If you’re hoping to spot some Smoky Mountain wildlife while you’re in the area, one of the best places to visit is Cades Cove! When you visit this popular area, you’ll have the opportunity to spot black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and more. We’ve put together a guide of everything you need to know about the Cades Cove Loop and wildlife viewing in the Smoky Mountains.
About Cades Cove
Cades Cove is a lush valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, rich in the history of a developing nation and abundant in wildlife. Europeans settled in Cades Cove in the early 1800’s and due to the desirable location, the population grew quickly. Buildings from the 18th and 19th century, including a church, a one-room schoolhouse and a mill remain for visitors to explore. The Cades Cove Loop is an eleven-mile motorist trail encircling the valley and it is among the best and most popular locations for wildlife viewing for species the native to the Smoky Mountains. The road is open year round from sunrise to sunset, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to visit and spot some wildlife.
Deer & Elk
Turn-outs are offered along the Cades Cove Loop and cars are frequently pulled over to watch herds of white-tailed deer, the most commonly seen animal in the park. Elk were completely gone from the area due to overhunting until 2001 when the National Park Service reintroduced them to the Smoky Mountains. You won’t see elk around Cades Cove, but you have the chance to see them on the North Carolina side of the mountains in Cataloochee Valley. Summertime and weekend days year round are busy on the loop; however, you’ll have a chance to see deer any time throughout the year, especially in the winter when the trees are bare and they are more easily spotted. Other wildlife to look out for include black bears, skunks, raccoon, turkeys, chipmunks and coyote.
The best time to catch a glimpse of a black bear in Cades Cove is in the spring following their hibernation and summer, which is mating season. Bear sightings are becoming more common in the Smokies, so be sure to be on the lookout when you visit! The Cades Cove Loop is one of the safest spots to see a black bear because you’ll be in the safety of your car. Keep in mind that the national park requires visitors to stay at least 50 yards away from Smoky Mountain wildlife at all times. This is for both yours and the animals’ safety.
Tips for Viewing Smoky Mountain Wildlife
For the best chance to view wildlife in the Smoky Mountains, visit in the early morning or late evenings. The animals are more likely to be out roaming around when there are less crowds. You should also bring a pair of binoculars for the best view, since you should not be within 50 yards of the wildlife. Binoculars and telescopic camera lenses are excellent ways to wildlife watch without getting too close.
Now that you know more about Cades Cove wildlife, you’re ready to visit to see some! Start planning your trip by learning more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.