Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife Viewing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park should be at the top of your Things to Do list

Many opportunities for wildlife viewing present themselves throughout the national park.  The symphony of wildlife in the Smokies plays throughout every part of the national park, in every season. It’s hard to explain what it’s like seeing  wildlife in their natural habitats. It’s even more difficult to explain how it feels, when it’s happening all around you. When you come to the Smokies, you’re not just an observer of life here. You’re part of it.

wildlife viewing wildlife elk
wildlife deer coyote

Cades Cove

You will have opportunities for wildlife viewing throughout the 11 mile cove and on hiking trails there.  Among the wildlife will be black bears, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, coyote, bobcats, foxes, raccoons, and otters.  Also, you will see historic structures, such as cabins, a grist mill, and out buildings.

Highway 441
(Newfound Gap Road)

Along Hwy 441, visitors often spot bears, fox, wild turkey, and, occasionally, a wild boar along the roadway.  This road will take you from Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, North Carolina.

Hiking Trails

It is very common to spot a black bear or two on many hiking trails inside the national park.  Please dispose of wrappers properly when hiking. 

One of the most exciting wildlife viewing opportunities is in the Oconaluftee area of the park. There is a herd of approximately 32 elk .  They are usually spotted grazing in the field at the visitor center or along nearby roadway areas. Sometimes you might see a herd of elk walking on the street in Cherokee NC or strolling through the mountain river in Cherokee.

Viewing Wildlife

When viewing wildlife, park regulations require that you keep at least a 50 foot distance. Do not feed wildlife.  If you spot wildlife and want to take pictures, you must use a pullover so that traffic can flow smoothly.  This also give other visitors an opportunity to view the wildlife.

For enthusiasts, Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge offers lectures, seminars, guided hikes, and more in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This fun-filled week has over 200 special events related to wildlife.