Just Once A Year…Lightning Bugs Swarm Smoky Mountains For Spectacular Show

Unsplash / Jerry Zhang

Both a beloved hidden treasure (and also one of the biggest attractions to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) isn’t what one might think at first! The breathtaking views from a peak or the endless miles of hiking trails are truly remarkable…but this dazzling gem isn’t a scenic overlook… but rather, a very impressive insect.

A rare phenomenon, this dazzling event has been handcrafted by Mother Nature and is celebrated by thousands every year – but still, many visitors are unaware of this beautiful sight right in the heart of The Great Smoky Mountains.

For just a few short weeks every single year, the Elkmont Ghost Town in the Smoky Mountains is filled with visitors, tourist trolleys, and a bunch of National Park Rangers who closely monitor who comes and goes from the town.

All of this movement and effort is due in part to one specific experience: synchronized fireflies.

While many types of fireflies exist throughout the world but this specific variety, the Photinus carolinus, commonly known as the Elkmont Firefly – are synchronous. This means that unlike other types of firefly, they flash in unison – which makes it even more amazing to watch.

It’s like nature’s own version of a firework show.

The fireflies are active for only a few weeks, but the National Park Service limits traffic to the Elkmont Campground area to just eight days of predicted peak activity, the NPS explained in their press release.

This restriction is meant to reduce traffic congestion by offering specific shuttles and provide safe viewing experiences for visitors. This ensures the fireflies aren’t disturbed during their important two-week mating period.

Each year, the NPS runs a lottery to give passes out to people who want to visit the fireflies. This year, they’ve already closed the lottery and announced the winners, but there are several guide services that offer hiking tours to visit both synchronous and non-synchronous fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains.

For information on these tours, check out Asheville Hiking Tours or Cataloochee Valley Tours.

Watch CBS Sunday Morning’s exclusive coverage of the annual event below – and let us know if you’ve ever been to see these amazing critters!

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