Saturday, May 27, 2023


Watch the incredible synchronized firefly display from a Great Smoky Mountains campground

Nature is planning a light show and you’ve just got to see it! This year, from June 4–11, thousands of fireflies (aka lightning bugs) will put on a mesmerizing performance: a synchronized firefly display. Yes, you read that correctly. Synchronized. This natural phenomenon comes courtesy of the Photinus carolinus, a special species of fireflies that naturally synchronize their flashing lights.

Where to see the synchronized firefly display

Elkmont Campground will stage this amazing firefly production. The campground sits on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. If you plan to be in the area in early June, you need to get your name in now. Also, rub your lucky penny. Why? Because tickets to this amazing event are by lottery only.

How to apply

You can apply for the lottery on here, or you can call 877-444-6777. You have from now (began April 28) until May 1 at 8 p.m. to enter the lottery for a vehicle pass. Vehicles are limited to those holding up to 7 passengers maximum. You are allowed to enter just one time. You may select two potential viewing days, so get your travel buddies together and enter! (Note: Entries are $1 each and lottery winners will be charged a $24 fee. This fee covers portable restrooms at the viewing area, along with park staffing for the eight-night event.)

Why a lottery?

The popularity of this magical, annual event is so great that the park must limit the number of vehicles to ensure safety. People from all over the world submitted lottery entries last year, along with folks from all 50 states, for a total of 24,401 applicants.

Lottery participants will be e-mailed notification of their successful/unsuccessful status by May 11. All passes are nonrefundable and cannot be transferred. If you are lucky enough to be awarded a pass, be aware that they are only good for the issued date, when announced.

Seeing the synchronized firefly display

Nature is so amazing, and the fireflies will not disappoint. Folks who have attended the event in past years describe the experience as “nothing short of amazing,” “fascinating,” and “absolutely magical.”

Have you ever witnessed the synchronized firefly display show before? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


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Neal Davis
27 days ago

Thank you, Gail. Nope, never seen this. Perhaps we put them in jars too fast for them to do their thing. But that was a long, long time ago, so maybe they didn’t have their act together so well back then.

26 days ago
Reply to  Neal Davis

Oh, Neal! We did this as kids, too. Thanks for reminding me of great memories!

27 days ago

My wife and I witnessed this phenomena but about 200 miles east near Sanford, NC. We had left a outdoor party in the country and were taking back roads to our house when nature told me that it was time to take a “break”. It was after midnight on a dark lonely road so pulling off wasn’t a problem. I had just begun the ‘process’ when I noticed the bright glow from the opposite side of the road. About three hundred yards away was a tall pine or fir tree that looked to be 40 ft tall or more that was totally covered in a white glow that pulsed. Excitedly I called the wife to see and we both stood there in awe. It took a minute to process that what we were seeing was the largest concentrated gathering of fireflies we had ever seen. It was eerie and magical to see this tree totally engulfed in “white fire” while it was totally dark to the left and right sides. It remains a memory I’ll never forget.

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