Will You See Black Bears in Gatlinburg, TN and The Great Smoky Mountains?

January 04, 2023

Before we left for Gatlinburg, TN I was researching the trip. Looking up hiking locations, places to visit and restaurants to eat.

The #1 question that constantly kept coming up was: "Are there black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains?" and "Will I see black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains?"

Let me get to the point: Will you see black bears if you visit Gatlinburg, TN and the Great Smoky Mountains?

Your chances are extremely high...

We spent 6 nights and 7 days in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains from Nov. 16 to Nov. 22. We had 7 black bear sightings. Some of these sightings had more than one bear. One time we saw a family of bears - Momma bear and her 4 cubs.

All we did was drive around Gatlinburg, walk around town and do our nature trails without actively looking for black bears and we saw them 7 different times.

In fact we saw more black bears than any other wild life combined!

Now let me tell you how we got to see so many black bears...

Black Bear Sighting #1

Nov. 16, Wed at approximately 7:18pm.

First night as we arrived we drove 12+ hours from Florida to Gatlinburg. Our Airbnb was just 8 minutes away from Parkway, the Galtinburg strip.

We stayed right to Roaring Fork Road then onto Low Gap Road. As we made a sharp left hand turn on the narrow and steep road - black bear sighting #1. Small cubS bear climbing a tree.

I was using Kingslim D2 Pro Dash Cam to capture the drive footage and many of the bear sightings we saw.

Check out this video:

We've been in Gatlinburg for just 30 minutes and already had our first bear sighting.

Black Bear Sighting #2

Nov. 18, Fri at approximately 5pm.

Black bear sighting right on Parkway strip. About 100 feet away from the road in one of the side alleys between Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen and First United Methodist Church.

This time there were a lot of people acting like paparazzi, moving their way closer to the bear. I had my DSLR and 85mm lens so I was able to be further away.

We left shortly after as you could see the bear was stressed and we didn't want to contribute to the mob of onlookers.

Black Bear Sighting #3 and #4

Today we spotted two black bear sightings. A group of Momma and 4 little cubs and then a large size bear driving through the back roads of RV park.

Nov. 20, Sun at approximately 10am.

This sighting was the most eventful we came to seeing the black bears up close.

We left our cabin at 9:45am on our way to Clingman Dome. Few minutes later traffic was stopped near a creek at around 200 Roaring Fork Road.

We then saw a baby black bear peeking out the grass and crossing the creek. Then 3 more followed by a Momma bear.

Check out this video capture:

First baby black bear crossed the road but then got scared and ran back to climb up a tree. The rest of the baby bears followed the climb and Momma bear did the same.

As we kept driving past them we snapped a few pictures.

We hated to see them spooked but we are began to understand this can't be avoided. Black Bears seemed to be everywhere even at the busiest parts of Gatlingburg.

Later that night another black bear sighting Driving through Twin Creek RV resort on one-way Low Gap Road before it reaches the stop sign that connects with Essligner Drive. This black bear looked huge. As soon as it saw the car headlights it was gone.

Black Bear Sighting #5, #6 and #7

3 black bear sightings in one day.

Nov. 21, Sun at approximately 8am.

Stacey woke up early morning to go for a walk. She encountered a family of black bears climbing trees and looking for food near our cabin and neighbor's house.

No pictures of this sighting because Stacey was way to close to safely take a picture.

Nov. 21, Mon at approximately 6pm.

Mon, Nov. 21: a family of bears further away up on a hill as we drove on Dudley Creek Road next to the shell station and across Ripley's Davy Crockett Mini-Golf.

These were far away up on a hill. My dash cam captured them but we didn't want to wait or spook them as we parked to figure out our next location and happened to see them on a hill. At first we thought these were rocks but then the rocks began to move and we realized we saw another family of black bears.

Hard to see but they were on the move:

Nov. 21, Mon at approximately 7:00pm.

One more evening drive through Twin Creek RV resort on one-way Low Gap Road before it reaches the stop sign that connects with Essligner Drive.

Same big black bear from sighting #4.

Are There Black Bears on Hiking Trails?

We didn't see any black bears on the 5 main hiking trails we did. The hiking trails we conquered were Rainbow Falls, Groto Falls, Roaring Fork Motor Trail, Clingman Dome or Alum Caves trail.


In the 7 times we saw black bears, not once did we actively seeked out to find bears. Also we never approached bears we saw. We just observed them in their natural habitat, even if the natural habitat now is around people. This is the best way to see black bears. Roaming the nature, hills and roads without knowing they are being watched.

If you get to capture some black bears in Gatlinburg or in the Smoky Mountains, let us know on Twitter.