The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers scenic train excursions through the North Carolina mountains along Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, across valleys and through tunnels. All of the train rides depart from the depot in downtown Bryson City (near Cherokee). Their variety of trips and special event trains (like the Polar Express - read more) are ideal for a memorable experience! Ride in vintage open-air cars, climate-controlled cars, or first-class 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. Tickets Adults 13+ are $56-$99 depending on seat class, children 2-12 start at $32. Also, check out rafting combo packages - ride the train up the river, then raft down!
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Train Schedule - Excursions Vary
- January & February: Saturdays
- March: Fri, Sat, Sun
- April- mid-May: Tues-Sat
- Mid May-October: Every Day
- Early November: Tues-Sat
- Mid November-December: Every Day except Thanksgiving & Christmas (Polar Express + Winter Train)
Weekly excursion dates and times may vary, see their website for specifics.
After a two-year restoration of 1942 Engine #1702, you can book a steam excursion on many dates throughout the year, usually May-October. Before and after the ride, get a close-up look at this remarkable locomotive and watch a demonstration of the only man-powered turntable in the country near the depot. Click here to visit their website for steam dates and ticket pricing.
Train Seating Options & Tips
- See their website for a full list of COVID safety measures.
- Most excursions have a full-service concession car with snacks, lunch items, and beverages (including alcoholic drinks) for purchase. Or you can pick up snacks or lunch at their cafe in 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 a 1940s-era bar, lounge, and dinner cars. Have lunch served by the car’s private attendant, and receive a souvenir tumbler with fountain soda and an embroidered tote bag gift. First-class cars are climate-controlled and full bar service is available.
- For passengers who need special assistance for wheelchair accessibility, there is one car with a hydraulic lift and golf cart for transportation from the parking area. Be sure to call well in advance to make arrangements at 800-872-4681. Once arriving at the depot, be sure the ticket office is aware of your need for assisted boarding.
- Arrive early and stay late to enjoy Bryson City's charming downtown.
- The parking lot is located at 45 Mitchell Street.
Great Smoky Train Excursions & Events 2021
- Uncorked (10:30 AM): All-Adult First Class ride with a private attendant, wine tastings, sampling of cheeses, and a surf and turf meal. April 17, May 8, June 5, July 31, Aug 7, Sept 4, Sept 18.
- April 2 & 3, 2021: Bunny Hopper Express - This 4.5 round trip special event train departs at 10:30 AM and travels along the Nantahala Gorge River to a picturesque layover destination with Egg Hunt. Train activity bag and Easter treat included. Passengers should be on the lookout for those train-hopping bunnies who have snuck on to take a free ride!
- May-October: Moonshine Experience - Hop on board the all-adult first-class Moonshine Car serving the handcrafted, triple-distilled shine - including Apple Pie, Blackberry, Blueberry, Cherry, and more flavors. Operating on the Nantahala Gorge excursion, your private attendant serves you a delicious BBQ meal.
- April-October: Tarzan Train - This 2-hour train and canopy combo trip includes a scenic ride along Fontana Lake and up into the Nantahala Gorge, deli sandwich, and zipline tour at Wildwater’s Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours. Booking available by phone only: 800-872-4681.
- October 2-31: Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express - Join Snoopy, Lucy, Charlie Brown in search of the Great Pumpkin on a 4-hour trip, with a 1.5-hour layover in Dillsboro for activities, including trick or treating.
- November 12-December 31, 2021: Great Smokies 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. It's very popular, so get advance tickets. See pics & read much more!
- Private Caboose Party: Rent your very own private caboose for up to 15 people! The caboose features heat, private bathrooms, a snack tray, and soda. You may also bring your own food and drink (no alcohol). Great for large families, birthday parties, corporate field trips, and more! Advanced reservations are required and availability of caboose rentals are limited. Rates start at $699 depending on the season and type of train (steam or diesel).
- Note: The Wizard of Oz Train is no longer running.
- For more special trips, visit their website for current pricing, packages, and specials.
Train Ride Add-Ons
- Boxed Lunches: Pre-purchased boxed lunches for Crown and Coach class passengers, packaged picnic-style. Enjoy on the train or during the layover.
- Rafting Add-On: Includes one-way trip to Nantahala Outdoor Center with a guided whitewater rafting trip back.
Be sure to see their Smoky Mountain Trains Museum (included with your ticket) with its collection of 7,000 Lionel engines, cars and accessories, and 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. The street address for GPS: use 45 Mitchell St, Bryson City, NC for the parking area.