A highlight of visiting the Great Smoky Mountains is the chance to get back to nature. The Smokies have everything from waterfalls to beautiful picnic spots overlooking the Appalachian Valley to—everyone’s favorite—a wide variety of wildlife!
When you visit the Smoky Mountains, be sure to take some time for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—the best place for you to see and experience this wildlife in person. The park itself protects 65 species of mammals, more than 200 varieties of birds, 67 native fish species, and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians!
You can see this diverse mix of wildlife—which includes the symbol of the Smokies, the American black bear—by joining in on some of the fun outdoor adventures offered by the park. You might try bird-watching or a day hike for a chance to see these animals in their natural habitats. Another fun option is horseback riding; several stables in the area provide group rides and tours.
A really easy way to enjoy the park’s wildlife is by taking a relaxing drive through some of the park’s most scenic areas. (And this is a great way to beat the heat in late spring and summer, too!) Cades Cove is a scenic 11-mile loop that takes you through some of the most enchanting areas of the park. You can hike or bike this road as well, and several local companies provide guided tours and walks.
Another favorite drive is the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. On this drive, you’ll have the chance to see wildlife such as chipmunks, raccoons, and bears, whose habitats are maintained in areas along the Roaring Fork. Both drives are great ways to spend time as a family and enjoy the natural beauty of the park’s wildlife together.
According to their website, the best times to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for wildlife viewing are the morning and evening, since the animals are more active at night. Winter is a great time to plan wildlife visits as well, because the trees have lost their leaves, increasing visibility. And it is recommended that you bring binoculars. Other than that, just plan to have a great time as you experience the natural beauty of these animals’ homes during your visit to the Smokies!