Smoky Mountains Fireflies

The Enchanting World of the Smoky Mountains Fireflies

Smoky Mountains Fireflies

The Smoky Mountains are known for their stunning natural beauty, from the rolling hills to the cascading waterfalls. But one of the most enchanting sights to be found in this wilderness is the Elkmount Fireflies.

Every year, from late May to mid-June, the synchronous fireflies of Elkmount put on a dazzling display. These fireflies are a rare species known as Photinus carolinus and they are the only fireflies in North America that can synchronize their flashing patterns.

As the sun begins to set, thousands of male fireflies begin to flash in unison, creating a stunning display of light that dances across the forest floor. The females, perched in the trees above, respond with a single flash, signaling their interest to potential mates. The display lasts for only a few short weeks, specific dates can vary depending on the temperature and soil moisture levels.

In fact, the Elkmount Fireflies have become so popular that the National Park Service has implemented a lottery system for viewing the fireflies. To see the fireflies, visitors must enter a lottery system for a parking pass to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Only 1,800 passes are available per night and visitors are encouraged to enter the lottery as early as possible. Once at the viewing site, visitors are led on a guided walk through the forest, where they can witness the fireflies' spectacular display.

FUN FACT Elkmount Fireflies aren't just a beautiful sight to behold. They also play an important role in the ecosystem. Fireflies feed on snails, slugs and other small invertebrates, helping to keep populations in check. As adults, they are an important food source for bats and other nocturnal predators. On April 25, 2023, the dates for the official Smoky Mountains National Park synchronous fireflies event in 2023 will be disclosed. The lottery period for official park passes for the 2023 event will begin at 10:00 AM on Friday, April 28 and will end at 8:00 PM on Monday, May 1.

Once the lottery period ends, passes for the Smoky Mountains National Park synchronous fireflies event can be purchased from Lottery applicants will be notified on Thursday, May 11, 2023, if they have been awarded a vehicle pass. If selected, a $25.00 fee (per vehicle) for the pass. In addition, a $2 fee (cash only) will be required per person when boarding the round-trip shuttle to the viewing area.

April 25, 2023: Firefly viewing dates announced.
April 28, 2023: Lottery for vehicle passes opens at 10:00 a.m.
May 1, 2023: Lottery for vehicle passes closes at 8:00 p.m.
May 11, 2023: All lottery applicants will be notified if their application was successful/unsuccessful

So if you're lucky enough to witness the Elkmount Fireflies, take a moment to appreciate their beauty and the important role they play in the ecosystem!