Plan now to book your Autumn Ridge Vacation Rentals cabin to spend a week -or two!- during late May to early June in the Smokies when a very special phenomenon will light up the night.

Fireflies Light Show Smoky Mountains

Rare fireflies, also known as “lightning bugs,” of the species Photinus Carolinus swarm through the Smokies at the start of summer every year, synchronizing their lights in a display that wows young and old. The mating ritual involves male fireflies sending out a bright light that is answered by a dimmer female glow. It’s believed that the females prefer the males with the brightest lights. Synchronous fireflies are only found in a handful of places around the world, and it’s easy to get a good look at them in the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Park visitors must obtain a parking pass for the Sugarlands Visitor Center lot.  Lottery dates will come and go so don’t delay! Trolleys transport visitors from there to the Elkmont area, where they will have front row seats for a fabulous nature show. The blinking lights look almost like an otherworldly dance of fairies, or a gorgeous constellation of blinking stars bowed low for humans to enjoy. It’s magical!

  • Late-April: Firefly viewing dates announced and lottery for vehicle passes opens.  All lottery applicants will be charged a $1.00 application fee. Successful applicants will automatically be awarded parking passes and $24.00 will be charged to the same credit or debit card used for the application fee. If the charge to the credit card is declined for any reason, the reservation will be forfeited. To help ensure your payment is processed, we recommend you notify your bank or credit card company that you may be automatically charged by
  • Early-May: Lottery for vehicle passes closes.
  • Mid-May: All lottery applicants will be notified if their application was successful or unsuccessful.
  • June: Annual firefly viewing opportunity. Specific dates TBD.

Lottery and view dates information will be found online at  as it becomes available.  Trolley schedules are usually firmed up in early to mid-April, as Great Smoky Mountains National Park biologists keep an eye on environmental conditions in order to prognosticate the peak of the synchronous firefly show. Climate plays the biggest role in this timetable.

A visit to the Smokies while the synchronous fireflies are in dazzling form will mean memories that last a lifetime. Particularly fascinating is that fireflies are actually a type of beetle with a light-producing organ under the abdomen which produces light very efficiently with almost no heat output.

Although there are nearly 2,000 species of fireflies in existence – 19 of which live in the Smokies – there are very few which flash their lights in unison (synchronous fireflies). The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is well-known for its firefly shows, and in 2015, another species of synchronous firefly (photuris frontalis, or “snappy syncs”) was found in the nearby Oak Ridge (TN) Wildlife Management Area. The same species found in the Smokies has been seen in the Allegheny National Forest and in Congaree National Park in South Carolina. A small number of synchronous fireflies (photinus knulli) can be found in Arizona, though groups are not large enough to produce an impressive light show. Southeast Asia has a very large assortment of synchronous firefly species, with swarms lighting up entire trees at once to the delight of onlookers.

Check availability for your Gatlinburg cabin rental and be here for nature’s annual light show!  This spectacular event is just one more thing the Smokies are known for. For more things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, check out our posts about Gatlinburg’s Quiet Walkways, Chimney Tops, Guided Fishing Trips, and Cades Cove Tours.

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