Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide

The 8 Best Train Rides in the Smoky Mountains of NC & TN

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The Smoky Mountains are renowned for their spectacular natural beauty. And in our experience, there’s no better way to see them than by taking a Great Smoky Mountains train ride.

Train rides have a rich history in the Southeastern US, and carry a rich sense of  nostalgia that bridges generations. 

Sadly, many old passenger trains have gone the way of the dodo, leaving only a few Smoky Mountain trains to carry the 12+ million Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitors each year.

Pigeon Forge’s Dollywood theme park is home to the lone Smoky Mountain railway in Tennessee .

The Bryson City train company, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, is the place to go for NC train rides in the Smokies.

Read for our guide to the best train rides in the Smoky Mountains, including Christmas train rides , routes focused on wine  or moonshine, and rides offering spectacular views of the Nantahala Gorge and Tuckasegee River.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Smoky Mountains Hotels to Visit in NC & TN

Top Places to Stay for  Train Rides in the Smoky Mountains Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa   (Top 10 Hotel w/free trolley to Dollywood Parks) Stonebrook Lodge Bryson City   (great location w/24-hour coffee machine) Relax Inn – Bryson City   (affordable hotel within walking distance to train) McKinley Edwards Inn   (upscale boutique hotel w/continental breakfast) Calhoun House Inn & Suites   (4-Brm & 5-Brm vacation suites w/full kitchen) Popular tours and activities in the Smoky Mountains : Pigeon Forge: Rocky Top Mountain Coaster Ride (travels up to 30 miles per hour!) Waterfalls & Breweries Tour from Bryson City NC    (includes 4 waterfalls & 5 breweries) Bryson City: Mountaintop Zip Line Experience (premiere ziplining tour)  Bryson City: Fontana Lake Guided Kayak Tour (single or tandem kayak tour w/guide) Great Smoky Mountains National Park Self-Guided Driving Tour (download app)

Great Smoky Mountains Train Rides Guide

  • Nantahala Gorge Excursion
  • Tuckasegee River Excursion
  • The Polar Express Christmas Train
  • Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience
  • Uncorked Wine Experience
  • Smoky Mountain Beer Run
  • Bunny Hopper Express
  • Dollywood Express Train Ride

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains in Winter

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad History

smoky mountain railway conductors

All Bryson City NC train rides begin and end at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s Bryson City train depot.

GSMR is part of American Heritage Railways’ goal to preserve railroad history for future generations.

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad involves 53 miles of track, with 25 bridges and 2 tunnels. They traverse rivers, cross mountain valleys filled with wildflowers in Spring and Summer, and pass old   mountain towns .

Historically, the rails reached the town of Asheville in 1880, and by 1881 they continued another 116 miles to Murphy NC. They connected the far reaches of Western NC to the world much faster than long, tough wagon rides.

These lines were busiest during WWII, when the Fontana Dam  was built. After the Great War ended, the popularity of passenger train traffic dropped off to virtually nothing. By 1985, freight train traffic was also in steady decline.

GSMR trains began to run as a tourist-focused enterprise back in 1988, and today the company carries over 200,000 passengers a year on the top train rides in North Carolina!

READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Bryson City NC & Swain County

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Train Rides

45 Mitchell St, Bryson City NC • (800) 872-4681

Official Website

Riding the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Nantahala Gorge Excursion in Bryson City NC

1. Nantahala Gorge Excursion

GSMR’s longest trip is their ever-popular Nantahala Gorge Excursion, which covers 44 miles and takes about 4.5 hours.

This NC mountain train ride runs through the Nantahala National Forest, along the Nantahala and Tennessee Rivers , and crosses a trestle over Fontana Lake.

It departs from the Bryson City Depot, has a one-hour layover at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (famous for its whitewater rafting tours ), and returns to Bryson City.

There are several classes of service available. First class has assigned seating, dining, and limited bar service. There are also open-air gondola cars and several other classes of closed cars.

Nantahala Gorge Excursion prices range from $58-$94 for adults and $33-$64 for kids ages 2-12, depending on the class and time of year you visit. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Lakes in North Carolina (Mountains, Coast & Beyond)

Train Tressel Crossing - Tuckasegee River Excursion GSMR

2. Tuckasegee River Excursion

Another hugely popular train ride in Bryson City is GSMR’s Tuckasegee River Excursion, which is a 32-mile round-trip adventure to Dillsboro NC.

This trip includes an 80-minute layover in the historic town of Dillsboro, which is known for its charming craft shops, unique restaurants , and a laid-back but welcoming personality.

Classes of service available on this trip include First Class (only in November and December), Crown Class, Coach Class, and Open Air Gondola.

Tuckasegee River Excursion prices range from $58-$124 for adults and $33-$64 for kids ages 2-12, depending on the class and time of year you visit. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Sylva NC & Dillsboro NC

Santa on the Polar Express Train in Bryson City NC

3. The Polar Express

Every year during Winter , the Bryson City railroad transforms from a historic mountain railway into The Polar Express train, a uniquely immersive Christmas experience!

This festive 75-minute adventure includes live performers, music from the film, “Hot Chocolate” (both the song and the drink), and a cookie. Once you reach “The North Pole,” Santa climbs aboard to visit with all the kids. 

Dressing in pajamas is encouraged, and all riders receive a silver sleigh bell as a special souvenir. You can also enjoy singing Christmas carols for the return trip to Bryson City.

The Polar Express runs multiple times daily from early November through December, but they sell out well in advance. Tickets run from $44-$62.25 for adults and from $29-$62.25 for kids ages 2 to 12.

READ MORE: 10 Reasons to Ride the Bryson City Polar Express Train

Bryson City train -Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience

4. Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience

The Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience is an all-adult car offered on select Nantahala Gorge Excursion train rides . In our experience, it may be the most fun of the various dinner train rides in the Smokies!

All guests get a chance to sample craft moonshine from local distilleries on the First Class train car. After the tastings , moonshine-infused cocktails such as Copper Cola and Moonshiner’s Mimosa will be available for purchase.

Early rides come with a choice of Cheesy Shrimp & Grits or Cheesy Ham Hash Brown Casserole. Excursions departing after 2PM will feature Cajun-seasoned Pulled Pork BBQ with Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce.

Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience tickets range from $119-$134, and are available only for adults ages 21 and up. 

READ MORE: 10 Great Train Rides in North Carolina

Bryson City NC train rides - Uncorked Wine Experience

5. Uncorked Wine Experience

Also offered on select GSMR Nantahala Gorge Excursions (though much more sparsely), Uncorked is a unique wine experience that offers a more refined take on scenic train rides in North Carolina.

Guests on this trip get 4 samples of specially chosen wines , plus a 4-course dinner that includes a cheese plate starter, a salad, entree (Surf ‘n’ Turf or Vegetarian), and a dessert.

Noted that special dietary needs can be accommodated with advance notice, and every passenger will receive a souvenir GSMR stemless wine glass.

Tickets for the Uncorked train ride start at $169 per person, and only adults ages 21+ are allowed. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best NC Wineries to Visit

Smoky Mountain train ride - Smoky Mountain Beer Run

6. Smoky Mountain Beer Run

Craft beer is huge in the State of North Carolina , and the town of Asheville NC has even been dubbed “Beer City USA!”

GSMR offers a special Smoky Mountain Beer Run on their Tuckasegee River Excursion, serving 2 half-pint pours en route to a layover (and more beer samples) at the Innovation Station brewery in Dillsboro NC.

All beer runs are themed to stir up a party atmosphere, and the food menu for the ride is matched to the theme.

Smoky Mountain Beer Run tickets cost $114 and are available for adults ages 21 and up. 

READ MORE: Exploring The 17 Best Asheville NC Breweries

N.C. train rides - Bunny Hope Express GSMR Bryson City NC

7. Bunny Hopper Express

There are a few different Christmas -themed train rides in North Carolina, but the Bunny Hopper Express is a rare Easter-oriented excursion.

This family-friendly special event only runs for a couple of days over one Spring weekend (March 29-30, 2024).

