When and where can I see the synchronized lightning bugs in the Great Smoky Mountains national park? This time of the year I get these questions about the fireflies in Elkmont more often that anything else other than where the black bear are.
The where is easy: in the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains national park along the Little River Hiking Trail. When the best time to see the Synchronized firefly also called lightning bugs is a little less exact.
First of all lightning bugs have been out in the Smokies for more than a month already. Little flashes of green and blue from the fireflies have been visible just after sunsets in ever increasing numbers everywhere in the Great Smoky Mountains.
The firefly beetle responsible for the awesome synchronized show Photinus Carolinus, is seen best only in Elkmont and starts usually around the second week in June but the entire show is visible for about 3 weeks.
The lightning bugs synchronized light show is actually part of the fireflies mating behavior. This start and duration of firefly behavior can vary based upon, when they emerged, current temperature among other factors so and exact "peak date" of when it is the best to see the Synchronized firefly show in Great Smoky Mountains national park will hopefully be when the trolleys are running from June 6th to the 14th.
Some days more than 1,000 people can show up to view the synchronized lightning bugs in the GSMNP Elkmont section so to accommodate this volume of visitors who would not all be able to park in Elkmont, the Great Smoky Mountains national park will close Elkmont Road from 5 pm to 12 pm to all vehicles other than those of registered campers in the Elkmont Campgrounds.
The Great Smoky Mountains national park in cooperation with the city of Gatlinburg Tennessee will run shuttle trolleys from the Sugarlands visitor center parking area neat the city of Gatlinburg to Elkmont and back for only $1 a person.
The trolleys to take you to the Elkmont synchronized firefly show run from 6 pm to 9 pm or stop sooner if the parking area is full. Though the last trolley is scheduled to leave Elkmont by 11:00 pm but it can end up leaving after midnight.
You can not park in any of the pull offs or along Littler River Road from the Sugarlands to Metcalf Bottoms picnic areas when the trolley to the fireflies are running.
Since it is unsafe to walk or bike along roadways at night and you must take the trolley if you want to see the Synchronized firefly show in Great Smoky Mountains national parks Elkmont area.
If you are going to see the show you can brink along a blanket or small folding chairs and your own food and drink except for alcoholic beverages. Coolers are not allowed and what you bring must fit on your lap in the trolley. A small flashlight with a red led or cover so as not to disturb others is a good idea.
I personally like to hike in all the way to the Cucumber Gap Trailhead and slowly walk back to the parking area in order to see the Synchronized firefly show. The lightning bugs can be best seen on the side of the mountain or the flat area below by the trail away from the river and the fireflies will work their way down as the night progresses.
The Synchronized firefly show in Great Smoky Mountains national park is a must see event and well worth the trip!
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