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 HeySmokies.com 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!

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