Maggie Valley is a part of Haywood County, which is known as the Gateway to the Smokies because it serves as the eastern entrance for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the most visited parks in the national park system. As you can imagine, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a haven for wildlife. Maggie Valley, as part of the gateway, has a lot of wildlife in the town limits – from birds of prey flying overhead to rainbow trout (and native brown trout) swimming in our Mountain Heritage Trout Stream (Jonathon Creek which flows on the back of the recreation area at the Meadowlark), there are opportunities to spot wildlife without leaving your cabin.
Recently, the Elk have started showing up during mating season in the town limits. This is because we do have some nice open grassland that attract grazing female elk. While we have not seen any raging bulls having temper tantrums yet, we do get some nice sightings. Recently, while at the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Maggie Valley Town Hall, we looked out into the grass lawn and we saw these elk! Look close by the house – sorry not to have a better picture. This gave us a new appreciation for the search phrase “wildlife near me” :)
Over the years, locals and experts have noted the most common places to view the wildlife near Maggie Valley, NC. We list them here:
Top Wildlife Viewing Locations Near Maggie Valley, NC
Cataloochee Valley – Just minutes from downtown Maggie Valley, the Cataloochee Valley is the ideal spot to view elk, deer, bear, turkey (and more) in their natural habitat. The picturesque valley was once the most prosperous and populated area of the national park. You can see a historic church, homes and a school. Elk were released into the valley in 2001. This was part of a national park effort to reintroduce the great elk to the area. The best time to view these majestic elk (and any other wildlife) are the early morning and evening hours when they come out of the forest to graze in the open fields. From mid-September through October, the herd is especially active since it is mating season. Other activities you may enjoy in Cataloochee Valley include a hiking trail, primitive campsites, fishing and a horse camp for horseback riders. Learn more. Watch a video.
Balsam Mountains – the Balsams contain two designated wilderness areas along with some of the most recognized public lands in the Southern Appalachians, including the Shining Rock Wilderness Area, Cold Mountain, and Mount Pisgah. Approximately 42 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, starting minutes from Maggie Valley, pass through the center of the focus area, attracting eco-tourists from around the world to enjoy the scenic beauty of the region. Not to miss is the Balsam Mountain Preserve Birds of Prey program where you will see many of the natural owls, hawks, and eagles of these mountains.
Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob – Located at 5,000 feet in Haywood County on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center is part of a network of what will be 32 research learning centers supporting research and education about science in our national parks. Purchase Knob is a “new” section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (near Maggie Valley) with wonderful vistas from 5,000 feet elevation, an impressive research center and a great hike on the Cataloochee Divide Trail. These 500+ acres were donated to the Park in 2000.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Within the park almost anywhere you might see wildlife; there are 65 types of mammals to view. If you drive along the park roads at night, you may be treated to a glimpse of red and gray foxes or coyotes. There are approximately 2,000 bears in the national park, so the chances are high you will see one on your visit. The best viewing spots for black bears are Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley. White-tailed deer are commonly seen in Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley as well. Learn more.
Safely Watching Wildlife in the Smoky Mountains
The National Park Service lists 7 ways to safely view wildlife. They say “You can help keep yourself and other visitors safe and wildlife wild by setting a good example! Remember to treat wildlife with proper caution and respect. The safety of these animals, as well as your safety, depends on everyone using good judgment and following these simple guidelines.”
- Know before you go. Before you head out on the trail, take a few minutes to review the park’s rules
- Keep your eyes on the road. Vehicle strikes are one of the most deadly types of encounters for wildlife in parks.
- Give animals room. The best way to stay safe when watching wildlife is to give animals room to move.
- Do not disturb. Even when you’re farther away, leaving wildlife alone can help your viewing experience—plus it’s the law.
- Store your food and stash your trash. Feeding wildlife in parks can make them come looking for more.
- See something, say something. Tell a ranger if you come into physical contact with wildlife. Also, tell a ranger if you see wildlife that are sick, dead, or acting strangely, including wildlife that approach you.
- Be responsible. Ultimately, staying safe and keeping wildlife wild is up to you!
Don’t Forget to be Eco-Friendly
We wouldn’t want to forget about sustainability and lose our three-pine eco-friendly status :). So here are some quick guidelines, based upon the Leave No Trace Principles, on venturing into the wilds and still being friendly to the earth:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare – see above.
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly – bring a trash bag to take it out with you.
- Leave What You Find – don’t leave marks and holes.
- Minimize Campfire Impacts – no big burns!
- Respect Wildlife – Don’t mess with the wildlife. Don’t step all over their habitat and stay on the trails.
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors – don’t be a jerk!
We also want to emphasize some general eco-friendly rules as well:
- Plastic Water bottles are not environmentally friendly. Pass over the plastic and go with a reusable option that you can use time and time again. We love the sleek design of S’well, Bobble, and Soma.
- Plastic bags are not great either. Use reusable food storage. Make the eco-choice and store any loose snacks in reusable Beeswax wrapping.
Your Smoky Mountain Wildlife Experience Starts with Where You Stay!
So here we are at the end and of course we are going to give you the “sell.” Seriously though, we are a legendary motel in Maggie Valley, which is the gateway to the Smokies. We have onsite entertainment, food, and drink – as well as a large wooded recreation area with fire pits and a pavilion. We are not only close to all the wildlife we mentioned, we are centrally located to many restaurants and other attractions to make your stay as comfortable and exciting as possible. We also have many tour packages and taxi services to help you achieve the perfect day in the Smoky Mountains viewing wildlife! Check out some of our package here>>>