short periods of time during brief warming trends during the winter!

Now that you know how to increase your odds of spotting wildlife in the Smoky Mountains, learn more about the kinds of wildlife you can expect to see in the Smokies!