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All aboard! Take a train ride excursion through the NC mountains to view the fall leaves

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is a short-line railroad offering freight services and scenic passenger excursions to view the fall leaves.

NORTH CAROLINA, USA — Editor's Note: The main video in this story is from October 2021 on fall-themed gift items from local Triad shops 

Fall weather is here to stay and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad provides a front-row ride through the mountains to view the leaves. 

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is a short line railroad offering freight services and scenic passenger excursions on 53 miles of their own track from Dillsboro, NC to Andrews, NC since 1988.

The main railroad depot is located in the historic town of Bryson City, located on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

You can pick which excursion you would like to take to view the fall foliage. Most rides are at least 4 hours or a little longer. 

Keep in mind that these train rides fill up quickly!  

Find out more about available dates, pricing

'Ride With Us'- Excursions

  • Steam Powered: It is of the world’s largest engine class and is one of two remaining in the United States. While enjoying your ride you’ll be surrounded by knowledgeable crew members that will be answering your questions and pointing out important landmarks along the way. 
  • Nantahala Gorge Excursion: The historic trellis bridge Fontana Trestle takes you across Fontana Lake and into the beautiful Nantahala Gorge.
  • Tuckasegee River Excursion: This ride is through the countryside to small-town life in western North Carolina on the Tuckasegee River Excursion. It is a 4-hour excursion, passing by the famous movie set of The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford! 

What You’ll See

Over 125 varieties of trees in western North Carolina, including hemlock, yellow buckeye, umbrella magnolia, oak, birch, sugar maple, mountain ash, Fraser fir, and short needle pine. 

In the fall, many of these plants show their bright berries, and of course, the trees glow in all shades of red, russet, yellow, and orange. A nature lover can enjoy over 1,000 species of flowering plants, 200 birds, and over 100 species of fish and animals.

What You Can Do

Railroad depots are located in three historic towns; 

  • Dillsboro (no current departures), a village of shops and crafts.
  • Andrews (no current departures), a scenic valley in the Snowbird Mountains.
  • Bryson City, located on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The mountain is compromised of small towns, rushing rivers, and ancient mountains reside.

It’s Family Fun for all ages and one of the top fun things to do in North Carolina!

  • The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, in accordance with federal, state, and local government guidelines is safely operating all passenger scenic rail excursions departing from Bryson City.
  • Masks must be worn in the following designated areas; Depot building, enclosed first-class coaches, crown class coaches, & conductors concessions car. 
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be located in high-traffic areas for guest and employee use.
  • Follow CDC and state health and safety guidelines.
  • Practice social distancing at your comfort level. 
  • Be prepared with cashless payment methods.