Experience Elkmont’s One-of-a-Kind Synchronized Firefly Show

Photo: SmokyMountains.com

One firefly floating around is beautiful, but when thousands of fireflies light up simultaneously, it feels downright magical.

You can witness this enchanting scene firsthand at Elkmont in the Smoky Mountains National Park. Learn more about this amazing event below.

About the Elkmont Fireflies

The Elkmont fireflies, also known as the Sugarlands Visitor Center fireflies, are unique because they all light up at once. But why does this happen?

The synchronized lighting is connected to the fireflies’ mating ritual.

Photo: SmokyMountains.com

Adult fireflies spend about a year as larvae, crawling on the forest floor. Once they mature, they have just 21 days to find a mate.

Male fireflies flit through the forest, flashing in harmony to attract their mates, while female fireflies mark their location from the ground with two quick blinks.

When Can You See the Elkmont Fireflies?

The fireflies have different mating seasons that occur throughout the summer. However, they are most active from late May to early June.

The biggest and most popular firefly event takes place during the first week of June at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To observe the fireflies as clearly as possible, it is recommended to venture out right after dark, from 9 pm to 12 am.

Things to Know About the Annual Synchronous Fireflies Event

If you plan to see the fireflies at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll need a parking pass. The passes are for vehicles carrying seven or fewer passengers.

Due to the growing popularity of this event, parking passes are distributed through a lottery system. Lottery applicants must pay a $1 application fee, and winners receive a parking pass, which costs $24. Only one lottery application per household is allowed.

How Long Does the Event Last?

Most people spend about 3-4 hours at the park, including time to park and walk back to their cars at the end of the night.

What Should You Bring?

Bring a camping chair or blanket to sit comfortably in the viewing area. Additionally, make sure to have a flashlight covered with red or blue cellophane to avoid interfering with the fireflies and their mating rituals.

What Are the Rules?

Along with covering your flashlight, there are a few other rules you’ll need to follow. For example, visitors are expected to always stay on the park’s trails.

Guests are also prohibited from catching (or attempting to catch) the fireflies. Remember, you’re in their space and must watch them respectfully.

Where Else Can You See the Fireflies?

Photo: SmokyMountains.com

If you don’t win a parking pass from the park’s lottery, there are still other nearby locations where you can see the fireflies. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Cades Cove, TN: This spot is located approximately an hour west of Elkmont. The Abrams Falls trailhead offers some of the best views.
  • Rainbow Falls Trailhead, TN: The Rainbow Falls trailhead provides a convenient viewing spot outside of Gatlinburg.
  • Rocky Fork State Park, TN: Rocky Fork State Park also employs a lottery system for its smaller firefly show, allowing only eight vehicles per night.
  • Cataloochee Valley, NC: It’s more challenging to find synchronous fireflies in the Cataloochee Valley, but there’s still a chance of encountering them. Additionally, you can spot blue ghost fireflies, which provide an impressive sight with their signature blue-white lights.
  • Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, NC: This forest is renowned as one of the most popular old-growth forests in the U.S. Accessible only by foot via a two-mile trail, it’s a fantastic location to observe synchronous and blue ghost fireflies.
  • Congaree National Park, SC: This park hosts an 18-day firefly celebration that attracts over 12,000 visitors. They also utilize a lottery system for parking passes.

If you love nature and crave unique outdoor experiences, you can’t miss the opportunity to witness the mesmerizing display of synchronous Elkmont fireflies in action. Start planning a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (or one of the nearby viewing spots) today!