Smoky Mountain Monarch Migration

Don’t miss your chance to track a monarch on it’s 2,500 mile journey to Mexico. Photo credit – Steven Puetzer

Smoky Mountain Monarch Migration is an annual event. Monarch butterflies migrate south each summer and spend their winter hibernating in parts of Southern California and Mexico where the climate is warm year-round. Monarchs living east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to Mexico overwintering in Oyamel Fir trees. Monarchs living west of the Rocky Mountains overwinter in Pacific Grove, California in eucalyptus trees. The butterflies return to the same trees each year which is unusual because the same butterfly never makes the trip twice and yet, somehow, the fourth generation of Monarchs find the right tree!  Amazingly this fourth generation migrates over 2,500 miles each year for the perfect hibernation climate and tree.

Monarchs depend on the migration to avoid freezing in winter and to provide food for their larvae and these plants only grow in the northern regions where the butterflies spend their summer. To sustain their population they travel back and forth each year to continue to propagate the species.

The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont monarch butterfly tagging program is an effort to Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremontmonitor the health of the Monarch population and to track the butterflies progress along their migration route. Each year in late summer and early fall volunteers flock to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains Tagging program. Part of the fun is discovering, months after the event, that the butterfly you tagged was located thousands of miles away.

What could be more fun than running around a sunny field with a butterfly net chasing Monarchs? The tagging outings are open to school groups and individuals. The Institute provides all the equipment needed for tagging Monarchs. There are often more people who want to attend than equipment available, so these days are limited to 18 people (no more than 8 people per party please, to save room for others).  Each party/family may attend one day of tagging in order to give everybody a chance.  Alternatively, if the dates don’t fill up and you’d like another chance to go out, you are most welcome! Remember children under 18 are required to have an adult guardian to accompany them. To sign up visit Cades Cove Monarch Tagging.

Tremont Institute Monarch tagging dates:

September – 12th, 14th, 17th, 20, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, and 28th.

October – 1st, 4th, 6th, 9th, 12th, 16th, 19th, 21st, 22nd, 24th, 27th, and 30th.

Tagging is fun, easy, and does not harm the Monarch. Photo credit – Betty Hall photography.

The team has participated in the Monarch tagging program in years past and can say this event is a lot of fun for the entire family! The event is fun, educational, and interesting in one of the most beautiful valleys in the United States! Plan now to experience this for yourself and come back to the mountains soon.

Bonus tip: Our sister national park the Blue Ridge Parkway has an abundance of places to see Monarch butterflies migrate in person. Most hight elevation spots on the parkway have a good chance to find Monarchs, but specifically Double Top Mountain Overlook at Balsam Gap near the junction of Route 215 is an excellent view spot as well as Doughton Park at Bluff Mountain!

Smoky Mountain Solar Eclipse Tips

Smoky Mountain Eclipse

This awesome retro style poster of the Smoky Mountain eclipse is available at the park visitor centers.

Smoky Mountain Solar eclipse tips. The HeySmokies team is excited about the upcoming solar eclipse viewing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park Monday, August 21, 2017. This rare event is sure to create memories your entire family will be talking about for years!

Everyone is reminded to use only approved solar eclipse glasses when directly viewing the eclipse. Glasses can only be removed during the brief few seconds when in the area of totality. The duration of totality varies greatly across the park and region. A common cause of eye injury during a total eclipse is immediately following totality when viewers forget to put their glasses back on.

“A large number of people will be making Great Smoky Mountains National Park their destination for eclipse viewing on Monday,” said the park’s Chief Ranger, Steve Kloster. “We want to make sure everyone who comes here is as prepared as possible and understands that we expect traffic to be heavy and many park areas to be crowded. The better prepared our visitors are, the more enjoyable and safe the experience will be for everyone.”

