Where and When to Spot Your Favorite Smoky Mountain Wildlife

Black bears are the signature Smoky Mountain wildlife.
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Wildlife is one of the many reasons people vacation in the Smoky Mountains each year. With a diverse wildlife population, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect place for animal lovers. Since so many don’t know where or when to view wildlife, we decided to put together a guide to spotting your favorite Smoky Mountain wildlife all over the park.

Safety Tips

It is important that families remember a few safety tips while viewing wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The key element to keeping park guests and wildlife safe is to keep a safe distance. Always use caution when wildlife is in sight because they are wild animals.

Black BearBlack bear cubs are some of the most popular Smoky Mountain wildlife.

Although black bears can be active any time of day, they seem to be out more often during early morning and late evening. In the Smoky Mountains, the bears seem to prefer 6:00am-10:00am and 3:00pm-7:00pm, as those times are cooler and more peaceful during the spring and summer.

Although bears have been sighted throughout the National Park, the most activity can be seen in Cades Cove and along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The bears have been seen wandering around a hillside and up in the trees searching for berries and acorns, so keep your eye open because they could be anywhere.

Elk are some of the Smoky Mountain wildlife visisble in the national park.Elk

In 2013, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park set a new record for the number of elk calves born in the mountains. With 24 calves born over the summer, the Great Smoky Mountains now holds more than 120 elk.

To catch sight of these magnificent creatures, you’ll want to spend early mornings or late evenings in the Cataloochee Valley, where most of the elk have been sighted. Elk can reach up to 700 pounds, so park officials ask that park visitors keep a safe distance while wildlife viewing.

White-Tailed DeerWhite-tailed deer are very popular Smoky Mountain wildlife.

White-tailed deer live throughout the Great Smoky Mountains, but some of the best places to view deer in the Smoky Mountains are Cades Cove and the Cataloochee Valley. The open fields are one of the best places to see white-tailed deer early each morning and late each evening, when the day is cooler. Deer are known to graze right after a rain and on foggy afternoons, so you have more of a chance of spotting them during those times.

Wild turkeys are some of the Smoky Mountain wildlife in the national park.Wild Turkey

Wild turkeys travel in flocks, so if you happen to spot one, you’ll most likely spot an entire group. They spend most of their time searching the ground for nuts, berries and insects. You’ll likely not see them in the evenings, as they roost in the trees.

This permanent park resident can be seen in any elevation of the park, but is seen most often in lower elevation valleys. If you really want to catch sight of a wild turkey, try looking closely at the open fields in the valleys near Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Cades Cove Loop Road.

When you begin planning a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, be sure to us Visit My Smokies’ helpful travel tips. Our National Park page includes details about hiking, auto-touring and Smoky Mountain wildlife viewing. We encourage everyone to use our website as a complete guide to vacation planning in the Smoky Mountains.


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