If you want to see a true “wonder of nature,” a beauty that can only be seen in a two known places in the whole world, then you need to make a plan to see the Smoky Mountains fireflies. They are a rare species of firefly that seem to coordinate their blinking into a Smoky Mountain show around mid-June (approximately the 6th through the 13th) each year.
There’s only one other place in the world, Southeast Asia, where this phenomenon can be seen. This species of fireflies has an internal “sensor” that lets them know when a nearby firefly has lit, in which they respond with their own light as quickly as possible. It may take a minute for them to get in sync, but all of a sudden that start performing together with flashes that last as long as six seconds. This, in turn, presents an amazing wave of blinking lights that is truly astonishing. Of course, it’s a mating ritual among the fireflies, but it is actually one of the most beautiful sights you’ll see in the Smokies.
What to Expect at the Smoky Mountains Fireflies Event
The show begins at dusk, usually around 9:30 p.m. and tickets/parking passes are required.
Starting at 7 pm, visitors may board the Gatlinburg trolley from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Trolleys will run every 20-25 minutes. It will take you to the Little River Trailhead at Elkmont. The last trolley back leaves at 11 p.m. No private vehicles will be allowed into the Elkmont entrance after 5 p.m. – the trolley is the only transportation in and out unless you are a registered camper at Elkmont. You won’t be able to simply drive up into Elkmont to experience this; you must either be camping in Elkmont or ride the trolley.
Bring a blanket or a small lawn chair to sit on, a flashlight or two (cover them with red cellophane to minimize white lights), and a backpack with refreshments. The only amenities available are portable toilets.
Park rangers and volunteers will be available in various locations for questions, guided walks, and assistance.
No pets or alcoholic beverages allowed.