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One of the most picturesque ways to take in the Great Smoky Mountains is by train. Riding in a passenger car past the gorgeous mountains, wildlife, and foliage, no matter the season, offers a unique perspective of one of the best natural landscapes in the world. The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad that traverses Tennesee and nearby neighboring states give you both a unique view of the mountains but also a taste of the area’s history. Here we have a list of Great Smoky Mountain railroad options you can choose from for your next adventure.

Dollywood Express

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

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The “Queen of Country” is a staple in the Smoky Mountains Region, and her Dollywood theme park is a must-see. Add the Dollywood Express to your itinerary as well! The authentic 110-ton coal-fired steam engine offers a thirty minute excursion around fives miles of foothills the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s a short ride, but the views are amazing. There are actually two trains that circle Dollywood and leave every hour, making it a convenient option while you are visiting the park. The carriages are also open so you can take in the fresh air of the mountains as you relax. 

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad 

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

image provided by Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

With Coach, Crown, or First Class options, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in nearby Bryson City, NC is a popular–and very famous–choice for visitors in the area. Featured in many Hollywood blockbusters and just a short ride from Pigeon Forge, TN, the train offers an unmatched way to see the mountains from a unique and unforgettable perspective.

The railroad has year-round ride options such as wine tastings, cheese samples, and moonshine sipping as well as trains that offer excursions in the package such as ziplining. There is even a Polar Express Train during the holiday season or you can rent your own private caboose for a birthday or anniversary party.

Nantahala Gorge Excursion

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

image provided by Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

If you are looking for a longer Great Smoky Mountains railroad trip, choose the Nantahala Gorge Excursion, which is part of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad line. The four and a half hour ride takes you along the Nantahala River where you’ll gaze at the flowing water and surrounding natural landscape.

Riders also get a chance to traverse the historic trellis bridge on the route as well as Fontana Lake and Nantahala Gorge. The excursion offers a one hour layover here for additional sightseeing. There is also onboard dining for First Class passengers or you can order a box lunch. 

Steam of the Smokies

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Just this year another railway excursion was added to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Western North Carolina. This time, riders got to board the Steam of the Smokies, a 1942 train that was part of the WWII Steam Engine plan and one of two remaining in the US. The railroad trip follows the route of the former Southern Railway’s “Murphy Branch Line” established in 1891. The path moves from Bryson City to Fontana Lake, following the Little Tennessee River and across the Fontana Lake Tresle. And of course, the sights are something you won’t find anywhere else in the world. 

We hope this guide sparks enthusiasm for the diverse Great Smoky Mountain Railroad experiences, from the nostalgic Dollywood Express to the scenic Nantahala Gorge Excursion and historic Steam of the Smokies.

For the perfect accommodation to complement your journey, explore the best cabin rentals in Gatlinburg. Whether captivated by mountains or entranced by rails, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad ensures an unforgettable expedition through nature’s grandeur. Enjoyed our exploration? For top-notch Gatlinburg cabin rentals, click here.