This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Remember chasing fireflies around your backyard as a kid? Now imagine an entire forest lit up by their twinkling lights. That’s exactly what happens every spring, when thousands of fireflies congregate in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to mate — and create a spectacular light show.

And these aren’t just any fireflies. There are at least 19 species of fireflies that live in the park, but these synchronous (or Elkmont) fireflies are one of just a handful of species on Earth that synchronize their flash patterns. The males fly around flashing the lights in their abdomens, while the stationary females respond with a flash. No one knows exactly why this phenomenon occurs, but seeing thousands of fireflies flashing in the dark all at once certainly creates a magical effect.

So magical, in fact, that due to overwhelming demand, the park limits the number of visitors who can enter the viewing area. Prospective viewers must enter a lottery system on Recreation.gov in order to score one of the coveted parking passes required to enter the park.

This year’s spectacle will take place from May 30 to June 6, but the lottery opens on Friday, April 26 at 8am EST and closes on Monday, April 29 at 8pm EST. Winners will be announced on May 10.

Photo courtesy of Recreation.gov
Photo courtesy of Recreation.gov

During the peak firefly viewing season, which typically occurs for just two weeks out of every year, a total of 1,800 parking passes will be distributed. Each pass will cost $25, will be valid for just one day and will be assigned an arrival time between 6:30pm and 7:30pm. Visitors will need to park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and take a shuttle to the Elkmont viewing area, where the fireflies put on their light show.

Park officials ask that visitors cover their flashlights with red or blue cellophane and only use them when walking to their viewing spot to avoid disrupting the fireflies. Visitors should protect the park by staying on the trails at all times, not trying to catch the fireflies and not leaving trash behind.

Featured photo by Haoxiang Yang / Getty Images.

Know before you go.

News and deals straight to your inbox every day.

2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.