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Shadow of the Bear in the Great Smoky Mountains

Shadow of the Bear

From February through March, and then again in November, a natural, can’t-be-missed phenomenon happens in the Great Smoky Mountains of Jackson County, NC. The Shadow of the Bear occurs when the sun hits a certain point in the sky and a distinct, bear-shaped shadow appears across the mountains.

When, Where, and How To Experience The Shadow of the Bear

On sunny days, when the sun is at the perfect angle as it sets behind Whiteside Mountain, the Shadow of the Bear appears. The Shadow of the Bear is only visible for about 30 minutes every day – between 5:30 and 6:15 pm. It occurs only twice a year – from mid-February to early March and from mid-October through early November. Weather conditions like mountain haze and rain can impede the shadow.

The best place to view the Shadow of the Bear is from Rhodes Big View Overlook, right off of US Highway 64. The Rhodes Big View Overlook is only a few miles from both Cashiers and Highlands. This site marks the entrance to Jackson County with breathtaking sights! While parking for the overlook is available, be cautious when crossing the road and hiking to the overlook.

Be sure to bring your camera to capture this unique phenomenon!

Shadow of the Bear near Cashiers in Jackson County NC
Photo by bluesman46

When The Weather Doesn’t Cooperate

If you happen to venture out and the weather is cloudy or rainy, there are plenty of nearby Jackson County attractions to keep you entertained until the sun makes an appearance.


Sylva is a charming town located in the heart of Jackson County and the Great Smoky Mountains. Check out downtown Sylva for plenty of delicious eateries, like the famous Lulu’s On Main, unique breweries, and exciting shops!


This ideal getaway in Jackson County is surrounded by the Nantahala Nation Forest and sits on the banks of the Tuskasegee River. The charming town offers plenty of family activities, shopping, food, and a variety of relaxing and exciting experiences for a memorable visit!

Cashiers and Highlands

Both of these quaint towns feature fine dining, golfing, boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, breweries, and so much more!

Visit the Great Smoky Mountains

With so much to do at any time during the year, the Great Smoky Mountains is an ideal getaway for all ages! Begin planning your vacation to Jackson County today to catch the Shadow of the Bear before it returns to hibernation until Fall.

There’s plenty to see and experience in the Smokies, from hiking trails and waterfalls to cultural and educational adventures. Come see for yourself!

Featured image at top taken by Frank Kehren