Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

One of USA Today’s “Top 10 American Train Rides”

Based in Bryson City, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad operates scenic rail excursions through our remote corner of North Carolina, traveling through tunnels, across rivers and lakes, through mountain valleys and into a deep river gorge. Some rides are with the diesel engine and some are with the newly restored steam engine #1702. When the steam is running you will also have the chance to watch the people-powered engine turntable in action. 

Enjoy the fall color from one of the coach cars or the open-air car during daily “Leaf Looker” excursions to the Nantahala Gorge and to Dillsboro. Schedule and Tickets. Or take the family on the Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express, Fridays-Sundays in October. Enjoy the ride, meet Peanuts characters, trick or treat and toast marshmallows, and kids pick out their own pumpkin to take home. More about the Pumpkin Patch Express

Polar Express & Themed Trains

In 2018, more than 90,000 people rode the Polar Express Christmas excursion making it one of the most popular holiday events in the Smokies. This is the trip to make memories and start a family tradition. Enjoy the depot decorations. On the train sing some Christmas carols, and enjoy warm cocoa and a treat, while listening to this magical children’s story. Santa is waiting at the North Pole, where he’ll board the train, greeting each child, giving them their own silver sleigh bell. (1-1/4 hour round trip). Don’t forget to wear your pajamas! November 8 – December 31. Schedule and Tickets

Other family-oriented excursions include two PEANUTS-themed events — the Great Pumpkin Patch Express in October. Fridays-Sundays in October. Enjoy the ride, meet Peanuts characters, trick or treat and toast marshmallows, and kids pick out their own pumpkin to take home. Schedule and Tickets; and the Easter Beagle Express in spring.

Take a 7 pm ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Freedom Train and enjoy a BBQ picnic style dinner, spectacular sunset views on Fontana Lake, a visit from Uncle Sam. You’ll return in time for the 10 pm fireworks show in Bryson City.

Excursions from Bryson City

Nantahala Gorge This 4-1/2 hour excursion makes a 44 mile round trip to the Nantahala Gorge, crossing the historic Fontana Lake trestle. There’s a 1-hour layover at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), and options for packages including rafting, zip-lining and jeep tours. Trains to the gorge in summer and fall also include an all-adult first class moonshine car – The Carolina Shine – featuring spirits from NC craft distilleries. Schedule and Tickets

Tuckasegee River This 4-hour excursion makes a 32 mile round trip to the quaint village of Dillsboro, passing by the train wreck set in The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford and through a tunnel. There is a 1-1/2 hour layover in Dillsboro. Schedule and Tickets

Great American Rails and Trails Narration Car – Book your spot in the Narration Car and enjoy the tales told by your guide, the famous 19th Century Poet, Writer, and Great Smoky Mountains inhabitant Horace Kephart. Hear stories about the haunted Cowee Tunnel, the construction of the Fontana Dam, life in early Western North Carolina, and the gone but not forgotten towns that once thrived in the hollers of the Smoky Mountains. Available summer through fall. Schedule and Tickets


In Bryson City, Three People Pushed a 177-ton Locomotive

On some rail excursions you can watch – or join – this super-human event.

Dining With a Unique Perspective

See the Smokies by train and experience one out three unique food and drink pairing options available during the year. What goes better with an evening ride to the trestle on Fontana Lake? BBQ & Brews, of course! Enjoy local brews, BBQ and a great sunset. Family-friendly and all-adult car options. Schedule and Tickets

Craving surf & turf paired with wine? Experience “Uncorked” with an onboard narrator presenting each wine pour and sharing knowledge of the four wines to passengers in an all-adult first-class car. Schedule and Tickets

Moonshine more your idea of fun? Settle into the ‘Shine & Dine’ car on Nantahala runs for triple-distilled samples along with your meal. Schedule and Tickets

Model Train Museum

Rail excursion tickets include same-day admission to Smoky Mountains Museum, with its collection of 7,000 Lionel engines, cars and accessories, impressive operating layout and children’s activity center.

Bryson City - Swain County
Chamber of Commerce

210 Main Street
P.O. Box 509
Bryson City, NC 28713

Karen Proctor
Executive Director



Free 2020 Travel Guide to the Smokies — Includes the Official 2020 All Aboard for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.