The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers scenic train excursion trips through the North Carolina mountains along Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, across valleys and through tunnels. All of the train rides depart from downtown Bryson City (near Cherokee) at the depot. Their variety of excursions and special event trains (like the Polar Express - read more) are perfect for making memories! Ride in vintage open air cars, climate-controlled cars or first class with dining options.
Nantahala Gorge Excursion
Ride along the rushing Nantahala River. This 4.5-hour excursion carries you 44 miles to the Nantahala Gorge and back. The historic Trellis Bridge takes you across Fontana Lake. Arrive at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) for a one-hour layover on the river. If you enjoy whitewater rafting, take their Raft and Rail combination trip!
Tuckasegee River Excursion
Ride through quiet countryside in Jackson County. This four hour excursion travels 32 miles round-trip to Dillsboro and back to Bryson City. Pass by the infamous movie set of The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford and stop in Dillsboro for a 1.5-hour layover to explore the charming town with an impressive collection of galleries.
Steam Excursions Return in 2016!
After a two-year restoration of Engine #1702, built in 1923, you'll have more than 60 steam rides to choose from starting July 22nd. Before and after the ride, get a close-up look at this remarkable locomotive and watch a demonstration of the new turntable near the depot. In addition to rides along the Tuckasegee and Nantahala Rivers, #1702 will lead six special event trains: the Fontana Trestle Train with BBQ & Brews service, select dates for the Polar Express, Railroad Reserve with a wine pairing dinner and a new 8-hour photo special. Dates include late July, early and late August, early September, most of October and early November. Click here to visit their Web site for steam dates and ticket pricing.
Train Seating Options
- Most excursions have a full service concession car with snacks and lunch items, beverages and alcoholic drinks for purchase. Or pick up snacks or lunch at their cafe at the Depot before your ride. First Class includes a meal.
- Standard Seating (Coach Class) is in restored vintage coaches that feature windows that open for fresh-air viewing, ceiling fans and heat for cooler days.
- Open Air Gondolas are created from retired baggage and flatbed cars, with long padded outward-facing seats for the panoramic views.
- In Crown Class, relax in restored coaches dating from 1925 with larger windows for better viewing and climate control. Get a souvenir tumbler to fill with a fountain soda.
- The First Class riding experience is one-of-a-kind! Travel in comfort and style in 1940s-era bar, lounge and dinner cars. Receive a lunch served by the car’s private attendant, a souvenir tumbler with a fountain soda and an embroidered tote bag gift. First Class cars are climate controlled and full bar service is available.
Great Smoky Train Excursions & Events
- The Railroad Reserve (May 7, June 11, September 3/steam): This specialty train ride pairs wine with a gourmet dinner! Depart from the historic Bryson City Depot at 6:30 PM for a 3-hour first class, full service excursion, all-adult ride with a narrator from French Broad Vignerons guiding the tasting of eight excellent wines matched with a three-course dinner. Tickets are $129/person with limited seating, so book on their Web site ASAP.
- Polar Express Train: Journey through the quiet wilderness to the North Pole. Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, enjoy warm cocoa and a treat while listening to the magical story. Early November through December. It's very popular, so get advance tickets. Read more!
- Wizard of Oz Train: New for 2016 in July and early August! Ride the train down the Yellow Brick Road to The Emerald City to meet Oz! The 2.5-hour journey retells the story on board Begin with Dorothy in Munchkinland and meet her friends. Help them defeat the Wicked Witch of the West. Read more!
- Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience: Hop on board the all-adult first class Moonshine Car serving the handcrafted, triple-distilled Midnight Moon. Operating May-October on the Nantahala Gorge excursionnjoy a full service ride with a private attendant serving BBQ, cornbread and Moonshiners Mud Chocolate Pie. Read more about the Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience.
- Fontana Trestle Train BBQ & Brews: Back for only four dates, featuring slow-cooked BBQ prepared fresh and beer tastings showcasing local breweries.
- Freedom Train: Celebrate Independence Day with this July 4th excursion. This special train will depart from the Bryson City Depot at 7:30 PM, following the Nantahala Gorge Excursion route to the Fontana Trestle. Once at the trestle, pause for some spectacular viewing and then head back to Bryson City to rejoin the big Freedom Fest for an awesome fireworks show in the downtown area! Crown and coach seating enjoys a BBQ meal and apple pie.
- Special train rides for the kids: Peanuts Easter Beagle Express on Easter weekend, and Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express in October.
- For more special trips, visit their Web site for current pricing, packages and specials.
Be sure to see their Smoky Mountain Trains Museum (included with your ticket) with its collection of 7,000 Lionel engines, cars and accessories, impressive operating layout.
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Directions: Located in downtown Bryson City (45 Mitchell Street), about 65 miles west of Asheville. From Asheville, drive I-40 West to exit 27. Take US 74 for 40 miles to Exit 67 for Bryson City. At the end of the exit ramp, bear right. At the first light, turn right onto Main Street, then left onto Everett Street. At the first traffic light on Everett, turn left onto Mitchell Street for the railroad parking.