Photographing Elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Where, When and Why

Bull elk bugling during rut
Bull elk bugling during rut

Story & photos by Tom Croce

As a nature photographer, one of my favorite things is showing someone a picture of a beautiful elk bull, and then asking them where it was taken. They usually guess the Rocky Mountains or somewhere out west. It’s fun to see their expression when I tell them no, it was taken in North Carolina!

Perhaps one of the most important things we do as nature photographers is educate and help bring awareness to the plight of animals in the wild. Equally important is highlighting the programs where thoughtful, patient intervention has helped ensure that these wild places remain wild for future generations. One such program is the United States National Park Service’s reintroduction of the majestic elk to the Great Smoky Mountains. That’s the why. But where are the best places to photograph elk and when are the best times?

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