Great Smoky Mountains Synchronous Fireflies

© Firefly Experience - Radim Schreiber
Photography by © Firefly Experience


One of the most exciting natural events in the Smokies.

2023 Elkmont Viewing Dates: June 4 - 11

Every year in late May to early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of at least 19 species of fireflies that live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and are one of only a couple species in North America whose individuals are known to synchronize their flashing light patterns. Since 2006, access to the Elkmont area has been limited in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 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. 

Lottery Parking Passes

A total of 800 vehicle passes, 100 passes per night, will be issued through a lottery process. Each vehicle pass provides admission for parking directly at the Elkmont viewing location for one passenger vehicle with a maximum of seven occupants. The number of passes issued each day is based on parking capacity and the ability to safely accommodate a large number of viewers on site, while minimizing resource impacts.

During the viewing period, access to Elkmont is restricted after 4 PM to passenger vehicles with a parking pass, registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground, or backcountry campers with a valid permit. Visitors are not allowed to walk or ride bicycles on the Elkmont entrance road or Jakes Creek Road after 4 PM due to safety concerns. Overnight parking at Little River Trailhead, Jakes Creek Trailhead, or the Appalachian Clubhouse is not allowed without a valid backcountry permit for backcountry campsites associated with these trailheads. 

Lottery Application Information

During the lottery application, you may choose two dates you would like to attend - your preferred choice and an alternate date.

All applications, regardless of the time or date of entry, are considered equally in the pool of lottery applicants. The lottery system uses a randomized computer drawing to select applications. All lottery applicants will be charged a $1.00 application fee. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season.

Important Dates for the 2023 Firefly Lottery

Elkmont Viewing Dates: Sunday, June 4 - Sunday, June 11
April 28, 2023: Lottery for vehicle passes opens at 10 AM EST
May 1, 2023: Lottery for vehicle passes closes at 8 PM EST
May 11, 2023: All lottery applicants will be notified if their application was successful/unsuccessful. 

All lottery applicants will be notified by email if their application was SUCCESSFUL (and are awarded vehicle parking confirmation ) or UNSUCCESSFUL (and were not awarded vehicle parking confirmation).

Successful applicants will automatically be awarded parking passes and a $24.00 reservation fee will be charged to the same credit/debit card used for the application fee. The $24.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, on-site portable restrooms, supplies, and nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Elkmont. Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued.   

Media Access: To obtain media access for the firefly viewing opportunity, please contact Ashley Courtney at or 828-506-0637.   

Film Permit Access: To obtain a filming permit, please contact Jamie Sanders at or 865-436-1296. 

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