Visitors should bring plenty of food and water and make sure their vehicle has a full tank of gas before entering the park. The high amount of traffic expected will cause difficulties for towing companies to reach vehicles in need. The traffic could also cause temporary road closures throughout the day as the park manages the influx of vehicles entering the park. Anyone planning to travel to or through the park should have an alternate route in mind in case the first path or viewing location is no longer available.

Visitors are asked to remember to respect the park and it’s wildlife by staying at least 50 yards from bears and elk and not feeding any park animals. Trash should be packed out or put in an appropriate trash receptacle to keep our overlooks and viewing areas clean. Backcountry hikers are reminded to follow Leave No Trace principles and to make sure they are prepared for the distance and mountainous terrain of their planned hike.

Visitors should also remember that Clingmans Dome Road will be closed to public access beginning

Clingmans Dome Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Remember to get an early start with a full tank of gas to beat the traffic. Don’t forget protective glasses and bring plenty of food and water.

at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 19 through the evening of Monday, August 21 following the eclipse event. No overnight parking will be allowed at Clingmans Dome Parking Area or pull-offs, parking areas, and trailheads along the road during this time period. The road will be closed to all motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The Clingmans Dome Trail will be open to the public, but the tower will be accessible to media only. The event at Clingmans Dome will be livestreamed at Smoky Mountain Eclipse.

Cades Cove Foot Race

Lace up your sneakers and head to Cades Cove for this foot pounding annual event!

Cades Cove Foot Race (AKA – the Cades Cove Loop Lope) hosted by Friends of the Smokies and the Knoxville Track Club is scheduled for Sunday November 5, 2017. This exciting race was originally billed as a one time event at it’s inauguration in 2010. Since then it has grown in popularity. Participation is limited to 500 total runners and all participants will be awarded a t-shirt and finishers medallion.

We are very excited to bring this race back to such a beautiful part of our national park,” says Jim Hart, Friends of the Smokies president. “This is a unique way to experience the splendor of the Cove and raise money to protect it for future generations at the same time.


HeySmokies owner meets Great Smoky Mountains National Park superintendent Cassius Cash.

Friends of the Smokies will provide more than $90,000 for historic preservation and wildlife  management programs in Cades Cove and a total of $1.4 million for other critical park projects.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash remarked the race marks an opportunity to connect with the next generation of public lands stewards who are active in our national parks.

We are pleased to work with the Friends to offer this opportunity that supports the park and encourages people to use the park for fitness,” said Superintendent Cash. “The park provides an incredible setting for people to improve mind, body, and spirit.”

Registration began August 1, 2017 at Participants can choose between the 3.1 mile (5K) or the 10-mile loop routes.


Welcome Home Veterans Parade, Pigeon Forge August 26, 2017

Show your appreciation to our men and women servicemen. Photo credit – Brad Knight

Welcome Home Veterans Parade, Pigeon Forge August 26, 2017. Who does not love a parade? And what better reason to have one than to honor our esteemed veterans of military service. Come join the fun for this annual Smoky Mountain event in the shadow of beautiful Mount LeConte.

The City of Pigeon Forge has a long history of honoring our nations many brave veterans and that will continue on into the future,” says Butch Helton, Special Events Manager for the City of Pigeon Forge.

The salute and tribute to America’s military veterans begins at 9:00 a.m. at traffic light #8 on the Parkway and travels north ending at Jake Thomas Road (traffic light #5.) The parade features marching bands, historic and modern military vehicles, floats from area attractions, beauty queens and more! Mark your calendar and plan on paying your respect to our military at this annual event.

There is plenty of free parking, delicious food and lot’s of fun to be had on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge so plan on spending the whole day! If you have the time go ahead and make it a weekend get away. You will be glad you did.

                            The HeySmokies film crew captured the essence of last years parade in this fun video!



Six Great Synchronous Firefly Viewing Areas For 2018!

