Fireflies, or lightning bugs, can be found all over the eastern parts of North America, but the Great Smoky Mountains is one destination that attracts thousands of visitors year after year to see the Elkmont fireflies.
Every year, in late May and early June, the Elkmont fireflies (sometimes also referenced to as Sugarlands Visitor Center fireflies) in the Smoky Mountains National Park light up the sky. These fireflies are special because they synchronize–all lighting up at once! If you’ve never visited to see the synchronous fireflies event at Elkmont, it’s time you do!
2017 Elkmont Fireflies Event in the Smoky Mountains
A dates for the 2017 event have just been announced: May 30, 2017 through June 6, 2017.
Parking Passes at Sugarlands Visitor Center on Sale for the Synchronous Fireflies Event
Parking passes are required to see the Elkmont fireflies. This parking pass gives your vehicle access to the parking lot at Sugarlands Visitor Center on the evening of your visit.
Parking passes for viewing the Elkmont fireflies in the Smoky Mountains will be managed a little differently this year than previous years. Previously, the parking passes would go on sale and would sell out quickly on a first come, first served basis.
Dates You Need to Know
- April 25: Event dates announced – May 30, 2017 through June 6, 2017
- April 28: Lottery opens at 12 p.m. noon EST
- May 1: Lottery closes at 8 p.m. EST
- May 10: Results of lottery announced
Vehicle Passes Distributed through Lottery System
For 2017, vehicle passes will be distributed through a lottery system. As usual, the demand for parking passes exceeds the number of parking passes available, and interest in the event continues to grow each year.
How It Works
- There will be a 3-day period open for visitors to apply to receive a parking pass. All entries will be accepted from Friday, April 28, 2017 at 12:00 noon until Monday, May 1, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time)
- All applications will go through a randomized lottery system to determine results. In the application process, you will apply for a regular pass or a large-vehicle pass. You will also choose 2 possible dates that you will be able to attend over the event period.
- Results of the lottery will be determined on May 10, 2017. Winners will be assigned a date to attend the event during the results period. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail on May 10 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.
- Unfortunately, not everyone can be accommodated for the event since, typically, the number of people entering for a parking pass is much greater than the number of passes available.
How does the lottery choose winners?
- The lottery system is a randomized computer drawing system to select applications.
- There is no fee to enter the lottery in 2017.
- If you are selected, you will be charged a $2.75 reservation fee and awarded a parking pass. The parking pass permits parking at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows guests to ride the shuttle to the Elkmont viewing area. There is a $1 fee per person to ride the shuttle. It is cash only, so please bring exact change.
- There will be an arrival time between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. assigned to lottery winners.
- Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the individual issue date.
- There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season.
What Are My Chances of Getting a Parking Pass?
- It’s difficult to determine your odds because we don’t know how many people will submit an application. This year, there will be 1,800 vehicle passes available for the event.
- Of the 1,800 passes available, 1,768 passes are regular-parking passes (225 per day) which admits up to 6 people in a single-regular vehicle.
- Of the 1,800 passes available, 23 large-vehicle passes are available (4 per day) which admits up to 24 people.
How do I apply?
Between Friday, April 28, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. and Monday, May 1, 2017 at 8:00 p.m., visit http://www.recreation.gov/ for all official details and the application.
What to Take to See the Elkmont Fireflies in the Smoky Mountains
You can expect the event to last between 3-4 hours (from the time you park to the time you arrive back to your car). We definitely recommend you plan your evening so you eat a good dinner before heading to the national park.
The National Park Service recommends visitors:
- Pack a foldable chair or blanket for the viewing area
- Cover your flashlight with red or blue cellophane to prevent interrupting the fireflies
- Stay on the trail at all times and don’t catch the fireflies
- Pack up your garbage, and don’t leave it in the national park