It includes train-hopping bunnies sneaking aboard for a free ride, an Easter egg hunt, and a giveaway bag, with lots of fun things to do during the ride.

Bunny Hopper Express tickets run from $59-$87 for adults, and from $35-$61 for kids ages 2 to 12. Infants under age 2 ride for free, except on the First Class car, which costs $19. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Christmas Towns in North Carolina

Train Rides in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee

Dollywood train Christmas TN

8. Dollywood Express Train Ride

2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge TN • (800) Dollywood

Though it’s sometimes listed as a Gatlinburg train ride, the Dollywood Express is actually about 20 minutes north in Pigeon Forge TN.

It’s the only Great Smoky Mountains train ride in Tennessee, powered by a 110-ton, coal-fired steam engine that takes visitors on a 5-mile journey through the area’s stunning natural scenery.

This is the original attraction in Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park, departing from the depot once every hour on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The Dollywood Express train engines date back to WWII. All cars have been designed with old-fashioned brass fittings and wooden seats to reflect the time when passenger trains were immensely popular in the Tennessee mountains .  –by Jonathon Engels; lead image by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

The Best Train Rides in the Smoky Mountains including the Dollywood train in TN and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City NC. | bryson city train | bryson city nc train rides | great smoky mountain railway | n.c. train rides | train rides in the smoky mountains | smoky mountain train ride | smoky mountain trains | railroad in bryson city | dinner train rides in the Smokies | smoky mountain train | bryson city railroad | nc train rides | north carolina train rides |

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the  Leave No Trace   principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Jonathon Engels

After visiting North Carolina for the first time, Senior Writer Jonathon Engels and wife Emma spent 2 years exploring Western NC in search of a homestead property. They first lived in Brevard, where Jonathon taught writing at Blue Ridge Community College and extensively explored the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. For the last several years they have lived just off the BRP near Elkin, Southwest Virginia, and the NC High Country. The couple also volunteers with the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, the Elkin Valley Trail Association, and Reeves Downtown School of Music.

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5 Stunning Train Rides To Take In North Carolina

train tours north carolina

All aboard! The magic of train travel is back in vogue , and we couldn’t be happier. There’s something that feels inherently Southern about taking a train. Maybe it’s the old-fashioned dining cars , where you can savor a sweet tea. Maybe it’s the vintage appeal. Maybe it’s the gorgeous countryside and rural farmland railways always seem to cut through. Or maybe it’s the fact that trains give us the gift of time, prompting to us slow down and become a passenger of the world. Whatever the reason, we can’t wait to punch our train ticket and get rolling. In North Carolina, there are plenty of ways to savor all the nostalgic joys of train travel. From are scenic day rides cutting through the Great Smoky Mountains to 30-minute cruises where you can learn the history behind the state’s railways, here are five incredible train rides in the Tar Heel State. It's time start planning your weekend railway excursion!

New Hope Valley Railway

Courtesy of New Hope Valley Railway

Affectionately known as the Triangle’s Train, this railway right outside of Raleigh offers scenic rides on vintage trains as part of the North Carolina Railway Museum’s mission to preserve and share North Carolina’s railroad history. Each season (lasting roughly from April through December), the railway takes passengers along a 4-mile historic track through piney woods and over a trestle on an hour-long round trip from Bonsal to New Hill and back. The open-air train cars allow you to feel the breeze on your face as you traverse the gorgeous North Carolina landscape. New Hope Valley’s Operate-a-Loco program gives hardcore railfans the chance to drive a train by spending an hour at the throttle on an 8-mile trip!

Tweetsie Railroad

This Wild West theme park in Blowing Rock, North Carolina is all about family fun. There are rides, regular live performances, a deer park zoo, and a range of activities for the entire family. But the park’s most defining and beloved feature is the historic trains for which the park is named. Guests can climb aboard Engine No. 12 or Engine No. 190 for a 3-mile cruise around the park’s grounds. Along the way, you’ll get gorgeous views of the North Carolina mountains and rolling hills, and in the fall, it’s a great place to seek out colorful foliage . Fun fact: Engine No. 12 is the last surviving steam locomotive of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad, which ran from Johnson City, Tennessee to Boone, North Carolina, from 1919 to 1940.

North Carolina Transportation Museum

Ride and learn at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer. The historic site was once home to Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive repair facility in the Southeast; today it is a museum that celebrates all types of transportation history—railways included! Admission to the museum, plus a 25-minute train ride through the 60-acre site (complete with onboard history narration) only costs $12. For a romantic evening, reserve your seats for Wine & Dine on the Rails. On the very special ride, you’ll be treated to cocktail hour, followed by a leisurely train ride paired with a three-course meal and wine. Be on the lookout for a special St. Patrick’s Day Train come March, as well!

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

North Carolina’s most popular passenger railroad sits in the heart of Bryson City and gives riders the chance to see some of the state’s greatest sights—Fontana Lake, the Fontana Trestle, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala National Forest, the Tuckasegee River—all from the comfort of a train car. Popular rides include the Nantahala Gorge Excursion , a 4.5-hour roundtrip jounrey traveling along the Tennessee and Nantahala River where you’ll see Fontana Trestle, Fontana Lake, and the breathtaking Nantahala Gorge, and the Tuckasegee River Excursion , a 4-hour ride through quiet countryside to Dillsboro, where you’ll have an hour and a half to deboard and check out the quaint historic town before heading back to the station.

Craggy Mountain Line

Courtesy of Craggy Mountain Line

Head to small-town Woodfin, a suburb of Asheville, and support the Craggy Mountain Line, a nonprofit formed in 2001 to obtain the last three miles of the Craggy Mountain Line. Today a 3.5-mile track takes visitors through the beautiful North Carolina countryside for just $15. Like clockwork, trains run at 4 p.m. every Saturday afternoon. If you’ve got a big family or have a celebration coming up, you can rent the entire railroad in 2-hour increments for groups of up to 25.

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5 Beautiful Train Rides in North Carolina Through Quaint Towns, Vibrant Cities, and the Blue Ridge Mountains

All aboard for these adventures in North Carolina.

train tours north carolina

There’s something classic and timeless about taking a train trip . For some, it’s a daily part of their commute, but for others, it’s an invitation to embark on an adventure back in time. If your travels are bringing you to the Tar Heel State, these train rides offer a unique view of the iconic Blue Ridge Mountains , as well as themed holiday experiences. Here's a guide to the best train rides in North Carolina that you (and the whole family) won’t want to miss.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Nestled in Bryson City, roughly a one-hour drive from Asheville, is the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad takeoff station. There are two train types — an old-fashioned steam-powered locomotive and a more modern diesel option — as well as several routes varying in distance, time, and theme, though all provide a scenic experience.

One of the most popular trips is the Nantahala Gorge Excursion , a 4.5-hour round-trip journey offering a pit stop to soak in the mountaintop views. Or, you can hop aboard the Tuckasegee River Excursion , a four-hour trek that includes a stop in a small historic town for some quick shopping.  

Locals and tourists alike swarm to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for its special Polar Express train during the holidays, which includes cookies, hot cocoa, and a Santa sighting, as well as encourages passengers of all ages to wear their pajamas while on board. Couples can enjoy dinners with a wine pairing, a Carolina moonshine tasting, a murder mystery party, and other themed rides that make for a fun date night.

Ticket prices range based on age and class of service, including first class, premium open-air gondola, coach plus, crown, and coach class. Prices start at $58 for adults and $33 for kids ages two to 12. 

Tweetsie Railroad

A kid's wonderland can be found in the small, quaint village of Blowing Rock, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tweetsie Railroad is known for its adventure park offering themed experiences, including Thomas the Train, a ghost ride, and a holiday adventure. In addition to railroad trips, the admission fee includes access to kid-friendly amusement park rides, a deer petting zoo, live interactive shows, and more. Seasonal events like a dog frisbee competition and visiting musicians also add to the character and charm of this tiny town experience. Daily admission tickets are $60 for adults, $40 for children ages three to 12, and free for kids under two. 

