HomeOutdoorsThis Short-Lived Blue Ridge Mountain Phenomenon Begins Next Month

This Short-Lived Blue Ridge Mountain Phenomenon Begins Next Month

by Victoria Santiago
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Next month, visitors to the Blue Ridge Mountains will be able to see a very special phenomenon. It only happens during certain times of the year. The mountains already attract a lot of visitors each year, due to the natural beauty of the area. Even avid fans of the Blue Ridge Mountains might not know about this yearly occurrence.

The sun sets a little differently during late winter in Jackson County, North Carolina. From mid-February until March, visitors will be able to see Shadow of the Bear. It’s exactly what it sounds like: the sun sets over the mountains and casts a shadow that looks like a resting bear. At first, it’ll look like just a small, normal shadow. However, as the sun continues to set, the bear will slowly take shape. The shadow starts to form around 5:30 p.m. Overall, this only lasts for about 30 minutes. Then, the bear is gone until the next sunset. This natural occurrence is best viewed around Whiteside Mountain, as that’s where the shadow forms.

Shadow of the Bear Only Comes Out A Few Months Out of the Year

Shadow of the Bear is pretty rare. Not only is it only viewable for a couple of months out of the year, but conditions have to be just right. Of course, it has to have been sunny out that day. The bear won’t form if it’s cloudy. Then, the angle of the sunshine has to be just right for the bear to appear. That’s why it’s best viewed during February and March. According to MSN, Shadow of the Bear also happens during the fall.

Visitors to the Blue Ridge Mountains may prefer to go during the winter months, anyway. It’s colder and snowy, so there aren’t as many tourists in the area. The mountains will most likely be snow-capped and the trails will be empty. Thus, your visit is almost guaranteed to be better. Less traffic, fewer people, and more peace. It’ll just be you, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Shadow of the Bear.

However, there are perks for visiting Jackson County, NC in the fall, too. Unfortunately, the area will be much busier during the fall months. This is because of the lovely fall colors that the trees take on. However, that’s also what makes Shadow of the Bear look even better. For visitors that want to see the Blue Ridge Mountains swathed in reds and golds, fall is the time to go. The colors will make Shadow of the Bear appear more lively.

There’s No Shortage of Cool Things in the Blue Ridge Mountains

For people that like to visit the mountains to see wildlife, the Blue Ridge Mountains have you covered there, too. Shadow of the Bear may be just that, but you’ll almost certainly see some other iconic animals in the area. For example, in Cherokee, NC, herds of elk have been known to stop traffic by walking across the roads.

In fact, elk sightings in the area are becoming more and more common. Elk had been overhunted hundreds of years ago, but thanks to efforts from the NPS they seem to be thriving now.