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part ofGreat Smoky Mountains National Park, National Park Service


Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of at least 19 species of fireflies that live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns and they do so each year in early June as a mating ritual. The Elkmont area of the park has a high population of these fireflies and has become a very popular viewing area.

During the shuttle operating period, the Elkmont area will be closed at night to all but campers. Visitors must park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and ride a trolley to the Elkmont viewing area. The number of parking spaces at Sugarlands is limited as is the capacity of the shuttle system. Beginning in 2012, people who want to see the fireflies at Elkmont must obtain a parking pass to park their car at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Access to the shuttle system will be granted only to occupants of those cars which have a parking pass. The viewing area at Elkmont is comprised of small paved areas and easy walking trails within a quarter mile of the trolley station. Rangers will be on hand to provide information.

The first trolley will depart the parking lot at about 7 p.m. The trolleys will begin returning from Elkmont when filled to capacity, which will likely be after 9:30 p.m., and will continue running until everyone has been accommodated. Visitors should expect to return to their vehicle 3-6 hours after arriving at Sugarlands.

Three categories of parking passes will be available:
  • Advance Parking Pass: a total of 888 parking passes (111/day) will go on sale on April 30 at 10:00 a.m. The parking pass admits one passenger car, up to 19' in length, and 6 passengers.
  • Day Before Parking Pass: a total of 85 parking passes will go on sale at 10 a.m. the day before each of the 8 days of the event, for a total of 680 passes. The parking pass admits one passenger car, up to 19' in length, and 6 passengers.
  • Large Vehicle Parking Pass: a total of 36 parking passes will go on sale on April 30 at 10:00 a.m. and will admit one large vehicle (19' to 30' in length) and up to 24 persons.
  • For more information, click "here" to visit the park's website.

    Know Before You Go:

  • Depending on the type of reservation, a parking pass shall admit either:
    • One passenger vehicle, up to 19’ in length, and a maximum of 6 occupants or
    • One large vehicle (RV, bus, etc.), 19’ to 30’ in length, and a maximum of 24 occupants.
  • No changes can be made to the reservation.
  • Parking passes are not transferrable. The person named in the parking pass must be present in the vehicle for the party to be admitted.
  • The reservation fee is not refundable, even if the NPS cancels the event due to hazardous weather. Rain checks will not be issued.
  • The trolley fee is $1 per person, roundtrip (cash only), and must paid when boarding the trolley.
  • The viewing area and trolley stop is a natural, outdoor environment with no shelter. Though the event may be cancelled if hazardous weather seems likely, participants should be prepared for the possibility of inclement weather.
  • Portable toilets will be available at the site.
  • Alcoholic beverages and pets are prohibited.
  • Getting There:

    Parking is provided at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The visitor center is located two miles south of Gatlinburg, TN on the Newfound Gap Road, aka U.S. Highway 441. Trolleys will shuttle visitors to the viewing area.

    Contact Information:

    Mailing Address:

    1420 Little River Road
    Gatlinburg  TN  37738

    Phone Number:

    Information:  (865)436-1291 helps you discover and book trips to all of America's public places.
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