New Hope Valley Railway

New Hope Valley Railroad

If experiencing a historic train ride is on your wish list, consider the New Hope Valley Railway . This four-mile, hour-long trip from Bonsal to New Hill is known as the "Triangle’s Train" as it’s located in the Piedmont region of the state (or the Triangle), connecting Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill.

Passengers aboard this vintage locomotive will wind through tall pine trees, a signature of the state. Throughout the year, seasonal experiences are on offer, including summer adventures with Thomas the Train, an Easter egg hunt in April, and more. Check the website for special events that sell food and drinks while aboard the train, too. 

While some seasonal rides may cost more, general admission is $11 for kids ages two to 12, $14 for adults, and $13 for seniors 60 years and older. 

North Carolina Transportation Museum

For a daytime excursion fit for the whole family, consider visiting Spencer, North Carolina, a small town situated between Charlotte and Greensboro. This Rowan County destination is the home of the North Carolina Transportation Museum , which was once the Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive factory in the southeast. 

Here, you and your travel companions can learn about various forms of transportation in the Tar Heel State over the years, from aviation and railroads to automobiles and more. You can tour the Barber Junction Depot, a train station built in 1898 that’s now the visitor center. 

And, of course, no visit would be complete without a train ride. The train takes you through the museum’s 60-acre campus and lasts about 25 minutes. Ride availability changes each month, but you can hop board Fridays to Sundays (and select Thursdays and Easter Monday) from March to May. From June to Labor Day, you can enjoy rides from Thursdays to Sundays. Like other railroads in the state, themed rides are part of the fun, including Easter bunny excursions and Wine & Dine date-night events. 

Tickets cost $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and active-duty military members, $8 for children ages three to 12. Admission for kids under three is free.

Craggy Mountain Line

For those seeking craft beer and mountain views, nothing hits the spot quite like Asheville . This vibrant city offers quirky experiences, including boozy rafting down the French Broad River, a tour of the largest privately owned home in America — the Biltmore Estate — and a train ride on the Craggy Mountain Line . Locals call it the "Asheville to Craggy Branch," a nonprofit organization that acquired the last three miles of the Craggy Mountain Line in 2001. 

They’ve turned it into a fun way to experience and view the Blue Ridge Mountains, whether for a family-friendly adventure or romantic afternoon date. There are no frills or extra bells and whistles; it’s simply a quick tour on a historic train. 

Tickets are $15 per person, with kids three and under for free. You can also rent the railroad with a group for two hours for weddings or bachelorette parties. For travel planning, remember the train only runs on Saturdays at 4 p.m. 

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8 Scenic Train Rides in the Great Smoky Mountains

Sit back and watch the world go by while admiring one of America’s best and oldest mountain ranges, the Great Smoky Mountains. You’ll cross lofty trestles, swoop through long tunnels, snake alongside rivers, and experience America’s countryside. Travelers come from around the world to experience this gorgeous national park.

Founded in 1926, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park feels like an endless lush forest. Called the Smokies for the ever-present morning fog, this mountain range is undoubtedly world-famous. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to nearly 80 historic buildings, magnificent wildflowers, and wildlife and offers countless activities.

Train Rides in the Great Smoky Mountains

There are many ways to explore and experience the Smoky Mountains as well as from different cities, towns, and states. For an alternative experience in the Smoky Mountains, take a scenic train ride and enjoy the beauty of this astonishing mountain range! The most famous train rides to the Smoky Mountains are from Bryson City and Pigeon Forge.

The Great Smoky Mountains

The gorgeous living mountain range of the Great Smoky Mountains straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. The mountains are constantly re-inventing themselves as wind, water, and erosion continuously shape these ageless mountains.

Thus, the Smoky Mountains are world-renowned for the diversity of plant and animal life, the ancient rock formations, and the connection with southern Appalachian mountain culture. This is America’s most visited national park and an ideal getaway.

If you love nature, this is the best place to wander the tranquil woods and hills, hike, or camp. After all, this is one of America’s oldest mountain ranges.

However, if you wish to have an alternative experience in the Smoky Mountains, take a scenic train ride and enjoy the beauty of this astonishing mountain range! The most famous train rides to the Smoky Mountains are from Bryson City and Pigeon Forge.

A little bit about Pigeon Forge

At Pigeon Forge, you are guaranteed to make memories that can last a lifetime. For generations, visitors have returned to explore the small mountain town at the foothills of Smoky Mountain.

Pigeon Forge is a year-round family vacation destination and offers various fun activities, From exciting attractions and award-winning shows to myriad options for dining, shopping, and staying. Last but not least, this is the place to get a glimpse of life in the Smoky Mountains and marvel at the mountain’s beauty while riding the famous Dollywood Express!

A little bit about Bryson City

Bryson City is a peaceful mountain town bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Surrounding the small town is a rich selection of activities and attractions. From rafting and kayaking on the Nantahala River, boating and fishing on Fontana Lake, scenic railroad excursions, world-class trout streams, and mountain biking on the famous Tsali trails.

Furthermore, Bryson city is home to the Cherokee Indian Reservation and half of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For a complete experience of the Smoky Mountains, go for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to enjoy scenic views you’ll never forget!

Best Train Tours in the Smoky Mountains

Dollywood express.

Dollywood Express

Dolly Parton’s Dollywood, considered one of the world’s leading theme parks, is surrounded by breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains and offers fantastic rides, delicious food, and great entertainment.

For scenic views,  hop on the Dollywood Express on a short, sweet ride through the mountains and get a glimpse of Tennessee life. From the comfort of your train seat, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the woods and see country life. Sit down, relax and enjoy an unforgettable train ride.

Two authentic coal-burning trains go around Dollywood and have been part of the park for 55 years. Both engines were used during World War II. So this fantastic ride will not only give you a glimpse of beautiful nature but will even make you feel part of history.

The train leaves the station every hour and offers a 30-minute tour where you can see each section of the park. Furthermore, it is an excellent tour for finding peace and tranquility in nature. All carriages are open, so you’ll love the breeze hitting you while relaxing and resting in your seat.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers a scenic rail tour through the mountains of North Carolina, along the Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, across valleys, and through tunnels.

All train journeys depart from the depot in downtown Bryson City. All the trips are ideal for unforgettable experiences! Ride in a vintage open-air car, climate-controlled car, or first-class and have the time of your life.

Check out here the various excursions by the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad:

Nantahala Gorge

Nantahala Gorge

Take a ride along the rushing Nantahala River with the Nantahala Gorge Excursion! This four-and-a-half-hour excursion departs from Bryson City, goes 71 km to the Nantahala Gorge, and returns to the Bryson City depot. The historic Trellis Bridge takes you across Fontana Lake and allows you to stay at the Nantahala Outdoor Center for an hour.

Tickets for Adults 13+ are $56-$139 depending on seat class, and children 2-12 start at $32. Also, check out rafting combo packages such as ride the train up the river, then raft down!

Tuckasegee River

Tuckasegee River

This four-hour excursion takes a round trip through the quiet countryside to experience small-town life in western North Carolina. Along the way, you will Pass by the famous movie set of The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford!

Lastly, this is a round-trip to the quaint village of Dillsboro, where you can have an hour and a half layover. Furthermore, you can also sample beer at the brewery. This train is limited in service, so be sure to check out the timetable.

Tickets for Adults 13+ are $56 to 76 depending on seat class, and children 2-12 start at $33.

Uncorked Wine Experience

Uncorked Wine Experience

This unique adult-only train journey combines railroad adventure with good wine, good food, and good friends. But specifically, it’s the best excursion for those who crave surf and turf paired with wine! Experience Uncorked on board a first-class carriage with a narrator introducing each wine and sharing knowledge on the Smoky Mountains winemaking and lifestyle.

Tickets are $139 and since this train is limited in service, be sure to check out the timetable.

Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience

Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience

“Shine and Dine” on the railroad! Departing from Bryson City, Hop aboard The Carolina Shine car on the Nantahala Gorge for a four and a half hour round trip train excursion. Experience the all-adult First Class Moonshine Car to sample the smoothest, triple-distilled, handcrafted, best-tasting moonshine in the Carolinas.

Tickets start from $114 to $129 depending on availability and seat.

Also Read: Best Moonshine Tasting in Gatlinburg and Nearby

Fontana Trestle featuring BBQ & Brews

Fontana Trestle featuring BBQ & Brews

Departing from Bryson City, this two-hour excursion will take you to the Fontana Trestle and beyond the Fontana Lake, stopping at the perfect viewing spot for a spectacular sunset view! But what makes this ride to the trestle on Fontana Lake even better is BBQ and Brews! Enjoy local brews, BBQ, and a fantastic sunset at family-friendly or all-adult cars.

Tickets start from $92 to $102 depending on availability and seat.

Read More: Best Barbecue Restaurants in Pigeon Forge

The Polar Express

The Polar Express

The Polar Express Christmas excursion is one of the most popular holiday events in the Smokies. It is the best way to embrace the magic of Christmas. This one hour and a half round-trip to the North Pole and back to Bryson City is all about music, cocoa, treats, book reading, sing-a-longs, and Santa! Each child can expect to be greeted by Santa with the first gift of Christmas and a silver bell from his sleigh.

Tickets for Adults 13+ are $50 to 76 depending on seat class, children 2-12 start at $35, and infants 0 to 23 months start at $17.

Steam Excursions

Steam Excursions 1702

After a two-year restoration of 1942 Engine #1702, you can book a steam excursion on many dates throughout the year, usually from May to October. Before or after the ride, don’t forget to get a close look at this impressive locomotive and watch a demonstration of the only man-powered turntable in the country near the depot.

Tickets for Adults 13+ are $66 to 86 depending on seat class, children 2-12 start at $40, and infants 0 to 23 months start at $13.

Each season brings a new fun train journey. The views from the train in winter are breathtaking and ethereal. In the spring, trees are blooming, and often, there are special train events. In the summertime, you can add a whitewater rafting or zipline package to your ticket. In the fall, you can enjoy diverse colors from the comfort of your seat on any daily excursions to the Nantahala Valley. No matter which season you choose, you will definitely enjoy scenic views of the Smoky Mountains!

Also Read: 2 Closest Airports to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge 3 Best Time to Visit Smoky Mountains Will Ghost Town in the Sky Reopen? Blazing Fury Roller Coaster Dollywood

Final Thoughts

The Great Smoky Mountains are a must-visit destination you need to go to at least once in your lifetime. The mountains offer extraordinary and diverse nature, unique culture, and plenty of unforgettable adventures! Undoubtedly, riding a vintage train and admiring all these from the comfort of your seat would definitely make for a memorable trip.

If you prefer an all-inclusive tour of plentiful scenic views, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is the best for you. Otherwise, if you prefer a rather short trip and just get a glimpse of the mountain’s incredible nature, then the Dollywood Express is your right choice.

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Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Scenic Train

Plan your summer festival fun in the nc mountains.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Scenic Train

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers scenic train excursions through the North Carolina mountains along Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, across valleys and through tunnels. All of the train rides depart from the depot in downtown Bryson City (near Cherokee ). Their variety of trips and special event trains (like THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride - read more ) are ideal for a memorable experience! Ride in vintage open-air cars, climate-controlled cars, or first-class dining options.

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Nantahala Gorge Excursion Now - October 31, 2024 Ride along the rushing Nantahala River. This 4.5-hour excursion carries you 44 miles to the Nantahala Gorge and back. The historic Trellis Bridge takes you across Fontana Lake . Arrive at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) for a one-hour layover on the river. Also, check out rafting combo packages - ride the train up the river, then raft down!

Click here to visit their website for current ticket pricing, packages, and specials .

Weekly excursion dates and times may vary, see their website for specifics.

Steam Train Trip Asheville

Steam Excursions July 3 - December, 2024

Book a steam-powered ride with the official “Steam of the Smokies”. Before and after the ride, get a close-up look at this remarkable locomotive. Click here to visit their website for steam dates and ticket pricing .

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Train Seating Options & Tips

  • Most excursions have a full-service concession car with snacks, lunch items, and beverages (including alcoholic drinks) for purchase. Or you can pick up snacks or lunch at their cafe in the Depot before your ride. First-class includes a meal. 
  • Standard Seating (Coach Class) is in restored vintage coaches that feature windows that open for fresh-air viewing, ceiling fans, and heat for cooler days.
  • Open Air Gondolas are created from retired baggage and flatbed cars, with long padded outward-facing seats for the panoramic views.
  • In Crown Class, relax in restored coaches dating from 1925, with larger windows for better viewing and climate control. Get a souvenir tumbler to fill with a fountain soda.
  • The First-Class riding experience is one-of-a-kind! Travel in comfort and style in a 1940s-era bar, lounge, and dinner cars. Have lunch served by the car’s private attendant, and receive a souvenir tumbler. First-class cars are climate-controlled and full bar service is available.
  • For passengers who need special assistance for wheelchair accessibility, there is one car with a hydraulic lift and golf cart for transportation from the parking area. Be sure to call well in advance to make arrangements at 800-872-4681. Once arriving at the depot, be sure the ticket office is aware of your need for assisted boarding.
  • Arrive early and stay late to enjoy Bryson City's charming downtown. 
  • The parking lot is located at 45 Mitchell Street. 

Click here to visit their website for current pricing, packages and specials .

Polar Express

Great Smoky Train Excursions & Events 2024

  • February 9 - July 28, 2024 : Uncorked (Select Dates) - All-Adult First Class ride with a private attendant and wine tastings. (21+)
  • March 29-30, 2024: Bunny Hopper Express -  This 4.5-hour round trip special event train departs at 10:30 AM and travels along the Nantahala Gorge River to a picturesque layover destination with Egg Hunt. Train activity bag and Easter treat included. Passengers should be on the lookout for those train-hopping bunnies who have snuck on to take a free ride! 
  • May 17- November 2, 2024 : Moonshine Experience (Select Dates) - Hop on board the all-adult first-class Moonshine Car serving handcrafted, triple-distilled shine. This excursion operates on the Nantahala Gorge excursion. (21+)
  • November 7-December 31, 2024: THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride - Journey through the quiet wilderness to the North Pole. Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, enjoy hot chocolate and a treat while listening to the magical story. It's very popular, so get advance tickets.  See pics & read much more!
  • For more special trips, visit their website for current pricing, packages, and specials .

Train Ride Add-Ons

  • Boxed Lunches : Pre-purchased boxed lunches for Crown and Coach class passengers, packaged picnic-style. Enjoy on the train or during the layover. 
  • Rafting Add-On:  Includes a one-way trip to Nantahala Outdoor Center with a guided whitewater rafting trip back. 

Train Museum Be sure to see their Smoky Mountain Trains Museum (included with your ticket) with its collection of 7,000 Lionel engines, cars, and accessories and its impressive operating layout.

Watch Our Video!

Directions: Located in downtown Bryson City (45 Mitchell Street), about 65 miles west of Asheville. From Asheville, drive I-40 West to exit 27. Take US 74 for 40 miles to Exit 67 for Bryson City. At the end of the exit ramp, bear right. At the first light, turn right onto Main Street, then left onto Everett Street. At the first traffic light on Everett, turn left onto Mitchell Street for the railroad parking. The street address for GPS : use 45 Mitchell St, Bryson City, NC, for the parking area. 

