turtle crossing the road in the Smokies
May 9, 2022

While you probably know that the Great Smoky Mountains are famous for their black bear residents, there are plenty of other critters found in the park too – including reptiles! There are three major groups of reptiles found within the park, including turtles, lizards and snakes. You’ll be happy to know that most of these reptiles are harmless and the chance of running into a venomous snake is very rare, but always remember to keep a “hands off” approach when viewing wildlife in the park! Read on to learn more about the snakes in the Smoky Mountains and other reptile friends:

1. Turtles

If you are planning a Smoky Mountain hike that runs along a creek, river or waterfall, there is a good chance you might spot a turtle during your trek! There are 8 different species of turtles in the Smokies, most of which live in or near the water, and they can often be seen sunbathing on rocks! The most common turtle species in the Smoky Mountains is the Eastern box turtle, which actually spends most of its time on land. However, you might spot it soaking in a puddle on the hottest days during the summer! Some of the other species of turtles you may find in the park include the Snapping turtle, Eastern painted turtle and the Stripe Neck musk turtle.

2. Snakes

snake along trail in the Smoky Mountains

When it comes to spotting snakes in the Smoky Mountains, most visitors want to know if the snake is poisonous. Fortunately, the answer is usually “no” as just 2 of the 23 species of snakes that live in the park are venomous: the Northern Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake. Some of the non-venomous species of snakes in the Smokies include the Eastern worm snake, Black rat snake, Eastern kingsnake and the Northern pine snake. If you happen to see a snake while hiking, it is best to continue moving past it at a safe distance. For those who have a fear of snakes, you can take comfort knowing that the chances of getting bitten are extremely low! In fact, the likelihood of an average visitor even seeing a venomous snake in the Smoky Mountains is very small! There is no record of a human fatality due to a snake bite in the park’s history.

3. Lizards

Lizards join turtles and snakes as the third major group of reptiles within the park! They generally prefer the warm and dry habitats of the low elevations around the margins of the park, as lizards are active animals that use the heat of the sun to warm their bodies. You might spot one scurrying across your path during a hike and they can be easily recognized as they usually have four legs and a long tail. There is one species of lizard that lives in the park, the Eastern slender glass lizard, who is legless and gets often confused for a snake! Altogether, there are 9 species of lizards in the park including the Northern green anole, Southeastern five-lined skink and the Six-lined racerunner.

Now that you know about the different species of turtles, lizards and snakes in the Smoky Mountains, learn more about some of the other critters that you might encounter in the Smokies! Click here to discover the top 5 kinds of wildlife in the Smoky Mountains that you might see!