Synchronous Smoky Mountain Fireflies at Elkmont

Every year in the late spring, a true marvel of nature occurs in the Great Smoky Mountains – Photinus carolinus – synchronous fireflies! This is one of very few species of fireflies in the world that synchronizes their flash patterns.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts an annual viewing of these fireflies at the Elkmont Campground. This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity that is HIGHLY recommended for nature lovers.

The National Park Service describes the event as follows:

Every year in late May to early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Since 2006, access to the Elkmont area has been limited during the eight days of predicted peak activity in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors that minimizes disturbance to these unique fireflies during the peak mating period. 

To get into the event, you have to have a vehicle pass. During the viewing times, 800 vehicle passes (100 per night) will be issued by the Park Service. With so being issued, demand for the parking passes far outweighs availability. To make acquiring a parking pass is fair as possible, they are distributed via a lottery. Recipients of the passes are picked at random.

The date that the lottery begins will be announced soon. Visit https://www.recreation.gov/ticket/facility/233374 to read the latest updates about the lottery and find out how to enter.

A few more things to know:

  • The is a fee for the parking pass, and the pass is non-transferrable. You must present a matching photo ID to be admitted.
  • Elkmont is located near the Little River and Jakes Creek Trailheads. Park personnel will be onsite guiding traffic.
  • The park asks that you limit light via cellphones, vehicle interior lights, etc., as this disrupts the firefly synchronous flashing.
  • There is no shelter, so prepare for inclement weather.
  • Alcoholic beverages are not allowed.

So there you have it! If you are looking to attend a truly unique and rare natural occurrence, visit the website link above. Good luck! If you are able to attend, we invite you to book a stay at Edgewater Hotel, located right on the Little Pigeon River in downtown Gatlinburg.