Find much to do! Ride the train on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad before you explore their downtown shops and galleries, or paddleboard down the river. Nearby Deep Creek in the Smokies features camping, hiking, trout fishing and the ever-popular tubing. Raft the Nantahala River. And that's just the beginning!

train tours north carolina

Yellow Rose Rentals, Bryson City

train tours north carolina

Bryson City Lodging: Cabins, B&Bs & Hotels

Find a wide variety of lodging accommodations in Bryson City and the Great Smoky Mountains, including log cabin rentals, boutique hotels, bed and breakfast inns and campgrounds.

train tours north carolina

Explore Bryson City Travel Guide

Order a free 96-page vacation travel guide (or download a digital version) for the Bryson City area with things to do, dining and lodging for the Great Smoky Mountains. Includes the "All Aboard" official publication for the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

train tours north carolina

Bryson City Restaurants

For a small town, you'll find a nice variety of restaurants, ranging from southern home cooking to a brewery and gourmet dining. A nice reward after a day of exploring the Great Smokies and Nantahala River.

  • Bryson City, NC
  • THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride, Great Smoky Mtns Railroad
  • 5 Great Smoky Mountain Scenic Drives
  • Craggy Mountain Line Train Rides
  • Cherokee, NC and Eastern Band of Indians

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  • North Carolina Train Rides

North Carolina Scenic Train Rides (2024): A Complete Guide

Last revised: December 15, 2023

By:  Adam Burns

North Carolina scenic train rides have a lot to offer even though the state is not traditionally known for such attractions. 

Two of the country's more well-known operations are located there, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad at Bryson City and Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock. 

Their success can be largely attributed to two things; the beautiful and majestic Smoky Mountains, a region which enjoys more than 10 million visitors annually, and steam locomotives. 

Both railroads utilize such and they always draw large crowds. 

In addition, don't miss the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer (which occasionally operates Bonsal Sand 0-6-0T #7 and displays several other steamers) and the New Hope Valley Railway at Bonsal (about 25 miles southwest of Raleigh).  

Finally, catch a trolley ride at Charlotte Trolley, which operates historic equipment for visitors and tourists (you can also ride the city's new "Lynx" light  rail transit system). 

1857152357981671782689289667.jpg

State Rail History

North Carolina's railroad heritage begins in 1834 when the Wilmington & Raleigh Railroad (W&R) was chartered by Wilmington's business elite to connect its namesake cities. 

The year began with apprehension and disappointment when the state legislature declined a bond for the project in January. 

However, after promoters dropped this provision and instead moved towards a charter, the state gave the go-ahead. 

Another issue cropped up when the citizens of Raleigh did not want the railroad accessing their town.  To rectify this, officials decided to bypass the capital and reach Weldon where an interchange could be established with the Richmond & Petersburg. 

Construction of the W&R began in October, 1836 and was completed only a few years later on March 7, 1840. 

At a distance of 161.5 miles, it was then the world's longest railroad, even eclipsing the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road which had opened a 136-mile corridor between Charleston and Hamburg, South Carolina (directly across the Savannah River from Augusta) in October, 1833. 

In 1855 the W&R's name was changed to the Wilmington & Weldon (W&W) to more accurately reflect the railroad's termini.  

The W&W would go on to join the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, formed in 1900 through the merger of several smaller systems. 

There were five primary components of the original ACL.  Its earliest predecessor was the Petersburg Railroad, chartered in 1830.

It opened for service a few years later between its home city and Garysburg, North Carolina, just across the Roanoke River from Weldon.  

At Petersburg, a connection was established with the Richmond & Petersburg, completed between its namesake cities in 1838. 

Together, the two roads provided a direct route from Richmond to the Tarheel State.  As the 1840s dawned more connections from the south extended through service into South Carolina and beyond, such as the previously mentioned Wilmington & Weldon. 

During the industry's heyday, North Carolina boasted a wide range of railroading, from local short lines to coal trains in the western mountains (notably the Clinchfield Railroad). 

In addition, coastal operations could be found on the original Norfolk Southern at Elizabeth City and the ACL serving Wilmington.

While all of the state's railroad attractions are worth the visit, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is a must see.  It not only offers great scenery but guests also have the option of several different excursion packages, all in climate-controlled cars.

Finally, if you are interested in North Carolina scenic train rides that pertain to specific events, such as "The Polar Express," Halloween, Thomas the Tank Engine excursions, or fall foliage events please visit the  main tourist trains section of this website .

  • Charlotte Trolley

One of the more unique scenic train rides in North Carolina can be found at the Charlotte Trolley which tells the history of Charlotte's former interurban operations. The trolley operates on the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, and current has two cars operational.

  • Cherryville Model Railroad Club/Museum

This small organization is based inside Cherryville's restored Seaboard Air Line brick depot (completed in 1921).  There is no cost to view their layouts although they do accept donations.  The club normally operates on select days of the week.

  • Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Without question, the most popular of all North Carolina train rides can be found at the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City.

This attraction has been in operation since 1988 using tracks once owned by the venerable Southern Railway, which the company called its Murphy Branch.

Train rides are hosted throughout much of the year although they also offer special events, such as "Thomas The Train" and holiday festivities. The railroad is covered in more detail  here .

  • National Railroad Museum And Hall Of Fame

This small museum is located at Hamlet inside the Seaboard Air Line's beautifully restored depot which opened in 1900. 

It has been open since 1976 and tells the local railroad history via numerous exhibits, displays, and various other artifacts.  The facility is normally open each weekend.

  • New Hope Valley Railway

The New Hope Valley Railway, based in New Hill, hosts North Carolina train rides on trackage originally built by the New Hope Valley Railroad, which later part of the Seaboard Air Line system.

They currently have a multitude of various diesel locomotive switchers they use to power their trains along with one operable 0-4-0T steam locomotive. 

  • North Carolina Transportation Museum

The one place in the Tarheel State where both scenic train rides and a fabulous collection of preserved equipment can be experienced is at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. 

It is located in Spencer, situated on the former Southern Railway’s largest steam locomotive repair shops.

Today the museum sees tens of thousands annually and is housed in three of the former shop buildings (currently); the Bob Julian Roundhouse, the Flue Shop, and the Master Mechanics Shop.

As part of the museum they operate excursion trains on the museum grounds and is one of just two locations in the United States to feature the live steam locomotive version of Thomas the tank engine.

  • Excursions At A Glance

As you can see from the information presented here, there are a number of quality trains rides in NC to choose from. 

The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad (GMSR) and Tweetsie Railroad are top tourist destinations which attract riders from around the country. 

The former sees nearly 180,000 annually while the latter is regarded as one of the " Top 20 Events In The Southeast " according to Southeast Tourism Society (it is also recognized as the " Best Place To Take The Kids In The Blue Ridge Mountains " according to Blue Ridge Country Magazine). 

The history of these operations can be traced well back into the 19th century as the GMSR was built as the Western North Carolina Railroad's Murphy Branch (a later component of the modern Southern Railway) and the Tweetsie the narrow-gauge East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad (who's nickname was the "Tweetsie Railroad"). 

Overall, the state has a rich heritage with railroads, tracing their roots back to the movement of agriculture (tobacco and cotton), manufacturing, and textiles.  To some extent this remains the case today.

Finally, while this guide is geared towards NC scenic train rides as tourist attractions, the state's commuter and intercity services should also be mentioned. 

Few others offer such a vast collection of services as North Carolina.  The long term plans involve opening a passenger route from the Atlantic coast (Wilmington) to the mountains (Asheville) while linking the state's major cities in the process. 

To do this, several rail corridors abandoned years ago have been preserved for future use.  If not for this foresight the state's long-term objective would be impossible to accomplish. 

North Carolina also has plans to open high-speed service from Raleigh to Richmond, very near Amtrak's Northeast Corridor which begins at Washington, D.C. 

In addition, a connection to Virginia's capital city would open through connections to other Amtrak trains which will provide direct service into the Northeast. 

The initiative, of course, is a long-term endeavor but the future is promising in one of America's most forward-thinking states regarding passenger rail.  If you are interested in learning more about these  train rides in NC please click here .

  • Old Rock School Railway Museum

This museum is located in Valdese and operated by the Piedmont & Western Railroad Club.  They offer tours during the weekend of their extensive model layouts, by appointment only.

Piedmont Railroad Museum & Library, Inc. 

This relatively recent organization was formed in 2017 to preserve the rail history of central and eastern North Carolina. 

