Great Smoky Mountain Railroad excursions offer incredible diversity in trip combinations, vacation packages, and seating options, not to mention one of the most amazing and pristine scenic backdrops on the East Coast. The official departing point is for a Great Smoky Mountain train ride is where Bryson City meets the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is an area filled with things to do and a popular place for visitors arranging vacation rentals and other holiday fun. Smoky Mountain Railroad tours reveal verdant valleys, deep river canyons, and crystal clear, cascading streams, among a bounty of other natural attributes.
Since the 1800s, the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad has been operating throughout the southern area of the Great Smoky Mountains. The railroad operates the Murphy Branch, originally used as transportation by mountaineers from lofty, landlocked areas to the foothills. The groundwork for the Murphy Line was excavated and built along more than 100 miles, providing a route into the city, and connecting to the world beyond many isolated homes. This sparked major change in commerce. Six busy passenger trains ran between both Lake Junaluska and Asheville, and Murphy and Asheville. Over the years, new tracks were laid, and during the war, the lines were well used, replacing many destroyed rails shipping goods cross country. Once the 1940s hit, bus and car travel were popular means of travel and train rides eventually ceased by July of 1948.
Smoky Mountain Railroad tours began in 1988 and much of the railway’s rolling stock was sold off to railroads around the country. From Dillsboro all the way to Nantahala was the most scenic and appealing part of the old Murphy route and became the most popular of all GSMR rides. Hundreds of thousands of visitors hop that route each year. In 1999, the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad was bought up by the American Heritage Railways company, recognizing it as one of the top historic US railroads.
A Great Smoky Mountain train ride is available with many options. Ride with Thomas the Train, enjoy a Raft & Rail Ride, try Mystery Theater Dining, choose the Nantahala Gorge Excursion, or try out the Oktoberfest Beer Tasting Dinner. There is the Pumpkin Patch Express, a Freedom Train Picnic Dinner, and a Wine Tasting Dinner affiliated with top North Carolina wineries. The GSMR also operates one of America’s Polar Express Trains. These Great Smoky Mountain Railroad tours are offered in a variety of combinations and seating classes which are all sold via the Railroad's official website. Tickets can also be purchased directly from the depot depending on seating availability. If you are intent on a ride, purchasing in advance for reserved seating is the best option.
There are several vacation packages available for a Great Smoky Mountain train ride. In Bryson City and Dillsboro, the railroad has teemed with top-notch North Carolina hotels and bed and breakfasts creating valuable vacation deals that include a combination of lodging and train excursions as well as other perks. All rates are based on double occupancy and while some packages are available year-round, others are only offered in specific months.
In and around Bryson City, there are many family-friendly attractions and things to do. The theme park Ghost Town in the Sky, Asheville’s historic Biltmore Estate, Smoky Mountain Trains Museum, Cherokee Indian Art galleries, and outdoor-geared Chimney Rock are a few top-rated area attractions filled with history and fun.