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​​Alternatives to Cades Cove: Top 4 Places to See Wildlife in the Smoky Mountains

With around 65 species of mammals, over 200 varieties of birds, 67 native fish species and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park contains some of the largest tracts of animals in the country. We all know that Cades Cove is a great place to see these creatures, but there are plenty of other hot spots for wildlife throughout the Smokies as well. Here are the top 4 places to see wildlife in the Smoky Mountains:

1. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

View of trees and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature trail driving tourRoaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a one-way 5.5-mile loop that is considered one of the best places to see wildlife in the Smoky Mountains. Animal sightings are very frequent along this road, so make sure you’re driving the speed limit. Along Roaring Fork, you’ll also see rushing mountain streams, beautiful, old-growth forest and a variety of well-preserved buildings. Make sure to be on the lookout for the log cabins, grist mills and other pieces of Appalachian history. This road is closed in the winter due to icy conditions.

2. Newfound Gap Road

After you’re done driving through Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, drive on over to Newfound Gap Road and check out all the wildlife typically seen on this road. It’s not uncommon to see bears, deer, turkey and other wildlife crossing the road, so make sure you take your turns slowly. If you see some wildlife or just want to take in the view for a minute, there are several pull offs along Newfound Gap Road that you can park in. This will also prevent back ups on the road.

3. Grotto Falls

grotto falls smoky mountainsKnown as the “Salamander Capital of the World,” Grotto Falls is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Smokies. This trail is both easy and fun, in addition to being home to some awesome mountain wildlife. The cool, moist environment from the falls creates a perfect home for creatures like salamanders, frogs and snakes. There have also been sightings of black bears and deer on the trail leading to the falls. One of the most interesting parts of Grotto Falls is that you can walk right under the waterfall! Make sure to be looking for all the critters that live around this area.

4. Ober Mountain Wildlife Encounter

If you want to see some wildlife in the Smoky Mountains but aren’t interested in hiking to find the animals, you should visit the Ober Mountain Wildlife Encounter. This zoo houses tons of local wildlife in a safe and lovely environment. We already know your favorite creatures will be the black bear family, but there are also bobcats, river otters and birds of prey inside their own aviary. Stop into the Nocturnal House and see all the critters that don’t come out till the sun comes down. They have racoons, skunks, flying squirrels and more!

Now that you know of a few alternatives to Cades Cove for seeing wildlife in the Smoky Mountains, you can begin making plans to visit a few of these spots! Looking for other cool locations to visit in the national park? Check out all the fun places to go in the Smoky Mountains and start researching where you’d like to visit.