Discover the wonder of synchronous fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains. Photo credit – Romantic Asheville

Six Great Synchronous Firefly Viewing Areas For 2018! A spectacular display by the Synchronous Fireflies and the Blue Ghost Fireflies will light up the sky in the Great Smoky Mountains in late May and early June 2018. The annual event has become so popular that several venues are now available to the public where they can enjoy the amazing show as blinking beetles rise from the ground and surround them in waves of tiny twinkling lights.

The Synchronous Firefly (Photinus carolinus) and the Blue Ghost Firefly (Phausis reticulata) are two species found only in the Southern Appalachian Mountains which include the Great Smokies. And during the short mating season in late May and early June, both firefly species put on a mini firework display choreographed by Mother Nature.

Male Synchronous Fireflies flash little green-yellow bioluminescent lanterns in unison for about 6-8 blinks casting an eerie wave of light throughout the forest before going dark for a few seconds. The male Blue Ghost Fireflies do not blink to attract mates but instead feature blue-white lights that glow continuously just a few inches above the ground creating a surreal carpet of light that is certain to delight and amaze all ages. The National Park scientists use air and soil temperatures to predict the timing of each year’s mating season and the dates will be announced sometime in April 2018. Check with HeySmokies.Com for updates on this popular event.

Synchronous Fireflies with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

One of the best places to view the Synchronous Fireflies is in Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park— a location so popular that a free lottery system was instituted for the $1.50 parking passes during the eight-day shuttle period to Elkmont. Elkmont closes at dusk during this peak viewing period allowing only shuttle ticket holder and Elkmont campers in Elkmont Campground.
Dates for the 2018 Sychronous Firefly event will be announced in April. You may apply for a chance to win a pass April 28 through May 1 by going to and search for firefly event lottery. Winners will be notified on May 10.

Synchronous Fireflies with Discover Life in America in Gatlinburg, TN

For a few nights during peak firefly viewing time, Discover Life in America hosts a fundraising event featuring nightly presentations and field walks at the Norton

Don’t “blink” or you may miss it! Photo credit – Firefly Experience

Creek Sanctuary near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tickets for the event are $100 each and the event is geared toward persons ages 10 and older. For reservations for this exclusive event, call Discover Life in America at 865-430-4757 or email

Synchronous Fireflies in Cataloochee with Cataloochee Valley Tours

Take a Synchronous Firefly Night Walk with Cataloochee Valley Tours out of Waynesville, NC. Small groups of guests are outfitted with safety vests and flashlights for a walk to the tour company’s secret viewing locations! Tour tickets are $60 per person. Tours are from 8:30 – 11:30 p.m. weather permitting. For more information, visit Cataloochee Valley Tours.

Blue Ghost Fireflies in DuPont State Recreational Forest near Asheville, NC

DuPont State Forest is located in Cedar Mountain, NC about 30 miles outside of Asheville. Due to the popularity of this location in recent years, some of the trails in the High Falls parking area will be closed during peak viewing season. Visitors are urged to stay on designated trails because female Blue Ghosts stay on the ground and many have been killed by visitors wandering off trail. For more information, visit DuPont State Forest.

Transylvania County Blue Ghosts

The Pisgah Field School offers a firefly hike led by a trained naturalist under the cover of darkness along paved trails at the Cradle of Forestry. You never know what you will find on this hike so call 828-884-3342 to make a reservation or go to Pisgah Field School to learn more about this rain or shine, family friendly event!

Fireflies on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway are a great place to view starry nights as well as the fireflies in June and the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville usually offers a family-friendly firefly viewing event. For more information, visit Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center.

Both firefly species are common in other areas of Southern Appalachia and perhaps may make an appearance in your backyard during the month of June. Beginning around 10 p.m. turn off the lights, grab a comfy chair or spread a blanket on the ground, sit back and relax and wait for your own private firefly show to begin.

HeySmokies left the crowds at Elkmont Campground and backpacked a bit further up Little River Trail to enjoy the show! Remember a permit is required for an overnight stay at a backcountry site. Happy Trails!



Enjoy this great recap of a Great Smoky Mountains Synchronous Firefly night out!