You don’t have to wait until July to see the sky light up with an inspiring spectacle. Like Independence Day fireworks, this show is sure to inspire oohs and aahs all around. The synchronous fireflies are set to swarm and light up the Great Smoky Mountains, a forest area that straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, May 30 through June 6.
During these dates, tens of thousands of fireflies will gather and flash in sync, a dazzling outdoor display that turns the forest into a psychedelic natural party. People describe it as watching falling stars and fireworks in unison.
The Elkmont Campground in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is home to the largest population of synchronous fireflies in the Western Hemisphere and makes for the prime viewing spot.
In fact, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will only allow a limited number of visitors in to see the fireflies firsthand. This year, approximately 1,000 fortunate people will get prime viewing spots each evening.
You can get a glimpse of what the stunning view looks like in this Instagram post from @cherokeegrill:
Check out this video of the fireflies posted to YouTube by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, and just imagine seeing this in real life. The lightning bugs may be small, but all together, they produce a true showstopper.
There is a shuttle service available to transport visitors from Sugarlands Visitor Center to the Elkmont viewing area, where the fireflies will strut their stuff. The event is so popular, the park holds a lottery to distribute parking passes. The lottery closed April 29, and lucky attendees will be announced May 10.
The @visitsmokies account on Instagram announced the lottery in April:
You may have missed your shot at Elkmont this year, but it isn’t the only viewing spot for the swarming synchronous fireflies. If you didn’t win the parking pass lottery, you can venture to the backend of Cades Cove (near the Abrams Falls trailhead) or view them at Cataloochee Valley.
Wherever you choose to enjoy the show, remember to turn off flashlights and other lighted electronic devices so you don’t disrupt them. Then, sit back and prepare to be awestruck.
Even with the best camera, it’s fairly difficult to capture these little guys in a photograph or video, so you may just have to capture this sight in your mind’s eye.
Nature In Sync
The synchronous fireflies’ flashing patterns are nearly impossible to photograph — that’s why you have to be there in person.
There are many species of fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Each species has its own characteristic flash pattern, but synchronous fireflies, highlighted in the Instagram post below from @lucy_gonzo, are the only ones in America that can synchronize their light show.
Their specific pattern includes five to eight quick bursts of light followed by a five-second period of complete darkness.
The light bursts are fleeting, and the fireflies’ adult lifespans are almost as quick. They take up to two years to mature from larvae, and then their adult lifespans are only about 21 days.
The light show is all part of the fireflies’ mating display, which usually occurs during a two-week period in May through June.
That’s a pretty incredible natural phenomenon to witness with your own eyes and reason enough to trek out to the Great Smoky Mountains.