Great Smoky Mountain Railroad: A Relaxing Daytrip

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad: A Relaxing Daytrip
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Although the Smoky Mountain Railroad tickets are expensive and Bryson City is a good drive for most visitors, the relaxation and views make it well worth it.

- The Local Expert Team

The day trips from Bryson City on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad are a relaxing and romantic way to spend the day. I went on the train recently as a way to kick back and unwind. I didn’t want to think about anything, or plan anything. I wanted to just unwind, so when my friend suggested the train, I thought why not? Actually, I thought it was kind of quaint but I let him talk me into it and I’m SO GLAD I did.

We got to Bryson City early enough to have breakfast. The town bills itself as unhurried and uncommon, which sounded just perfect to me. We ate at the Cork and Beans and everything was very good. It was a cute little cafe with great crepes. Then we grabbed some coffees to go to take aboard the Smoky Mountain train. When we got to the Great Smoke Mountains Railroad depot, I had quite the surprise: My fiancée had sprung for first class tickets!

Since we were in First Class, when we arrived at the depot we were given a commemorative tote and souvenir tumblers that we could fill with sodas at the station. The train was gorgeous! First class seats on the Great Smoky Railroad train were plush and super comfy. All of the seats had large windows, so we didn’t have to worry about fighting for a view. I oohed and aahed over the 1940s bar car and the menu and almost didn’t notice when the train kicked off.

The whistle blew, the train started moving and soon we were waving good bye to Bryson City and setting forth toward Nahantala Gorge. We weren’t in one of the open air cars, since we were doing First Class, but the windows were so large and the scenery so vibrant that we felt pretty satisfied with out view. We passed mountains, lakes, rivers, forests and finally arrived at Nahantala Gorge. It was about a 2-1/2 hour trip down there, but there was so much to see, and so much entertainment onboard the train, that time flew by.

All during the journey, train staff came by to check in on us and serve us our lunch. We had the Southern pulled pork with mashed and coleslaw and it was great, but all of the other meals looked yummy too. Everyone was so friendly and I really felt like they wanted us to have a wonderful, relaxing trip. A banjo player passed through the car and played a few tunes before heading down the line.

By luck, we had picked the seats that faced the river for most of the time. Although the other side had nice views of Fontana Lake as well, we definitely had the better view. I would recommend this to friends and family members looking for something a bit unusual to do. Our car served alcohol, so kids were not allowed, but there are lots of family-friendly options if that’s what you’re looking for.

We had an hour at the Nahantala Outdoor Center to stretch our legs and get some fresh mountain air before we turned around and headed back to Bryson City. On the way back the weather got a bit cooler and I was definitely glad we were sitting inside. All in all, it was just the thing I needed to relax. After our Great Smoky Mountain Railroad trip, we went to the Nahantala Brewing Company to unwind and then headed to our hotel.


Infants (under age 2): $0-20
Children (2-12): $35-61
Adults (13+): $59-170


This attraction is approximately 90 minutes from Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg. It is located in Bryson City, NC close to exit 67 on US 64. Click here for complete directions & a map.

Insider Tips:
-While advance reservations are highly recommended, it is advisable to make these reservations within 24 hours of departure to ensure the weather will be perfect for the ride. But, do not make the long drive over to Bryson, NC without reservations.
-For great photos of the scenery and mountains, sit in the open air care.
-Make sure to board the train early to get first choice of seats.