Firefly Show - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides transportation to nightly firefly activity in Elkmont each night during the annual firefly show held in June. The show is usually held from the end of the first week in June until mid-June (8 days).
The City of Gatlinburg trolley service operates transportation between the Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Little River Trailhead at Elkmont.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced that the Elkmont entrance road will be closed to motor vehicles and pedestrian use every night from at 5:00 p.m. until midnight, except to registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. The closure is to accommodate transportation service for visitors planning to spend the evening viewing the natural-occurring, synchronous firefly beetles at Elkmont.
The City of Gatlinburg, in partnership with the Park, will provide the trolleys for this activity. The trolley service, coinciding with the expected peak flashing period, will be the sole transportation mode for visitor access during this period; no private vehicles will be allowed to enter Elkmont. For safety purposes, restrictions will be in place to prohibit motor vehicles from parking along roadsides, pullouts, or any other areas besides at the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area for the purposes of viewing fireflies at Elkmont. Only those visitors parking at the visitor center will be allowed to ride the trolleys. Because of safety concerns, visitors will not be allowed to walk the Elkmont Entrance Road.
The trolleys will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center RV/bus parking area at 7 p.m. The trolleys will run continually until the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area is full or until 9 p.m., whichever comes first. The last trolley to return visitors from Elkmont to the Sugarlands Visitor Center is scheduled at 11 p.m. The cost will be $1 round trip per person as in previous years.
For those riding the trolleys, it is recommended that visitors bring flashlights with red cellophane covers to reduce white light. Visitors can bring lawn chairs, and carry food and water in backpacks which can fit on their laps in the trolleys; there are no services available at the site. Visitors are prohibited from bringing coolers, alcoholic beverages, or their pets.
The annual appearance of the synchronous firefly beetles in the Park has become so popular that Park officials began managing the number of visitors to the trailhead. The dates that the mating behavior begins can vary each year due to weather and other natural factors, but generally starts around the second week in June and lasts for about two weeks.
The Elkmont area is an old logging town with remnant structures of a pre-park resort community and there is a 220-site campground and several trails that lead into the backcountry. A popular viewing spot for the fireflies is located along the Little River Trail which is surrounded by forest and the Little River. "The public who visit this area for the purpose of watching fireflies in the dark should recognize this is a natural environment with no other restrooms or other facilities and that the fireflies flashing synchrony becomes more apparent later in the night," said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "So for those catching the early trolleys, there will be several hours before the fireflies come out."