Attention: We’ve been made aware of the ridiculously cute Fat Bear Week and we’re here for it. This phenomenon has taken over social media and as it turns out, there’s a legitimate Fat Bear Week vote-off. Who knew?!
Sadly, only Katmai National Park & Reserve brown bears are in the running (and they are beauties!). Therefore, we’re highlighting our own want-to-cuddle-you-but-know-we-shouldn’t black bears of Shenandoah National Park. The odds are good that you’ll spot one or more of them while you’re soaking up the fall foliage along Skyline Drive. More on that after the bears …
It should go without saying (but we’ll do it anyway), don’t approach bears. Again: Do. Not. Pet. The Fluff. Appreciate and admire them from a distance. It’s safer for you and the bears. But mostly you. That being said, here are tips on How to See Bears in Shenandoah.
A few tips …
- Do not exceed the speed limit of 35 mph. First, it’s the limit. Second, you may miss something like … a bear. Third, you don’t want to hit any wildlife.
- If you do see bear and want to observe or take a photo from your car, pull over with all four wheels off the road. Do not exit the vehicle.
- Park regulations require at least 150 feet (50 yards) of distance between you and a bear.
- Make noise to announce yourself to bear. They are curious and may not run away, but if you’re making noise, they are not likely to approach you either.
- If a bear does approach, do not turn around. Back away slowly, raise and wave your arms, and shout or clap to deter the bear.
- Do not ever run from a bear; it’s a trigger for it to pursue you. You won’t win.
- If you witness others interacting with a bear in a dangerous manner, feeding it, or if you are charged by a bear, immediately call 800-732-0911.
Driving for Foliage in Shenandoah National Park
Skyline Drive, a National Scenic Byway, is the corridor along which you experience Shenandoah National Park. At 105 miles long, it’s important to be prepared and know what is available each season and when. Access points are in Front Royal (I-66 and US 340), Thornton Gap (US 211), Swift Run Gap (US 33), and Rockfish Gap (I-64 and US 250). Fill up your tank or make sure your EV is charged ahead of time, though there is pay-at-the-pump fueling at Big Meadows (mile 51). Overnight accommodations and dining are available at Skyland and Big Meadows Lodge. Skyland is open through November 26 and Big Meadows will close for the season on November 12.
Take a peek at the Fall Color Report to see how the foliage is fairing in the park. Currently, there are pops of orange, per the photo below taken at Hemlock Springs on October 4, 2023.
Back to the Bears …
In the spirit of fun, good will, and awareness, head over to FatBearWeek.org to fawn over their cuties. We’re hedging our bets on Holly (435), the shapely “lightly toasted marshmallow.” Her comeback story as a survivor, single lady, and 2019 Fat Bear Week champion inspires us. Go Holly, Go!