Gatlinburg, Tennessee is the perfect place to begin your quest for spotting a black bear in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This massive park is home to over 1500 bruins and the best place to see one is in Cades Cove, less than thirty miles from the heart of Gatlinburg.
Starting your bear adventure in Gatlinburg is a good idea as the community has everything you’ll need to help your search. You’ll find high quality outdoor gear, including hiking boots, daypacks and binoculars. Shop owners frequent the park themselves and can tell you which are the most likely places to see bears. Gatlinburg is a friendly town, and residents want you to enjoy your visit to their bit of paradise.
Black bears are best seen in open, valley areas throughout the park, and Cades Cove is the easiest place to spot them. There is an eleven mile, one-way road through the cove, which allows visitors to tour the area at their own pace. Despite the short distance, this can be an all-day adventure depending upon how many stops you make. There are several interpretive signs along the road as well as the park’s best collection of historic structures to tour. In addition, visitors should take advantage of the nature trails and longer hiking trails.
Although bears can be seen from the comfort of your car, your best bet is to park the vehicle and explore one of the many trails. Bears are most often observed at dawn and dusk, as they are more active in the cool of the day. Hikers who travel quietly through brushy areas are more likely to see a bear. Good places to concentrate your viewing are along stream beds, under trees and overgrown areas where the underbrush is a little thicker. Bears generally feed upon insects, roots, nuts and fish so finding spots where these foods are available will help your search.
Cades Cove is a perfect day trip from Gatlinburg. Visitors can enjoy a hearty breakfast in one of the many restaurants, purchase supplies for a picnic in the cove and then be back in time for a leisurely southern dinner. The entire Great Smoky Mountain National Park is yours to explore from Gatlinburg. Spotting a black bear will make your trip that much more memorable.