Animals of the Great Smoky Mountains

Black Bear in The Smoky Mountains

We did it! Our first bear sighting in the wild occurred and it did not happen when we were hiking. We will always remember the Smoky Mountains for this reason. Our sighting happened when we were safely in Alice!

We had just finished our hike in the rain at Rainbow Falls and the sun had just come out.  As we drove out of the parking loop, cars were stopped right in the middle of the road. Sure enough, there was a black bear eating in a clearing in the woods.

It was so exciting to see that bear! 

A park ranger happened to be in the crowd and she said this mama bear eats in this area about the same time every day.  The bear has three baby cubs that she hides up in the trees and then spends time eating. We scanned the area with our binoculars but could not find the cubs.

The Bear Sighting Crowds

Animals of the Smoky Mountains

In addition to seeing the bear, the amazing thing to see are the crowds that bear sightings cause.  Cars and RV’s stop in the middle of the road trying to find places to park and crowds of people position themselves to see the bear.  Our picture above shows a few people but does not represent how many really stopped.

We ended up seeing a bear three days in a row.  Our first one was the mama bear eating in the clearing.  The following day we saw a HUGE black bear eating and roaming up and down a hillside.  On the third day, we just missed one bear but later saw one napping at the base of a tree. 

The Elk Herd

Animals of the Smoky Mountains_elk

On the day when we ventured to the North Carolina side of the park, we saw at least 12 elk and a few were right in the middle of the road.

There is something about seeing animals in the wild that is so thrilling!

For other posts on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park see:

The Cades Cove Bike Ride

Clingmans Domes in the Great Smoky Mountains

Spring in the Smoky Mountains

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