Car rides, ATVs, hikes, gondolas…there are many ways to explore the ethereal beauty of the Smoky Mountains. If you’re on the hunt for an adventure that is both exciting and quaint, however, you’ll want to check out the Smokies by train. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad allows you to do just that.
If for some reason, you need convincing before you hop aboard, you might find the following arguments compelling:
1. Unparalleled Views of the Smoky Mountains
There’s no perspective quite like the view from the railroad, which provides access to scenery that would be difficult to encounter by car or even on foot.
Multiple routes are available, so you can view several distinctive types of Smoky Mountain scenery. The Nantahala Gorge route, for example, takes you across a historic trellis bridge and into one of the most stunning gorges imaginable.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad also sometimes operates a route known as the Tuckasegee River Excursion, which takes you on a charming small town journey to Dillsboro and even passes by the set of the Harrison Ford flick The Fugitive.
Even the same exact journey could provide a completely different experience based on when you ride and which seat you occupy. If you really want a sight to behold, book a spot in the open-air gondola or in first class, where you can gaze out vast picture windows.
No matter where or when you board the train, you will be amazed by the panoramas you observe along the way. You can take snapshots with your camera, but nothing will capture the joy of experiencing the sights and sounds of the Smokies in person.
2. Travel Back in Time
If you love visiting history museums and vintage attractions around the Smoky Mountains, you’ll adore the steam-powered train that you can ride during many of the local railroad’s best journeys. This train dates back to the 40s, so stepping aboard feels a bit like entering a time capsule.
Knowledgeable crew members are happy to answer any questions you might have about the steam engine. If you’re lucky, you might even get to watch a live turntable demonstration. Don’t forget to snap a picture with the train before you depart.
3. Skip the Traffic
There’s a lot to love about scenic drives through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but unfortunately, these expeditions sometimes involve a lot of traffic during the busy summer months — and especially when fall colors arrive. Crowded roads can make an otherwise relaxing vacation feel more like a dreaded work commute, but you can skip this hassle when you explore the mountains by train instead.
The railroad is also an excellent option if you’re worried about traversing some of the national park’s more dangerous roads. Twists and turns can make some local routes nerve-wracking when you’re in a car, even if the weather is perfect. Why stress when you can let someone else do all the work of navigating?
4. Fun Events for Kids
A train ride should be entertaining for youngsters in and of itself, but the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad goes above and beyond by hosting special events designed for kids (and kids at heart). In October, for example, the railroad hosts The Great Pumpkin Patch Express, which includes a narration of the Peanuts classic It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, as well as wagon rides, pumpkin picking, and even photo opportunities with Snoopy.
In the winter, kids adore the Polar Express, which brings guests to the North Pole and involves a special train-based visit from Santa Claus. Other highlights include hot cocoa and Christmas carols. Easter brings the Bunny Hopper Express, complete with an egg hunt.
Even if you’re unable to book a ride during a special kid-oriented event, your children can take advantage of special opportunities such as the Tarzan Train, which incorporates zip lining into your big day out. Don’t forget to order a box lunch; the railroad offers kid-friendly “Lil’ Conductor” options such as hot dogs or PB&J.
5. Even More Fun for Adults
While parents and grandparents love accompanying their kids on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, train rides also make for a unique date or outing with friends. If you ride during one of the kid-friendly excursions, you can recapture your inner child, Better yet, try the train in a uniquely adult capacity, which, if you’re lucky, will include booze tasty cuisine.
Adults will appreciate the peaceful and classy atmosphere aboard the train during the railroad’s popular Uncorked event, which, as its name suggests, levels up each ride with fine wine. Other opportunities include the Moonshine Experience and BBQ & Brews, both of which encourage you to let loose and enjoy yourself in a unique environment.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a train ride through the Smokies. As you plan your Smoky Mountains itinerary, set aside a few hours for a journey you’ll never forget.