The Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s history is forever tied to the nation’s railroad industry. So much so that the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is still one of the best ways to re-live the history of the Smokies while getting an up-close view of its natural beauty at the same time.
Obviously, the scenic train excursion is what makes The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad such a unique attraction. Train rides include the Nantahala Gorge Excursion – a 44 mile trip to the gorge and back, or the Tuckasegee River Excursion – a 32 mile roundtrip along the river. These spectacular trips range from three and a half hours to an entire day and can even include a meal or special seating while you ride the rails in the Smokies.
With each new season comes a different set of trips. Rhododendrons explode into a pink canvas in the spring; the fall foliage comes into full view as the steam engine makes its way around the Great Smoky Mountains. This is the same experience people had decades ago when they wanted to visit the national park before it was actually a national park.
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s special events calendar is pretty crowded each year with new programs and shows turning up by the month while annual events continue to attract large crowds. The Lone Ranger is the star event on the spring calendar. With a “Hi Yo Silver!” the Lone Ranger does what he does best – saves passengers from a train robbery. In October, the railroad features an adaptation of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” This classic Halloween tale is told to kids while they travel to the pumpkin patch to pick out their own great pumpkin. Also dedicated to kids is a November ride aboard the Polar Express. Listen as the story of the Polar Express story is read while families ride along behind the train. It’s one golden ticket per person to ride the Polar Express.
Deciding on the type of rail car you want to ride will be your hardest decision. It’s a decision that will more than likely depend on how much money you want to spend on your trip. Pick from First Class, Crown Class or Standard seating. With a First Class ticket you get a ride in an air conditioned enclosed car with a meal served to you by the car’s personal attendants. Crown Class admission gives you a seat in an enclosed environment with large windows. You also get a tumbler for a drink during the trip. The final option, Standard seating, is the most cost effective way to travel and includes open air seating during the train ride.
For East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is a one-of-a-kind attraction. Bryson City, NC is home to this unique attraction and they continue to preserve and share this piece of living Appalachian history with visitors of all ages. Whether you’re in town for one of the seasonal special events or just to take a train ride through the Great Smoky Mountains, they give you plenty of options for the train enthusiasts in your traveling group. Make sure that you ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad while you are in the area.
From Gatlinburg, TN: Take US 441 south to Cherokee, North Carolina. US 441 will dead end onto US 19. Turn right onto US-19. Turn left at next stoplight onto US-441 South. Continue on US 441 South to US 74. Go West on US 74 until you reach Bryson City exit 67. Bear right at the end of the exit ramp onto Veterans Blvd. Turn right onto Main St at the first traffic light on Veterans Blvd, and then turn left onto Everett St at the next light. At the first traffic light on Everett, turn left onto Mitchell St. Parking for the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad will be on your right.