horses in Cades Cove

Top 4 Tips to Increase Your Odds of Spotting Bears in Cades Cove

bear in cades cove
June 29, 2023

The Cades Cove Loop Road is one of the best destinations for wildlife viewing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and many guests hope to see a black bear during their visit! After all, these adorable animals are the iconic symbol of the Smokies and are fascinating to see in their natural habitat! While there are about 1500 black bears in the Smoky Mountains, they do prefer to stay away from people in the mountainous terrain. However, you may get lucky during your drive to Cades Cove! Here are 4 tips to increase your odds of spotting bears in Cades Cove:

1. Arrive Early in the Morning or Late Afternoon

Cades CoveOne of the best ways to increase your odds of spotting bears in Cades Cove is by arriving in the early morning between the hours of 6 AM to 10 AM. This is when black bears tend to be out searching for food, so keep your eyes peeled while slowly driving along the Loop Road! If you’re not an early riser, the late afternoon hours of 3 PM to 7 PM are also a good time to see bears out collecting some food for their dinner! Just remember that bears are wild animals that are dangerous and unpredictable, so always keep a minimum distance of 50 yards!

2. Bring a Pair of Binoculars or Field Glasses

Since you never want to get near a bear, bring a pair of binoculars for a perfect close-up view! As you explore Cades Cove, scan the surrounding valley with your binoculars, and you might get lucky enough to see a bear in action! You’ll also want to keep your eyes on the trees as bears love to climb, and they can often find several food items in the trees. Field glasses are also an excellent option and are generally more compact than binoculars, making them easy to bring along in your daypack!

3. Be Patient for a Bear Sighting

bear cub hiding behind a treeAnother one of the top tips to increase your odds of spotting bears in Cades Cove is simply to be patient! If you pull over at one of the many interesting stops along the Cades Cove Loop and park for a bit, you may get to see a bear emerging from the woods! In the meantime, you may spot other critters in the Cove, including white-tailed deer, coyotes, turkeys, raccoons, birds, and much more! There is no need to be disappointed if you don’t see a bear, as there are many other treasures to enjoy along the Loop Road!

4. Explore a Hiking Trail Along the Loop

If you’ve had no success spotting a bear from your vehicle, take a break from driving and explore one of the scenic hiking trails along the loop! You’ll find a variety of fantastic hikes in the area, ranging in distance and difficulty, so stretch your legs and keep your eyes open for bears! Some popular trails along Cades Cove Loop Road include the Cades Cove Nature Trail, Abrams Falls Trail, and the Cooper Road Trail.

Now that you know how to increase your odds of spotting bears in Cades Cove, you’ll want to learn more about these amazing animals that call the Smokies their home! Check out the top things to know about black bears in the Smoky Mountains!

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