How to see Black Bears in the Smoky Mountains

How to see Black Bears in the Smoky Mountains

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

The black bear is the symbol of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and, of course, everyone would love to see and photograph one.

You can see bears anywhere in the Smokies, and they are generally most active at dawn and dusk. Keep this fact in mind when planning your hikes and activities.  Many popular spots where bears are often seen are the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Cades Cove, and along many popular hiking trails. It is very likely that you could see bears in the Smoky Mountains in and near picnic areas, and campgrounds, as they are attracted to food. Many times they are also seen in downtown Gatlinburg, (which is not the idea place) as they are rummaging garbage dumpsters for food and they can be the most dangerous.

Do not feed a bear under any circumstance . . . remember the saying “A fed bear is a dead bear!”
Black bears are actually afraid of humans, and feeding them causes them to lose that sense of fear. This makes it incredibly dangerous for both you and the bear.  Loss of fear makes them unpredictable and can lead to possible attacks. If you have food with you, make sure to keep it secured at all times and never leave it unattended.

You always need to be bear aware—respect them and give them plenty of space; the rule is 50 yards, which is 150 feet, to keep you and the animals safe. If you get closer than 50 yards, you could face fines or even arrest. You never want to crowd a bear or  make it feel threatened in any way. Black bears don’t want to attack you, and are only interested in protecting their food, their cubs and their space. To see the bears from a safe distance, the National Park recommends using binoculars or a scope. Do not disturb them in any way, as they are wild animals.   If they start walking towards you, back away slowly—do not run.

“The best way to capture good photos of them is to be quiet and have your camera ready at all times, because you never know when they might appear, walk into a field or along the edge of the woods, wake up from sleeping, or go down to a mountain stream to get a drink of water.

We’ve seen some good photos, but your cell phone camera is usually not good enough to get a great shot of a bear. You should have a good camera with a long zoom lens to get those awesome close-up shots.  Always remember you are a visitor in their home, respect them, and always keep a safe distance (150 yards) as to not change their behavior.

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