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One Anakeesta visitor had the ride of a lifetime on the attraction’s Rail Runner Mountain Coaster. As he was coming over the hill, a family of black bears came out of the woods, crossing the tracks as he started toward them! The whole thing was caught on video and shared on TikTok for everyone to see. We’ve got the video of the black bears at Anakeesta for you below, as well as information on what to do if you see a black bear in the Smoky Mountains!
Black Bears at Anakeesta
One of the most popular things to do at Anakeesta is ride the Rail Runner, a single-rail mountain coaster with 1,600 feet of downhill twists and turns. Recently, one visitor was in for a surprise during his ride on the coaster! As he came over the hill, he saw a black bear family come out of the woods. Luckily, the Rail Runner allows riders to be in control of their own speed, so the man was able to slow down when he saw the bears. Instead of running away, the mother bear actually put both front paws on the tracks in front of the rider! First, one of the cubs hopped on the track, followed by the mother. As the rider got just a few feet away, the mother and her cub hopped off and continued on their way, and the second cub climbed under the tracks and followed.
Because of Anakeesta’s location on top of a mountain in Gatlinburg, it’s not uncommon for visitors to spot black bears. However, this visitor’s encounter was much closer than most!
What to Do if You See a Bear in Gatlinburg
You have the chance to spot a bear anywhere in the Smoky Mountains, including Gatlinburg! That’s why it’s important to know what to do to stay safe if you see one. While we know spotting a black bear can be exciting, remember they are wild animals and their behavior can be unpredictable. Here are a few things to do if you see a black bear in Gatlinburg:
1. Keep a safe distance.
If you spot a black bear in Gatlinburg, you want to be sure to keep a safe distance from it. Stay 150 feet away from the bear at all times. This is to protect both you and the bear. If you crowd the bear and make it feel threatened in any way, it may attack. If you find yourself too close to the bear, move away slowly.
2. Remain watchful.
When you see a bear, remain watchful. Even if it’s in the distance, you’ll want to keep an eye on the bear at all times to make sure it doesn’t approach you. If you notice that your presence causes the bear to change its behavior in any way, that means you’re too close. This may promote aggressive behavior. If you back away slowly with your eye still on the bear, increasing the distance between the two of you, the bear will likely do the same.
3. Don’t run.
This is the most important tip. We know when you see a black bear your first instinct might be to run, but you should never try to run from a bear. A bear doesn’t want to attack you, and most of the time it just wants to be left alone. Moving away slowly and sideways is a non-threatening movement to bears, whereas if you run, they are likely to chase you. Keep in mind that bears can move as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down!
Where to Safely Spot Black Bears in the Smoky Mountains
If you’re hoping to spot a black bear while you’re in the Smoky Mountains, there are a few places you can visit! Cades Cove is one of the best places to go, especially in the early mornings and late evenings. The best part about traveling the 11-mile loop road to see the bears is that you can watch them from the safety of your car! Roaring Fork is another great area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see them. Bears, especially cubs, love playing around in the trees! To guarantee you spot a black bear on your visit, you can head to Ober Gatlinburg and visit the Wildlife Encounter. The Wildlife Encounter is home to a black bear family: Minnie and BJ, and their 2 grown 8-year-olds, Holly and Chief. You can also visit the Three Bears General Store in Pigeon Forge, which is home to a live bear habitat with 3 black bears.
Keen an eye out when you visit because you have the opportunity to see black bears at Anakeesta, in the national park, and other places throughout Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge! For more tips on where and when to spot black bears in the Smoky Mountains, read our blog, “Where and When to Spot Your Favorite Smoky Mountain Wildlife.”