While the state was served by big names in this region such as the Southern, Atlantic Coast Line, and Seaboard Air Line there were also several mid-sized systems or short lines located there; names like the Norfolk Southern, Carolina & Northwestern, Atlantic & East Carolina Railway, Durham & Southern, and Piedmont & Northern. 

The group has plans to feature a museum and library named the Piedmont Model Railroad Park which will be open to the public. 

For the time being you can visit their hobby shop called the Piedmont Model Railroad Park Store at the Cary Towne Center.

  • Smoky Mountain Trains

This small organization is located in Bryson City in the western part of the state, which is also home to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.  The museum features an impressive collection of Lionel model trains and is open during select days of each week.

  • Tweetsie Railroad

The Tweetsie Railroad, based in Blowing Rock, North Carolina has been operating since 1957 and utilizes a section of the historic East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad (nicknamed the "Tweetsie," this classic narrow-gauge system once served both its namesake states).

If there are two North Carolina scenic train rides you should experience it is the Tweetsie and Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. 

Today, they use 3 miles of track to host trips, most often employing their, 4-6-0 "Ten wheeler", #12, to pull excursions. A further history of the railroad can be found  here  at the site.  Finally, for more reading about the original ET&WNC system please click  here .

  • Wilmington Railroad Museum

The Wilmington Railroad Museum is located in the port of Wilmington near the coast.  It first began in 1979 and in 1983 acquired the former Atlantic Coast Line freight depot, in which the organization is still housed today. 

They have several artifacts on-hand, a model train layout, as well as a small collection of rolling stock (this includes Atlantic Coast Line 4-6-0 #250 built by Baldwin in 1910).

  • Piedmont Railroad Museum & Library, Inc.

SteamLocomotive.com

Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives. 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website. 

It is quite staggering and a must visit!

© Copyright 2007-2024 American-Rails.com. All written content, photos, and videos copyright American-Rails.com (unless otherwise noted).

Welcome to Andrews Valley Rail Tours in Scenic Andrews, North Carolina

Reserve your tickets today, which ride is right for you.

We have three options for riding the rails at Andrews Valley Rail Tours.

RailBike Ride

1-The RailBike is electric pedal assisted and requires light pedaling. There is a 300lb weight limit (per person) on the RailBikes. 2-The Cart Ride holds 9 people in captain's chairs that swivel and have arm rests, with no pedaling required. 3-The Choo-Choo Speeder Ride is in our gas powered speeder and holds 2 people, with no pedaling required. ALL RIDES have individual seat belts for each rider.

The Details of Our Scenic Rail Tours

When you reach the beautiful little mountain town of Andrews, NC proceed to the Historic Andrews Depot at 345 Locust Street. To start on your scenic rail tour, head around to the track side of the building to the ticket office. There you can check in for a reservation you've already made, or if you would like to walk in, please call ahead to see if seats are available. Before boarding you will sign a waiver for each member of your group. Please be sure to be at the Depot 30 minutes before your reservation time. It's important to remember that your tour will last approximately 2 hours.

What to expect

  • Our RailBikes are pedal motor-assisted, similar to e-bikes.
  • To ride the RailBikes you should be able to pedal and walk without assistance (there are alternatives for those who cannot).
  • Riders must be at least 8 years of age .
  • No Pets Allowed.
  • There is a 300lb weight limit (per person) on the RailBikes .
  • Remember you will be on an open air Rail Tour.
  • Bring something to drink and a snack (drinks & snacks are available for purchase in the gift shop).
  • You can sign your waiver online when you purchase tickets, or waivers will also be available at the depot (please come a few minutes early if you need to sign them here).
  • You will then be escorted to the Rail Tour by our staff to be seated for very important SAFETY instructions.
  • Groups with an odd number of riders may find that they will need to be split into more than one RailBike to even out ridership numbers. Please call if this is the case with your group, to discuss options.
  • RailBike rider parties that are larger than 4 will be seated on consecutive RailBikes.
  • There are restrooms at the depot and at the tunnel.
  • Should there be inclement weather, such as lightning, heavy rain or storms, you will be able to re-book for another day, or if necessary, cancel your trip for a full refund.

Once you have settled into your seat, be sure to pay close attention to the attendant for ride instructions - safety of our riders is our number one priority.

Now it's time to relax and enjoy the ride aboard North Carolina's First RailBike Tour, and don't forget to have your camera ready for the 5-mile trip to the Historic Valley River Tunnel. Take in the views from our beautiful valley that offers you the opportunity to experience beautiful mountains, forests, and abundant wildlife. You'll see crystal clear mountain rivers and streams as you cross Historic open deck railroad bridges on your trip to the tunnel. Once there you'll have about 1/2 hour to check out the tunnel (which was hand carved by workers from Southern Railway in 1894) and the surrounding area. Please take care on your stroll as the terrain down to the river can get steep and rocky.

After your break, you will re-embark for the 5-mile trip back to Andrews, and we're sure you'll see things you missed on the trip out, so don't forget that camera!

Have Questions?

Be sure to read the details on this website, first. If you find you still have questions you can call Us @ (828) 557-4021

Or fill out the form below to email us.

North Carolina's First RailBike Tour - Andrews Valley Rail Tours

5 Memorable Train Day Trips You Can Take In North Carolina

train tours north carolina

OnlyInYourState Staff

Researched and written by our staff writer who enjoys contributing about their state for our site.

More by this Author

While North Carolina’s history is deeply rooted in the railway industry, including many cities that were once thriving railroad hubs, today we usually navigate our gorgeous state by car. Yet, there’s something nostalgic and unique about hopping on board to see the untouched wilderness throughout our state. These epic day train trips in North Carolina will get you from point A to point B in an unforgettable fashion.

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12 Unforgettable North Carolina Day Trips, One For Each Month Of The Year

12 Unforgettable North Carolina Day Trips, One For Each Month Of The Year

train tours north carolina

How fun is this? The best part is that many day train trips in North Carolina offer so much more than just a ride; you’ll be learning about history, seeing beautiful places, and creating lasting memories. Have you done any of these train trips – or plan to now? Let us know in the comments! For another totally memorable day trip, you have to visit the hidden castles in North Carolina – these sites are totally hidden gems and so much fun to explore! Need a place to stay while you’re exploring? Check out all the options on Kayak .

OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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More to Explore

Day train trips in north carolina.

What are the coolest attractions in North Carolina?

  • If you love history, you've got to plan a visit to the living history farm at Latta Plantation . You'll learn so much about 19th-century life!
  • If you're looking for a fun outing for kids, head to Discovery Zone or SciWorks, where there are so many interactive things to do that kids won't even realize how much they're learning. SciWorks even has a beautiful planetarium.
  • For a unique day trip, head to Sand Dollar Island off the coast of Morehead City and collect a few sand dollars to bring home.

What underrated places in North Carolina should I visit?

  • White Lake is an amazing spot to stop by in the summer, and you might even have it all to yourself! This spot near Elizabethtown often gets overlooked in favor of the larger coastal beaches.
  • If you love the Blue Ridge Parkway, take a drive through the 18 miles of Cherohala Skyway that make their way through our state. It offers views that you'll never forget!
  • When you're on the hunt for something truly unique, though, it's hard to top the Winston-Salem Clamshell . Inside, you'll learn the history of a project that never quite lived up to the expectations and you can enjoy a weird bit of history that not many people have noticed.

What are the best outdoor activities in North Carolina?

For outdoor fun, you can head to the beach, or to the mountains!

  • It's hard to top a hike through Jockeys Ridge State Park, where the dunes seem to stretch on forever. In the mountains, hike Grandfather Mountain to find the most remarkable views in the state.
  • If you prefer a more relaxing adventure, take a dune buggy or 4x4 out to see the wild horses of Corolla, or enjoy a day at the enormous North Carolina Zoo.

