We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.


Louisville, Kentucky
Level Contributor
339 posts
Save Topic

Have been seeing recent comments about a lot of bear activity in the area, and was wondering.......has anyone had a "close" encounter with a bear, and if so, what did you do? I have read the suggestions as to how to react and what to do, but how did you REALLY react? We will be hiking, and just want to be prepared.

Level Contributor
507 posts
60 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Bears

Most of the time bears are as scared of you as you are of them. The biggest thing is do not get too close and definitely do not get between a mama bear and her cubs.

Here is a link to the GSMNP and their guidelines for dealing with bears and what to do.


I have lived here for 42 years and the few people attacked by bears were usually harassing the bears and aproaching way too close.

Chicago, IL
Level Contributor
126 posts
13 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Bears

I've had dozens of bear encounters while hiking and none that were in any way worrisome. Often if you are hiking as a group you will not even see any bears because they will hear you coming and be gone before you get there. If you are lucky enough to see one most often it will just be a tail or bear butt bounding through the woods or up a tree to get away from you. The worst I've seen is a stubborn bear that doesn't feel like giving up the trail, then just a quick shout will usually end the standoff.

All that said of course keep distance, don't feed them, steer clear of cubs, because they are capable of serious damage if so inclined.

Level Contributor
48 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Bears

My husband had a bear encounter in "The Village" one evening. He was coming out of the restroom and when he opened the door he noticed what was the biggest dog he had ever seen before with it's head down in the garbage can. He looked a little closer just as the "dog" raised its head out of the garbage only to discover it was a bear looking back at him. They stared at each other and both were surprised to see each other. They just looked at each other for what seemed like forever to my husband, then hubby went back to the bathroom and held the door shut. He hoped if the bear decided to come after him, he could hold the door closed better scared than it could open it curious. lol A minute later, he heard the loud sound of large paws running/hitting the pavement that runs beside the restrooms. He waited a couple more seconds, than he opened the door to peek out. No bear. He went out and a guy was walking down that same hill the bear just ran up. He asked the guy if he just saw a bear run up the hill. The guy was a local and responded that he hadn't seen it, but it wasn't unusual for bears to come nosing around down in "The Village" to poke around for food in the evenings. Me being the loving and supportive wife that I am, laughed like crazy at his story when he told us about what happened. lol =P


Paris, Tn
Destination Expert
for Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge
Level Contributor
2,889 posts
28 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Bears

The only encounters we've ever had in all the years we've been coming here, have been from our car window while on auto-tours Our closest encounter was about two years ago, We were driving up Clingmans Dome road. We were pretty close to the parking lot, and we noticed traffic in both directions had stopped. I got out of the car to see what was the problem and sure enough.....about fourty yards ahead of us was a young black bear just rootin' around in the grass for grubs,I guess. Traffic finally got moving and when I got pretty close (about 20 ft) I stepped out of the car and got some really nice shots. He was just about where the grass and paved road meet. The bear didn't seem to pay any attention at all to the commotion he'd caused.

On a more serious note,I HAVE seen where black bears will attack and damage cars in the Clingmans parking lot, if they sence or smell food left in cars. They've been known to bust out glass and rip up upholstery to get at food.


Level Contributor
1,530 posts
21 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Bears

We have come across bears while hiking on trails. Never once felt threatened. Of course we keep our distance. If the bear stops feeding, or whatever he happens to be doing, just give him room.

Hey Ray, 20ft is a bit close you know.

Level Contributor
864 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Bears

Most of the time the bear will scamper off, but if it doesn't then you probably need to be the one to retreat, but not at a scamper. Just back off slowly. And especially if you get huffed at, you need to back up; you'll know the sound and what it means if you ever hear it. And as said above, watch out for those cubs; you really don't want to aggravate mama!

That said, you said, "We will be hiking...", and multiple hikers is good. So keep talking, laughing, etc., and you'll probably never see one, or at least not at close range.

Level Contributor
37 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Bears

We were there the last week of July. We had more bear encounters that one week than all other visits put together. I had always wondered what it would be like to be out away from the car and come across a bear.

We were out walking around at one of the stops on Roaring Fork. A mama and her cubs came walking up the road (where our car was). We just watched her until she got to where she was going and made our way to the car. She really didn't seem to care that we were there at all and ignored us as she walked by.

St Louis
Level Contributor
156 posts
1 review
Save Reply
8. Re: Bears

We had and encounter last week with a bear while hiking Trilium Trail in Roaring Fork. It was just our family on the trail including our 8 year old when I saw a bear walking parallel to the trail about 30 feet away. We stopped, stayed still for a few minutes (took some pics of course) then watched this amazing creature wander off. We didn't really feel scared, but it was exciting for a momoent or 2.

Louisville, Kentucky
Level Contributor
339 posts
Save Reply
9. Re: Bears

Thanks for all of the replies. I know when we lived near the coast that most of the wildlife will run when encountering humans, including snakes, alligators etc. I assumed bears were the same, but I bought pepper spray just in case. Don't know if it will work, but it's better than nothing. Before I get a lecture, we (just two of us) would never ever use it unless attacked, and we are both sensible enough to keep our distance. No picture is worth our lives!

Level Contributor
795 posts
52 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Bears

We were in Gatlinburg a little over a week ago and saw a bear 3 different times. The first was on the Laurel Falls trail. We saw a group of people taking pictures. The bear was up on the hill not too far from the trail. The second time was driving on Campbell Lead Road. We saw a bear just walking down the side of the road. He even walked up to the car when we stopped. And the last time was driving through Roaring Fork. I've never seen a bear that many times in one trip.