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.
40 thoughts on “Smoky Mountains Synchronous Fireflies”
I am a frequent visitor to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge
area (twice a yr). The firefly show will definitely
add something new and exciting for us to see. Thanks.
I plan to be in Gatlinburg from June 9-12 this summer(2008). I would love to see the lightning bugs in the park. Will I be there at the right time? If not, please let me know what days will be best to see them in action.
A friend of mine visited the show and absolutely loved it. I was not able to visit between the 7th and 14th, but was told I would be able to see them in action the week of the 16th. I was told the trolley would not be running, but could drive on up. My anniversay is the 18th and would love to pitch a blanket, picnic, and see the show, but don’t want to drive a long distance if I won’t be able to drive up.
I hope to see the fireflies this year but I’m having trouble finding red cellophane. Any suggestions?
Try taking a red or blue marker to clear cellophane aka saran-wrap, it will work!
Is this the only time this summer they do this? Would love to come up and see it, but this is the 12th of June—today!
I was very disappointed with the information that was NOT given about viewing the fireflies. We arrived about 7:30 and were turned away because the parking lot at the Sugarlands center was full. Please let people know that they need to arrive very early.
We drove in from Knoxville and could not make it back this week. Maybe next year we will be able to see them.
Unfortunately yes, it’s a once-a-year type thing.
Is the 2011 time frame for the fireflies still June 5th-13th? We tried last year and were also turned away. We want to make sure we get there during the event this year and plan to arrive super early?
No, we won’t know until it gets a little closer to June. Then the park rangers send out a release. A lot has to do with the seasonal temperatures, weather, etc. as to when the fireflies make their appearance.
Will you be updating this year’s dates and trolley times? We would really like to start making plans to attend. Thanks!
Yes, as soon as we know the dates. Usually mid-June.
The NPS Smoky Mt. web site lists June 4-12, 2011 as the dates the trolley will run (but it does not provide times or details)
You can drive up to Elkmont yourself as long as it is not when the trolley runs. For the past couple of years we have driven up a couple days before the trolley starts running and the fireflies are out.
We live a little over an hour away and this is the first I’ve heard of this! Amazing! Plan on making the trip first of the week, but want to make sure we can catch the trolley. Everybody is saying early…but does anybody know about how early? Thank you!
Went last night and it is absolutely breathtaking! A true wonder of God!
Tip to all-arrive early!! We got there @ 5:15 and was lucky enough to get one of the last parking spots!
Anybody know how many days the fireflies are expected to be out? I will be visiting North Caroling June 13th – June 20th.
We are planning on forking out a few extra bucks and taking a taxi from downtown to Sugarland. That way I don’t have to keep the little ones from going crazy for too long. I’ll let you know how it works out!!
We drove 2 nights in a row from Hendersonville NC and were turned away. And there is no way to see the fireflies from any other point in the park we tried several. We were so disappointed but I hear its great. GET THERE EARLY like 2pm.
for The Smoky Mountain Synchronous Fireflies do you have to reserve your spot or do you just come on the days that it will be going on? as well whats days is it for 2012?
You just come out when they make their appearance. Usually around the beginning of June.
how do we reseve spots for 2012
We will be in Gatlinburg June 16th, will there still be enough firefly synchronized flashing to really enjoy the site? Also, what are the hours for viewing on the 16th-17th and can you still bring chairs/blankets?
I will be in Gatlinburg July 4-8 and wanted to see the synchronized fireflies if they were still available. Is it still going on or is it done for the year?
You can also use red tape on the flashlight. You can find red tape in any automotive department.
When will be the best time to see them in 2013?
Richard, usually in mid June, but the national park usually issues a release in the spring about when they expect the synchronous fireflies to appear.
When will tickets go on sell for 2013 reservations. What is a phone number for reservations?
The park usually doesn’t release information until sometime in April when they can give a more accurate estimate on when the fireflies will appear.
Tickets will be on sale starting April 29 2013 and that means you get a parking spot. We ae going this year, can’t wait!