Chug along the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for a scenic train ride through the mountain range shared by the most visited national park in the United States: Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From family-themed specials to romantic luxury upgrades, it’s easy to create your perfect train trip through the North Carolina countryside.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers two routes named for their main attractions: the Nantahala Gorge Excursion and the Tuckasegee River Excursion. Ride across a historic trellis bridge over Fontana Lake and down into one of the most scenic spots in the Smokies on the Nantahala Gorge trip, which includes an hour of free time at the Nantahala Outdoor Center or on the Nantahala River. Or, on the Tuckasegee route, opt for unobstructed views of the western North Carolina countryside parallelling the Tuckasegee River en route to the quiet town of Dillsboro, where you can shop, dine, and stroll past historical sights. For either trip, choose from a variety of seating options, including an open-air gondola, first-class dining car, or coach-class cabins with large viewing windows. Both tours are available by standard diesel-engine train or a classic restored steam engine. Look out for specialty trips like the “shine and dine” Moonshine Experience, Uncorked (rail, wine, and fine dining), Fall Foliage, Polar Express, or Raft & Rail combo.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Railroad trips last four to 4.5 hours, plus time for boarding.
- To save money on dining, order a boxed lunch during the reservation process (a meal is included for first class, family first class, and premium open air passengers.
- Most train experiences are accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
All trains depart from Bryson City, near the Tennessee border and just a couple hours north of the Georgia and South Carolina borders. The town is best reached by road.
When to Get There
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad operates year-round, but only on select days of the month (typically Fridays and Saturdays). Seasonal specials offer combination experiences and spectacular views of the mountains in all their varying glory.
Though it is best known for passing through the famous Great Smoky Mountains, visitors might recognize the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad from its appearances on screen in The Fugitive, Forces of Nature, and a number of television shows and commercials.