Related Articles

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  • The Friendly Small Town In North Carolina That's Perfect For A Summer Day Trip
  • This Epic One-Day Road Trip Across North Carolina Is Full Of Adventures From Sunrise To Sunset
  • Our 9 Favorite Day Trips To Take In North Carolina Before Winter Ends
  • The Gorgeous Tar River Has One Of The Most Underrated Fishing Spots In North Carolina
  • I Wandered Off-The-Beaten-Path And Discovered This Adorable Small-Town Diner In North Carolina
  • Your Ultimate Guide To Summer Fun In North Carolina
  • The Incredible Farm In North Carolina Where You Can Pick Buckets Of Berries

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Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

  • 226 Everett Street
  • Bryson City, NC 28713
  • Phone: (828) 586-8811
  • Visit Website

Travel through fertile valleys and down into mountain gorges. Offering 4 to 4.5 hour round-trip and special events in the beautiful Western North Carolina Mountains. Depot is in Bryson City, NC.

Discounts & Packages

  • AAA Discount
  • Discount - Group Rates

Group Tour/Motorcoach

  • Motorcoach Parking

Attraction Amenities

  • Public Restroom

Food and Beverage

  • Restaurant on Site
  • Snack Bar/Shop
  • Beverages Available

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train tours north carolina
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  • Highlights From This Tour!

    train tours north carolina

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    Please select a preferred pickup point to see pricing for this tour.

    No area 6 information available for this tour. Change your preferred pick up area or search the catalog for an area 6 version of this tour.

    $25 Per Person

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    Andrews valley rail tours – railbike ride, a breathtaking railbike ride.

    Enjoy a 10-mile round trip through the natural beauty and spectacular views of the Appalachian Mountains aboard North Carolina’s First RailBike Tour. Be sure to bring your camera, and have it ready for the trip to the Historic Valley River Tunnel. Take in the views from our beautiful valley that offers you the opportunity to experience beautiful mountains, forests, and abundant wildlife. You’ll see crystal-clear mountain rivers and streams as you cross Historic open-deck railroad bridges on your trip to the tunnel. Once there you’ll have about 1/2 hour to check out the tunnel (which was hand-carved by workers from Southern Railway in 1894) and the surrounding area. Please take care on your stroll as the terrain can get steep and rocky.

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    May 29, 2024

    Ncdot announces special train in june from raleigh to the u.s. open in pinehurst.

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    RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Transportation’s Rail Division announced that NC By Train , the state’s passenger rail service, will run a special train from Raleigh to this year’s U.S. Open in Pinehurst.

    “We’re thrilled to work with so many partners including Amtrak, Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway and the U.S. Golf Association to be able to offer this special trip experience,” said state Transportation Secretary Joey Hopkins. “Special trains and stops like this provide the opportunity to avoid potential traffic and parking issues at large events and also show people everything that’s possible when we improve and expand our intercity passenger rail.”

    The “Open Express” train will run daily between Raleigh Union Station and the Pinehurst Clubhouse near the Pinehurst No. 2 golf course from June 13-16, when championship play is scheduled for the U.S. Open. The practice rounds for the golf tourney are June 10-12.

    “We are delighted to work with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and other partners to offer this unique transportation option to the U.S. Open at Pinehurst,” Amtrak Vice President Ray Lang said. “This is an exciting, historic event and we welcome this opportunity to give golf fans an enjoyable, stress-free way to travel to and from Pinehurst with their friends and families.”

    The morning train will depart Raleigh Union Station at 7 a.m. and Cary at 7:15 a.m. and arrive in Pinehurst at approximately 9:10 a.m. The evening train will depart from the Pinehurst Clubhouse at 6:35 p.m. and arrive in Cary at about 8:30 p.m. and Raleigh Union Station about 15 minutes later.

    The “Open Express” train tickets are available for purchase now on Amtrak.com . Tickets are available on a first come, first serve basis and seating is limited. Tickets must be bought in advance of travel.  When purchasing online, type or select “Pinehurst NC” for your destination and return trip. Food and beverages will be available to purchase on board. Visit Amtrak.com for ticket prices and more information.

    Customers will access the championship rounds through Gate 10 adjacent to the Pinehurst Clubhouse, which is just a short walk from the Pinehurst No. 2 course.

    “Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway is proud to help the state of North Carolina provide such convenient passenger train travel for tournament attendees,” said Robert Menzies, founder and owner of Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway. “This can make the 30,000-40,000 daily visitors realize the conveniences of passenger rail travel in North Carolina and make the USGA’s Tournament a great worldwide event.”

    Taking NC By Train is an environmentally friendly and sustainable transportation choice that helps reduce congestion on the state’s highway system. Visit NC By Train for more information, to plan a trip, see available everyday discounts and buy tickets.

    Follow us on social media at Twitter/X and Instagram @NC_By_Train and NC By Train on Facebook and LinkedIn .

    Comments are closed.

    For More Information

    Kimberly Woods [email protected] Amtrak Contact 202 906.3860

    Liz Macam [email protected] Amtrak Contact 919-707-2693

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    State-sponsored North Carolina’s Amtrak The Piedmont and Carolinian trains are sponsored by NCDOT and operated by Amtrak. The service is paid for through state funding and passenger fares. North Carolina’s Amtrak fleet of two trains provides daily service to Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, nine other North Carolina cities, and to the Northeast. Complete schedule information is available at ncbytrain.org . Reservations are required. Travelers should book early for best fares. Tickets can be purchased at station ticket windows, automated ticket kiosks at all stations or online at ncbytrain.org .

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    News & Reviews News Wire North Carolina, Amtrak to run special trains to U.S. Open golf tournament

    North Carolina, Amtrak to run special trains to U.S. Open golf tournament

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    “Open Express” to operate via Aberdeen Carolina & Western June 13-16

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    RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s Department of Transportation has announced that the state will run special passenger train to this year’s U.S. Open golf championship at Pinehurst, N.C.

    The “Open Express” train  will run daily between Raleigh Union Station and the Pinehurst Clubhouse, near Pinehurst No. 2 golf course, during the June 13-16 tournament. The train will depart from Raleigh at 7 a.m., stop at Cary, N.C., at 7:15 a.m., and arrive at Pinehurst at approximately 9:10 a.m. Return trips will depart from the golf course at 6:35 p.m., arriving in Cary about 8:30 p.m. and in Raleigh about 8:45 p.m.

    “We’re thrilled to work with so many partners including Amtrak, Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway, and the U.S. Golf Association to be able to offer this special trip experience,” state Transportation Secretary Joey Hopkins said in a press release . “Special trains and stops like this provide the opportunity to avoid potential traffic and parking issues at large events and also show people everything that’s possible when we improve and expand our intercity passenger rail.”

    Tickets are now available on the Amtrak website , available on a first-come, first-served basis. Seating is limited. Tickets must be bought in advance. To purchase online, select “Pinehurst NC” as the destination and return trip. Ticket prices and more information are available at the Amtrak website; a check of the site today (Wednesday, May 29) shows round-trip prices starting at $50.

    “We are delighted to work with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and other partners to offer this unique transportation option to the U.S. Open at Pinehurst,” said Ray Lang, Amtrak vice president, state supported services. “This is an exciting, historic event and we welcome this opportunity to give golf fans an enjoyable, stress-free way to travel to and from Pinehurst with their friends and families.”

    Robert Menzies, founder and owner of the Aberdeen Carolina & Western, said his railroad “is proud to help the state of North Carolina provide such convenient passenger train travel for tournament attendees. This can make the 30,000-40,000 daily visitors realize the conveniences of passenger rail travel in North Carolina and make the USGA’s tournament a great worldwide event.”

    3 thoughts on “ North Carolina, Amtrak to run special trains to U.S. Open golf tournament ”

    It’s Amtrak but it’s run through the NC Dept. of Transportation. Amtrak really doesn’t make the decisions on these trains. It stays in the state and is state funded.

    Hard to believe. Amtrak is running extra service without 106 inside-the-beltway consultants’ reports.

    SEPTA transported people to the US Open at Merion Golf Club in 1971 and 1981 using 1920’s interurban cars (“Strafford Cars”) on the Norristown High Speed Line (Philadelphia & Western). The Open is coming back to Merion in 2030 and the Norristown Line is still running. Let’s see what happens.

