Fireflies, or lightning bugs, can be found in many parts of the United States, but the Great Smoky Mountains is where thousands of visitors year after year flock 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!
Parking Passes at Sugarlands Visitor Center 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 are acquired through a lottery system. In late April the event dates are announced along with the dates to enter the lottery. In early May the results of the lottery are announced. Keep in mind, 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 is a 3-day period open for visitors to apply to receive a parking pass.
~ All applications go through a randomized lottery system to determine results. In the application process, you can apply for a regular pass or a large-vehicle pass. You can also choose 2 possible dates you will be able to attend over the event period.
~ Results of the lottery is determined in early May. Winners are assigned a date to attend the event during the results period. All lottery applicants are notified by e-mail if they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.
~ 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 the lottery chooses winners
~The lottery system is a randomized computer drawing system to select applications.
~There is no fee to enter the lottery.
~Lottery winners are charged a $20 reservation fee that helps cover the cost of awarding the passes, viewing supplies and nightly personnel to manage the viewing opportunity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont. The parking pass permits parking at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows guests to ride the shuttle to the Elkmont viewing area. There is a $2 fee per person to ride the shuttle. It is cash only, and the exact amount is necessary.
~Arrival times are assigned to lottery winners to relieve traffic congestion.
~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 the number of people submitting an application is unknown. There are around 1,800 vehicle passes available for the event.
~Of the 1,800 passes available, 1,768 passes are regular-parking passes (221 per day) which admits up to 6 people in a single-regular vehicle.
~Of the 1,800 passes available, 32 large-vehicle passes are available (4 per day) which admits up to 24 people.
How do I apply?
Dates are announced towards the end of April each year 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
If you need other details about the Elkmont fireflies event in the Smoky Mountains, you can visit the National Park Service website by clicking here.
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