You can see a bear anywhere in Georgia. Literally we’ve seen bears in downtown Blairsville, outside of Gainesville near Lake Lanier, and wandering the road just outside of Helen. We’ve done a lot of roaming – whether it’s hiking or driving – and we’ve seen our share of the furry animals. I actually hit a bear a few years ago – late at night – between Cleveland GA and Blood Mountain. Almost destroyed my Jeep!
Here in Georgia – and throughout the south – we have the American Black Bear – no brown bears – no grizzly bears. Wikipedia says the following about black bears:
It is the continent’s smallest and most widely distributed bear species. American black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas but will leave forests in search of food. They are sometimes attracted to human communities because of the immediate availability of food. The American black bear is the world’s most common bear species. The fur, though usually black, is not always this color. Some subspecies do not show as black.
Here are the top 5 places we have personally seen more than one bear:
Hwy 129 Driving over Blood Mountain
This one isn’t too surprising. We have seen many, many bears on the Blairsville side of Blood Mountain right on Hwy 129 and we’ve seen several down in Vogel State Park. On the Cleveland side of the mountain we’ve not seen a bear – but have heard of many sightings down around Desoto Falls. One evening late in the summer (2020) we were headed north on Hwy 129 towards Blairsville – there is an emergency truck pull-off on the right side of the road just before you get to Vogel State Park – we saw two HUGE adult bears just walking around, minding their own business. We took a few pictures but it was getting so dark they really didn’t turn out very well. As for inside the park at Vogel – I can’t count how many bears we’ve seen over the years. I think they love the campers. While there is no guarantee – a drive across Blood Mountain might be the best opportunity in Georgia to spot a black bear.
Hwy 348 – Richard B Russell Scenic Hwy
We have not only seen plenty of bear on this beautiful drive – we’ve seen our share of wild hogs too! A few of these piggies were pretty big. We have seen bear on this road from start to finish – near Blairsville where it intersects with Hwy 180 and at the other end at Hwy 75 near Helen. In fact, we saw the biggest bears we’ve ever seen on this road on 4 different occasions. Once in a field just as you turn onto Hwy 348 off of Hwy 180, once near Hatchet Creek Rd (dirt road that goes to Helton Creek Falls), once in a driveway very near that same place, and the biggest of all – at the intersection of Hwy 75 and Hwy 348 – a monster. Whether you see a bear or not – this is one of the most scenic drives in the north Georgia mountains!
Hwy 180 Between Blood Mountain and Suches (Hwy 60)
Wolfpen Gap Road! This winding road goes past Lake Winfield Scott and into Suches GA (highest town in Georgia). This is a TRUE mountain road and we absolutely love this drive. We have seen many, many deer and a few bears on this drive. This is only about a 10 mile stretch of road but it will probably take you almost half an hour if you don’t stop. You will stop. We’ve seen bear up near Wolfpen Gap at the top of the mountain, down around Lake Winfield Scott, and even down in the Suches area near Woody Lake. I might add – this is the best drive in Georgia during the fall if you want to see those fall colors.
Amicalola State Park
Amicalola State Park is one of our favorite places in Georgia – so we’ve been there often. We have seen several bears inside the park – but one particular instance a few years back – we were hiking and stumbled upon a sow with her cubs – several cubs. This bear sighting actually moved the needle on the scary scale. At one point we were almost between her and her cubs and she almost made a run at us. Thankfully the little family ended up moving back up the mountain further into the woods. We love spotting bears – but that one was a little too close for comfort.
Anywhere Around Fort Mountain State Park
Fort Mountain State Park is located more to the west and is absolutely spectacular. I think it’s one of the best hidden gems in the State. As for bear – we’ve seen a couple of bears inside the park – but we’ve heard of dozens and dozens of bear sightings in and around the park. Fort Mountain Park Rd is just off Hwy 52 – we have seen bears on both of these roads. We’ve only done a little hiking inside the park – didn’t see a bear while hiking but saw some very fresh evidence. A visit to Fort Mountain State Park might yield a bear sighting, but if not, this is one of the most beautiful parks in Georgia. You still win.
So these are only 5 spots we’ve seen bear. There are many other areas up here in the mountains you might run across a black bear. Black Rock Mountain State Park, Unicoi State Park, Moccasin Creek State Park – all of these places come to mind. Hwy 197 between Hwy 76 and Clarkesville, Hwy 76 between Hiawassee and Clayton, and anywhere on the dozens of little dirt roads hidden in the mountains.
If you noticed most of our sightings have come here in the northeast part of the mountains – that’s because we spend 80% of our time in this area. I’m sure we would see just as many if we were roaming over towards the west a little more. Don’t expect to see a bear in the winter up here – probably not gonna happen. The sightings really pick up in early spring and go all the way into the fall. According to the Georgia DNR we have over 4,000 black bear here in Georgia…so the opportunity is definitely there to spot one of the little creatures.
North Georgia Mountains Online