The best place to see Synchronous fireflies in North America is in the Elkmont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The little (lightning) buggers put on a spectacular display usually from May to mid-June. You can also see them toward the backend of Cades Cove (Abrams Falls trailhead) or at Cataloochee Valley.
The largest population of synchronous fireflies in the Western Hemisphere can be viewed near Elkmont Campground. Their breathtaking bioluminescence show peaks for a few weeks in late May and early June.
The fireflies synchronous flash or light patterns are part of their mating display and usually include greenish-yellow and bluish lights. Although difficult to photograph or film, the flashing pattern includes 5-8 synchronous bursts of light, followed by complete darkness for about 5 seconds. The fireflies do not always flash in unison. They may also flash in waves across hillsides, and at other times will flash randomly. The show resembles a combination of stars falling and fireworks exploding!
Due to high demand, tickets are awarded using a lottery system on Rec.gov to ensure everyone that wants a ticket has an equal chance of getting a ticket. Be sure to check the Rec.gov website for more information on when the lottery will be held. There will be only 1,800 lottery/vehicle passes (1,768 regular vehicles and 32 large vehicle passes) for the 8-day (peak) event. During the lottery application process, you’ll also apply for either a regular vehicle parking or large vehicle parking.
Elkmont Campground has 220 campsites and is located on the shores of the Little River in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The sites can accommodate tents, trailers and RVs. Tents of the sites are walk-in only for tents.
All registered Elkmont campers have access and do not need to have a lottery ticket. Campers can either walk or take a shuttle from the campground to the viewing area. The Elkmont Campground will sell out months in advance. If you missed a campsite, you can use our Campsite Assist tool and get notified when a (cancelled) campsite becomes available.
Elkmont Campsite #K15
Elkmont Campsite #H1