Visitors admiring wildlife in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg.

Wildlife Guide: Discover Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains’ Natural Wonders

The Great Smoky Mountains and the surrounding Gatlinburg area are great places to experience the ultimate adventure. One of the most popular destination spots on the planet, Gatlinburg offers many fun activities for you to enjoy. While you’re there, check out the area’s wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountain regions in Tennessee are known for their abundance of wildlife. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is home to hundreds of kinds of species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Every year, people from all over the world visit this Appalachian region to enjoy hundreds of miles of fields, streams, and hiking paths to get a better view of the the Great Smoky Mountain wildlife.

History of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park was established in 1926 to help preserve and protect the local wildlife, fauna and flora. It’s located on the state borders of Tennessee and North Carolina and spans an impressive 800 square miles. Prior to the park’s establishment, local wildlife had been hunted to near-extinction levels. Over the decades, species have grown and thrived in this protected environment.

The park’s habitat has the perfect environment: cool, and moist, with warm lowlands. The highest elevations of the park are ideal for species usually found in more Northern areas like flying squirrels, owls, and certain bird species. The slower and warmer streams at low elevations are the perfect environment for diverse aquatic activity.

Species Found in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The following is a list of species you can expect to see at the park. Some are easier to find than others. It is useful to have a good set of binoculars to view certain species from a safe distance, whether in dense forest or open fields:

  • American black bear
  • White tail deer
  • Over 200 bird species (including wild turkey)
  • Over 50 native fish species
  • Multiple owl species
  • Species of salamanders
  • Elk, mountain lion, red wolf, river otters, gray foxes

Other Places to go for Rocky Mountain Wildlife

There’s a whole wild world within Gatlinburg of other places you can go to view the area’s wildlife. Most of them are either inside Gatlinburg city limits or a short distance away:

Ober Gatlinburg Wildlife Encounter

If you want to see an oasis of beautiful creatures, Ober Gatlinburg Wildlife Encounter is the place to go. Here, tourists have an opportunity to view wildlife in a clean and inviting environment from a safe distance. Witness frolicking black bear families, river otters playing in the water, bobcats, fish, and birds all in their own environment. There is also a nocturnal house where visitors can see raccoons, skunks, snakes, squirrels, and more. Be mindful that some of the Great Smoky Mountain wildlife may be harder to see than others due to hibernation when the weather gets cold.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

This 5.5-mile-long nature trail is one of the best in the area. This winding trail is known for an abundance of animal sightings. People love hiking through the extreme beauty of the area and seeing animals like whitetail deer, elk, coyote, several bird species, and much more. If you get tired, the trail has pull-outs so you can stop and stretch your legs.

Grotto Falls

Many people don’t know it, but there are over 30 species of salamanders at the Grotto Falls. In fact, this area is known as the “Salamander capital of the world.” The area is accessed by the Trillium Gap Trail. From there, you will walk through some of the most beautiful forestry to access the falls, exploring mountain streams.

Cades Cove Loop

This is one of the park’s most popular wildlife destinations. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it is also a bastion of wildlife viewing. Unlike some of the other areas, Cades Cove is not covered by forestry. Visitors can get a very good look at the turkeys, black bears, coyotes, whitetail deer, and much more. This is one of the areas where you will definitely need a pair of binoculars to take full advantage of everything it has to offer along this loop road.

Three Bears General Store

You can find this general store right at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountain Park in nearby Pigeon Forge. Once you go inside you will see a live black bear habitat complete with a pond, den, and waterfall. These bears, which were part of a rescue mission, are fed and cared for right at the store. Tourists can even get photographs alongside bears with different backgrounds. To make it even more kid-friendly, the general store is also equipped with an arcade, pinball, and air hockey.

Other Places to Seek Out

There are a host of other places to check out while you’re staying in the Gatlinburg area if you’re looking for wildlife:

Plan Your Animal-Watching Trip to Gatlinburg!

If you enjoy nature, discover wildlife in the Smoky Mountains (and other parks) in and around Gatlinburg. During your visit, check out the variety of species and one of the largest protected bear habitats in North America. These sanctuaries go a long way to protect and preserve a number of animals on the endangered species list.

At the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, get an up close and personal view of birds, black bears, whitetail deer, salamanders, fish, beaver, rattlesnakes, fawn, mountain lion, and a lot more. For more information regarding lodging and wildlife in the Smoky Mountains, make sure to visit Relax Gatlinburg. We can’t wait to see you on the hiking trails!