Best Places for Wildlife Viewing in the Smoky Mountains

Best Places for Wildlife Viewing in the Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a natural wonderland that offers not only breathtaking scenery but also an opportunity to experience the diverse and vibrant wildlife that inhabits the park. If you’re looking to connect with nature’s wonders, look no further than this guide for an insider’s look into the best spots for wildlife viewing in the Smokies. Delve into the fascinating world of the national park’s inhabitants and discover some of the prime locations for observing these captivating creatures. Whether you’re a lifelong wildlife enthusiast or simply a curious observer new to the world of wildlife viewing, the Smoky Mountains provide an unforgettable adventure into nature’s wild side, you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in the world.

Wildlife You Can Spot in the Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a treasure trove of biodiversity, housing a variety of wildlife. Here are some notable species you might encounter:

    1. Black Bears: With an estimated 1,900 bears, the park boasts the largest protected bear habitat in the East.

Best Places for Wildlife Viewing in the Smoky Mountains

    1. Elk: Reintroduced in 2001 as part of a massively successful conservation effort, the park now hosts approximately 200 elk. Elk had previously been eradicated from the area due to loss of habitat and overhunting towards the end of the 18th century, but populations have since been restored as part of an ongoing effort to “achieve a healthy and sustainable herd.”
    2. Turkey: These distinctive gobblers are commonly seen throughout the park.
    3. Peregrine Falcons: The fastest birds globally, reaching speeds of upper to 240 miles per hour, the park is home to the only two active eyries (falcon nest sites) within the state of Tennessee.
    4. River Otters: Playful and curious, these otters often frolic in the park’s streams and rivers.

Best Places for Wildlife Viewing in the Smoky Mountains

  1. Salamanders: With 30 different species, the Smokies are known as the “Salamander Capital of the World.”
  2. Deer: White-tailed deer, with approximately 1,500 residing in the park.
  3. Fireflies: The synchronous firefly, found only in the Smokies, is known for its mesmerizing, synchronized flashing. If you’re wanted to catch a glimpse of these enchanting lighting bugs dance across the night sky, you’ll need to reserve a spot and plan your trip to the Smokies around the annual Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Viewing.

Best Wildlife Viewing Spots in the Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a treasure trove of biodiversity, hosting a variety of wildlife within its boundaries. As you embark on your quest for animal encounters, from a safe distance, these key locations provide the best opportunities for an unforgettable wildlife viewing experience.

  1. Cades Cove

Best Places for Wildlife Viewing in the Smoky Mountains
Cades Cove stands out as one of the premier spots for observing the Smoky Mountains’ diverse fauna. The 11-mile loop road encircles a lush valley, offering glimpses of white-tailed deer, black bears, raccoons, turkeys, and woodchucks. For optimal viewing, venture out early in the morning or late in the evening when these creatures are most active.

  1. Abrams Creek

Nestled in the heart of the national park, Abrams Creek is a serene stream renowned for its crystal-clear waters and abundance of trout. Visit in the early morning or late afternoon to increase your chances of spotting some of the many aquatic species. Though this picturesque location provides an idyllic setting for both relaxation and wildlife observation, be sure to remain respectful of the area in order not to harm current, ongoing restoration efforts.

  1. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a 5.5-mile loop road, meanders through dense woodlands, creating a perfect habitat for Smoky Mountain wildlife. Keep your foot light on the gas pedal and your eyes peeled for sightings of bears and other creatures, especially during the early morning or late evening hours. The narrow, winding road encourages a leisurely pace, allowing for a more immersive experience.

  1. Cataloochee Valley

Best Places for Wildlife Viewing in the Smoky Mountains

For a remote and magical wildlife viewing experience, Cataloochee Valley stands as an excellent choice. This secluded section of the park is renowned for its elk population. Regular sightings, especially in the evening, offer a unique opportunity to observe these majestic animals in their natural habitat.

  1. Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls, with its cascading water and lush surroundings, is not only a scenic destination but also a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. This spot is ideal for spotting salamanders, birds, and various other wildlife. Plan your visit to this Smoky Mountain waterfall for the predawn or early morning to catch these creatures during their most active periods and before crowds of people scare them into the underbrush for the rest of the day.

  1. Clingmans Dome

As the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Clingmans Dome provides an elevated perspective for wildlife observation. Visit during the early morning or late evening hours to increase your chances of spotting birds and other wildlife such as black bears against the breathtaking backdrop of the Smokies.

  1. Mt. LeConte

Best Places for Wildlife Viewing in the Smoky Mountains

Mt. LeConte, the third-highest peak in the national park, offers a lofty vantage point for observing both avian and terrestrial species. Venture out early in the morning to witness a stunning sunrise and wildlife, such as the Peregrine Falcon, in action against the stunning backdrop of the Smoky Mountains.

These marvelous spots promise the chance of remarkable wildlife sightings but also an immersion into the untamed beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Each location presents a unique opportunity to connect with the diverse ecosystems that make this national park a haven for nature enthusiasts.

Wildlife Viewing Safety and Animal Protection Guidelines
Best Places for Wildlife Viewing in the Smoky Mountains

Enjoying wildlife responsibly ensures a positive experience for both you and the animals. The park estimates that approximately 100,000 people endanger the park’s animals by giving them food and disregarding other viewing requirements.  Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Keep a Safe Distance: Stay at least 50 yards away from wildlife at all times. Slowly back away if approached.
  2. Do Not Feed the Animals: Feeding wildlife is prohibited and can lead to dependence on humans.
  3. Avoid Disturbing Animals: Do not touch, tease, or intentionally disturb the animals.
  4. Use Binoculars or Spotting Scopes: Enhance your viewing experience from a safe distance.
  5. Stay on Designated Trails: Protect the animals’ habitats by sticking to designated trails.

Rember, ignoring these rules can lead to potentially dangerous and deadly situations for both you, others around you and the animals whose home you are exploring. Keep the park safe for everyone and everything by respecting the park’s wildlife and protecting their habitat.

Your Private Wildlife Lookout

When you’re exploring the Smokies, you’ll want a comfortable home base to return to after a long day of adventure. Parkside Resort can provide the perfect accommodations for you and your loved ones, allowing you to enjoy every moment of encountering the incredible wildlife that calls the Smokies home. If you’re looking for a more relaxed getaway or prefer the features of indoor living, you can take in the magnificent view of the mountain skyline from your own luxury cabin. At Parkside Resort, you can enjoy the magnificence and tranquility of the mountains and spot all sorts of wildlife, without ever leaving the cabin. Curl up in a rocking chair on the deck, with a glass of wine and a fire crackling away as you relax and keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of a soaring falcon or black bear making its way through the underbrush below. For an unforgettable stay, book with Parkside Resort for an unforgettable experience
Best Places for Wildlife Viewing in the Smoky Mountains
surrounded by comfort and the breathtaking wonders of the Smoky Mountains.


Call us today at 888-908-6066 or visit our website to learn more about our amazing accommodations!