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It’s time to get your summer glow on.
No, we’re not talking about your tan, we’re talking about fireflies.
In the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, namely DuPont State Recreational Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, fireflies light up the sky on summer nights, and it’s becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists looking for a little taste of nature's magic.
The best time to see hundreds of the little insects glowing in the Appalachian Mountains is during firefly mating season, which happens in May or June each year. The male fireflies turn their lights on and off in search of mates, providing travelers with an unforgettable show and major photo opportunity.
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With thousands of guests flocking to DuPont State Recreational Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park each season, both locations have restricted access in order to protect the firefly population.
According to the News Observer in Raleigh, 21,000 people registered for 1,800 available passes for a shuttle bus to Elkmont, which is inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Mating season only lasts about two weeks, so getting a peek at these locations can be hard to get. According to the The New York Times, lines to get into Elkmont can take as long as four hours.
But there are other places to find these impressive little bugs. Bruce MacDonald, spokesman for DuPont State Recreational Forest, told the News Observer: "Somehow, through social media, we became known as the place in the world to see these things. They’re a regional phenomenon, and people drive past millions of them to come here and see hundreds of them."
But if you’re looking for an “official” tour, you can certainly plan for one in 2019. The Cradle of Forestry is planning a two-hour tour through its Transylvania County woodlands on any of the nights during mating season. This year’s tours are sold out.