black bear cub in the Smoky Mountains
September 20, 2022

One of the things that many folks hope to see while visiting the Smoky Mountains is the black bear! After all, this iconic animal is the unofficial symbol of the Smokies and you’ll find bear-themed merchandise at nearly every souvenir shop in Pigeon Forge! Before heading into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in search of the black bear, you’ll want to learn more about these fascinating creatures and what to expect from their behavior! Here are the top 4 things to know about bears in the Smoky Mountains:

1. Best Place to Find Bears in the Smokies

You might get lucky enough to see a bear just about anywhere in the Smokies – some have even been spotted wandering through parking lots along the Parkway! Of course, the best opportunity to find a bear is on one of the many scenic hiking trails throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Bears inhabit all elevations within the park and it is estimated that roughly 1,500 bears call the park home. They’re most active during the morning and late evening hours in the spring and summer, so plan your hiking time accordingly!

2. Bears Never Truly Hibernate

black bear climbing a tree in Cades Cove

Another thing to know about the bears in the Smoky Mountains is that they never truly hibernate! Many folks think that it is impossible to spot a bear in the Smokies during the winter, but they may come out of their dens during the brief warm spells in the winter months! Rather than hibernating, black bears actually enter long periods of sleep in dens such as hollow stumps, tree cavities, and anywhere else there is shelter! The bears in the Smokies are also unusual in that they usually prefer to den high above the ground in hollow standing trees!

3. Bears are Wild and Unpredictable

The most important thing to know about Smoky Mountain black bears is that they are wild and unpredictable, so bear encounters should be handled with extreme caution! While it can be tempting to approach a black bear for a closer look or photo, you never want to approach a bear as it may consider it to be threatening behavior. In fact, it is illegal in the park to willfully approach within 150 feet of a bear. If you happen to stumble a bit too close to one during a hike, remember to slowly back away and increase the distance between you and the bear.

4. Characteristics of Smoky Mountain Bears

Smoky Mountain black bear crossing the road

While the black bears in the Smoky Mountains are indeed black, black bears in the western part of the country can actually be brown or cinnamon! A typical adult male bear weighs about 250 pounds during the summer months, while adult females are typically smaller and weigh just over 100 pounds. However, they may double their weight by fall, and bears over 600 pounds have been documented in the park! The general life expectancy of black bears is 12 to 15 years or more, but this is significantly reduced with those that have access to human food and garbage.

Now that you know more about bears in the Smoky Mountains, check out our Pigeon Forge condos to plan your trip to the Smokies so you can see one for yourself! We look forward to seeing you soon!