Picture it now: You’re settling into your comfortable seat in a historic train car, and the whistle blows, echoing out across the mountains. You feel the engine hum to life and gaze out of the train’s wide windows that are already offering up sweeping views of the stunning Smoky Mountain landscapes. This captivating train in the North Carolina mountains will take you on a scenic ride through vibrant forests and across bridges that tower high above the rushing rivers below. Welcome to the exciting and historic Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, an adventure that USA Today ranks as one of the “Top 10 American Train Rides”.
No matter what time of year you ride, each season brings something new, from budding trees in the spring to unimpeded mountain views in the winter. Whether you’re taking in the eye-popping colors of fall foliage on the “Leaf Looker” tour or just enjoying the day with friends and family, there’s no better way to explore these ancient mountains than by train. Hop aboard and ride the rails through the scenic Great Smoky Mountains for a one-of-a-kind bucket list adventure!
You can choose from a wide array of options for your train ride through the North Carolina mountains, including both steam and diesel engines. And different routes offer different insights into Appalachian culture. But no matter what option you choose, you’ll get access to breathtaking views that you’ll only see here.
The most popular route is the Nantahala Excursion, a 4.5-hour train ride along the fast-flowing Nantahala River. As you cross over the historic trellis bridge, take a peek at the river below, and you may spot some fun-loving folks paddling their way down the rapids. This ride takes you to Fontana Lake and the jaw-dropping Nantahala Gorge, where you’ll have a 1-hour layover with plenty of time for sightseeing or relaxing by the river before your return trip. Onboard dining is available in First Class, or you can order a box lunch for a unique onboard dining experience.
The Tuckasegee Excursion takes you on a calm and relaxing ride through serene mountain countryside, where you can experience buy accutane without insurance small town life in Western North Carolina. You’ll leave from the charming Bryson City and embark on a 4-hour train ride with a 1.5-hour layover in historic Dillsboro. Enjoy the allure of this country town and its more than 50 shops and restaurants. On the return leg of your trip, keep your eyes peeled for the spot where a scene from the famous movie The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford was shot!
GSMR Schedule for Trains in the North Carolina Mountains
A train ride through the Smokies is enjoyable any time of year. Passengers may choose from tickets in Coach, Crown or First Class. But no matter what seat you choose, they’re all worth it because you’ll be inside the iconic restored vintage passenger train. Adult tickets range from $85 to $158 and kids’ tickets from $69 to $79. Weekly Excursions and routes may vary. Please check the GSMR website for updates on Covid-19 related travel restrictions.
- January & February: Saturdays
- March: Fri, Sat, Sun
- April- mid-May: Tue-Sat
- Mid May-October: Every Day
- Early November: Tue-Sat
- Mid November-December: Every Day except Thanksgiving & Christmas (Don’t miss the exciting Polar Express and Winter Train rides!)
Great Smoky Train Rides and Special Events in 2021
In addition to the regular Nantahala and Tuckasegee routes, the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad offers one-of-a-kind adventures with a unique twist. Check out the complete list of 2021 train rides below, and visit the GSMR website for current pricing.
- 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.
- Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience (May-October): All-Adult First Class ride in the Moonshine Car with a private attendant serving handcrafted, triple-distilled moonshine in a variety of delicious flavors, plus a tasty BBQ meal.
- Special Packages (April-October): Add on exciting outdoor excursions to your train ride, like ziplining, whitewater rafting, or an off-road jeep ride. (Booking for these adventures is available by phone only: 800-872-4681)
- Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express (October 2-31): Join Snoopy, Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the Peanuts gang as you go off in search of the Great Pumpkin. This 4-hour trip, with a 1.5-hour layover in Dillsboro for activities, takes you on an exciting Halloween journey, complete with trick or treating!
- Polar Express Train (November 12-December 31): Make your way into the magical wilderness of the North Pole. This re-telling of the picture book is set to the soundtrack of the motion picture and comes complete with hot chocolate and a special holiday treat! (FYI, this event sells out fast. So, be sure to purchase your tickets well in advance.)
- Private Caboose Party (Year-round): Rent your very own private caboose! The caboose, ready for 15 people, features heat, private bathrooms, a snack tray, and soda. It’s perfect for large family gatherings, birthday parties, corporate field trips, and more! Advanced reservations are required, and availability is limited. So book early!
Meadowlark Motel makes the perfect home base to explore more of the North Carolina mountains after your train ride. Book one of our creekside cabins or an Appalachian-chic motel room to fully immerse yourself in the culture you’ve learned about on all your museum adventures.