Synchronous Firefly Viewing Dates Announced for Great Smoky Mountains National Park

by Jon D. B.
Photo Credit Radim Schreiber, GRSM, NPS media release

From entering the lottery to dates and times, here’s everything you need to know for 2022’s annual synchronous firefly viewing opportunity in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM).

Come late May to early June, the Smokies offers a spectacle near unmatched in nature. As summer rolls in, the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus – a firefly species that flashes synchronously – begins in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For 2022, the park has announced Friday, June 3 through Friday, June 10 for this year’s viewing opportunity. But visitors can’t simply drive into Elkmont and catch the spectacle. Popular demand led to the viewing becoming lottery-based back in 2006. There’s few national park activities Outsider recommends over this one, however, so be sure to check the full details below and enter for your chance to attend in 2022.

The Details: Elkmont Synchronous Firefly Viewing 2022

  • When: Friday, June 3 through Friday, June 10
  • Where: Elkmont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • How: The public may apply for the limited viewing opportunity by entering a lottery for a vehicle pass through
    • The lottery opens for vehicle pass applications on Friday, April 29 at 10:00 a.m. through Tuesday, May 3 at 10:00 a.m.
    • All applications, regardless of the time or date of entry, are considered equally in the pool of lottery applicants
    • A total of 800 vehicle passes, 100 passes per night, will be issued through the lottery process
    • Results of the lottery will be available by Friday, May 13
  • Limit of one lottery application per household per season

According to the park, access to the Elkmont area will be limited during the eight days of 2022’s predicted peak activity. This helps to significantly reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors. The lottery system also minimizes disturbances to these unique fireflies during the peak mating period.

How Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Firefly Lottery Works, Including Cost

When it comes time to select participants, a total of 800 vehicle passes, 100 passes per night, will issue through GRSM’s lottery process. Final results of the lottery will go public by Friday, May 13. Via email, applicants will find out if they were either “successful” and awarded a parking pass, or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.

Photo Credit Radim Schreiber, GRSM, NPS media release

“Each vehicle pass provides admission for parking directly at the Elkmont viewing location for one passenger vehicle with a maximum of seven occupants. During the application process, lottery applicants may enter two possible dates to participate in the viewing opportunity over the eight-day period,” the park explains.

GRSM will utilize a random computer drawing lottery system to select applications. All applicants will need to pay a $1.00 application fee. Any winning applicants will automatically receive parking passes. Then, a $24.00 reservation fee will charge to the same credit or debit card used for the application fee.

This $24.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, on-site portable restrooms and supplies. It also funds GRSM’s nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Elkmont. A worthy cause!

As Great Smoky Mountains National Park asks: Only one entry per household per year, please. Best of luck, Outsiders! Be sure to enter the lottery by the May 3 deadline.