Clingmans Dome at night
May 24, 2023

You might be surprised to know that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open 24 hours a day and 365 days per year! While some secondary roads, campgrounds, and other visitor facilities close during the winter months, the majority of the park is open all the time for your enjoyment! While hiking, scenic drives, and wildlife viewing are popular during the daylight hours, you’re probably wondering what to do in the evening! Here are the top 3 things to do in the Smoky Mountains at night:

1. Stargazing

The Smoky Mountains are an excellent destination for stargazing as there are no nearby major cities where light pollution would impact the views of the night sky! The remote location and high elevation of the Smokies create ideal viewing opportunities virtually anywhere in the park. However, if you want to enjoy the best locations, take a look at our top 3 places to visit in the Smoky Mountains for stargazing! To enhance your experience, consider bringing along a star chart or downloading an app on your phone that can help identify the celestial wonders!

2. Enjoy a Campfire in a Fire Ring

bonfire in the Smoky Mountains

Another one of the top things to do in the Smoky Mountains at night is a campfire in a fire ring! This is a fun, traditional campground experience where you can gather around the fire with your family and friends, tell ghost stories, and roast s’mores! There are a variety of camping facilities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including backcountry campsites for backpackers and front-country sites within developed campgrounds. Just keep in mind that fires are only permitted at designated campsites and shelters, and they must be contained within a fire ring. You also must use heat-treated firewood that is bundled and certified by the United States Department of Agriculture, or you can collect wood that is dead and already on the ground.

3. Attend the Synchronous Firefly Viewing Event in the Park

If you’re lucky enough to win a lottery to attend the Synchronous Firefly Viewing Event in the Park, this is a truly special event to witness at night! Every year from late May to early June, thousands of visitors gather near the Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Access to the Elkmont area is limited during the 8 days of predicted peak activity, which helps to minimize the disturbance to the fireflies during the peak mating period. The lottery process generally takes place in late April and early May, so if you missed this year, be sure to submit your application next year and hope for the best! Otherwise, try visiting right before or after the event dates, and there is a good chance you’ll at least get a small version of the light show!

Now that you know about the top things to do in the Smoky Mountains at night, learn about 5 popular things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains during the daylight hours!