    Don’t forget in 2014.

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    ' class=

    I will be taking Amtrak from North Carolina to Penn Station, New York. From there I plan to continue onward to Niagara Falls by bus from Midtown (31st St & 8th Ave). I've been hearing a lot about how the trains could be significantly delayed. The train is scheduled to arrive at 8:35pm, and there is a bus that is supposed to leave at 10:00pm. for anyone that's transferred through New York, would it be a safer bet to go ahead and book the bus ticket now so that I'm not waiting in line at the station or risking that the seats could be sold out? Or is the risk of a delay of an hour and a half significant enough that it would be better to wait until I got to the station and buy a ticket to whichever bus is the first one after the actual arrival time?

    12 replies to this topic

    ' class=

    It's currently three minutes before the last departure of the FlixBus from New York to Niagara Falls (NY), and there are tickets available. So it is, in theory, possible. Remember that you'll need more time than you think to get off the train, get upstairs to the main train hall, and outside. FlixBus leaves from DIRECTLY across 31st St. from the train hall, which is nice—with Penn Station you'd have to make your way across 8th Ave. too.

    If you are going to Niagara Falls, Ontario, it looks like you will need to change buses in Niagara Falls, New York.

    If you just take the nearest escalator from the platform when you get off the train, it is a crapshoot where you come up, the old Penn Station Amtrak concourse, then Penn Station Long Island Railroad level, or Moynihan. The Penn/Moynihan complex can be something of a maze, especially for the first time someone is there.

    To come up in Moynihan, you want to walk as far as you can to the rear of the train (west) and use the last escalators on that end of the platform.

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    1. 5 Ridiculously Charming Train Rides To Take In North Carolina

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    2. 5 Memorable Day Train Trips In North Carolina To Embark Upon

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    4. “THE POLAR EXPRESS” / NORTH CAROLINA TRANSPORTATION MUSEUM Tour

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    1. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

      Welcome to Your Next Greatest Adventure. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad historic train depot sits in the heart of Bryson City, North Carolina, and is a favorite regional attraction for family fun. A round-trip on the train is an ideal way to see extraordinary places that you can't get to by car. Get a front-row view of Fontana Lake, the ...

    2. 5 Scenic Train Rides In North Carolina You Have To Take

      No matter the season, these five scenic train rides in North Carolina will leave you in awe of the unparalleled beauty of the Tar Heel State. 1. Nantahala Gorge Excursion. GSMR. Offered through the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, the Nantahala Excursion departs from Bryson City.

    3. 10 Great Train Rides in North Carolina

      New Hope Valley Railway. North Carolina Transportation Museum. The Polar Express (GSMR) The Smoky Mountain Beer Run (GSMR) Tuckasegee River Excursion (GSMR) Tweetsie Railroad. READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Visit in North Carolina. Historic Train at the Cradle of Forestry, photo courtesy Recreation.gov.

    4. Top 11 Scenic Train Rides In North Carolina, USA

      3. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Based in the state of Georgia, Blue Ridge Scenic Railway has a route that departs from Blue Ridge, passes through the North Carolina borders, and stops in McCaysville, Georgia, Copperhill, and Tennessee. The view while traveling is quite fascinating.

    5. The 8 Best Train Rides in the Smoky Mountains of NC & TN

      1. Nantahala Gorge Excursion. GSMR's longest trip is their ever-popular Nantahala Gorge Excursion, which covers 44 miles and takes about 4.5 hours. This NC mountain train ride runs through the Nantahala National Forest, along the Nantahala and Tennessee Rivers, and crosses a trestle over Fontana Lake.

    6. 5 Stunning Train Rides To Take In North Carolina

      Train travel is back, and in North Carolina there are plenty of ways to enjoy all the nostalgic joys of a leisurely ride. From day trips cutting through the Great Smoky Mountains to 30-minute cruises where you can learn the state's railway history, check out these 5 incredible train rides in the Tar Heel State.

    7. 5 Most Scenic Train Rides in North Carolina

      Craggy Mountain Line - Asheville. Best Places to Stay. North Carolina's Craggy Mountain Line is the pipsqueak of the bunch. Its past life was lived as an original trolley car for Asheville's public transportation that came about in the late 1800's. The Craggy Mountain Lines never left Asheville and is located just a 30-minute drive north ...

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      For travel planning, remember the train only runs on Saturdays at 4 p.m. Related Articles 10 Best Mountain Towns to Visit in North Carolina, According to Local Experts

    9. 8 Scenic Train Rides in the Great Smoky Mountains

      Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers a scenic rail tour through the mountains of North Carolina, along the Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, across valleys, and through tunnels. All train journeys depart from the depot in downtown Bryson City. All the trips are ideal for unforgettable experiences!

    10. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Scenic Train

      The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers scenic train excursions through the North Carolina mountains along Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, across valleys and through tunnels. All of the train rides depart from the depot in downtown Bryson City (near Cherokee ). Their variety of trips and special event trains (like THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train ...

    11. North Carolina Scenic Train Rides (2024): A Complete Guide

      This museum is located in Valdese and operated by the Piedmont & Western Railroad Club. They offer tours during the weekend of their extensive model layouts, by appointment only. Piedmont Railroad Museum & Library, Inc. This relatively recent organization was formed in 2017 to preserve the rail history of central and eastern North Carolina.

    12. Andrews Valley Rail Tours

      Welcome to Andrews Valley Rail Tours in Scenic Andrews, North Carolina. RESERVE YOUR TICKETS TODAY. $59.99. PER PERSON. Book Now. ... Now it's time to relax and enjoy the ride aboard North Carolina's First RailBike Tour, and don't forget to have your camera ready for the 5-mile trip to the Historic Valley River Tunnel. Take in the views from ...

    13. 5 Epic Train Rides Everyone Must Take In North Carolina

      3. New Hope Valley's Triangle Train. 3900 Bonsal Rd, New Hill, NC 27562, USA. Triangle Train. Just 30 minutes outside of Raleigh, you can have a historic experience aboard this open-air train. The train ride takes you through some of North Carolina's most scenic forests.

    14. 5 Memorable Day Train Trips In North Carolina To Embark Upon

      2. Nantahala Gorge Excursion. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, 45 Mitchell St, Bryson City, NC 28713, USA. Grand Smoky Mountains Railroad. Also offered through Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is the Nantahala Gorge Excursion. Departing from Bryson City, the four-and-a-half-hour ride takes you along the Nantahala River.

    15. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

      Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. 226 Everett Street. Bryson City, NC 28713. Phone: (828) 586-8811. Visit Website. |. Travel through fertile valleys and down into mountain gorges. Offering 4 to 4.5 hour round-trip and special events in the beautiful Western North Carolina Mountains. Depot is in Bryson City, NC.

    16. CHEROKEE, NC GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS RAILWAY Tour

      What better way to see the Mountains of North Carolina than to see them by Train! ... NORTH CAROLINA ZOO ASHEBORO, NC 1 days | Tour date: 05/11 $ 75.00 - $ 90.00. Save Tour. Save Tour. Contact Us. Sunshine Tours 4430 Cleburne Blvd. Dublin, VA 24084. Phone: 800-552-0022 (toll-free)

    17. Smoky Mountain Rail Adventure

      Gaze upon lush forests and panoramic mountain views while on a half-day tour of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tour America's largest home and the gardens that surround it while visiting the Biltmore Estate. View Dates & Pricing. Call to book 1-877-929-7245. Enquire about this tour.

    18. NC By Train

      Experience a new way to take the train with Amtrak. Get simple and intuitive access to all the travel information you need… Amtrak Mobile Apps & Access. Follow Us. Facebook X (Twitter) NC.gov Home Employee Directory Accessibility ...

    19. Andrews Valley Rail Tours

      Enjoy a 10-mile round trip through the natural beauty and spectacular views of the Appalachian Mountains aboard North Carolina's First RailBike Tour. Be sure to bring your camera, and have it ready for the trip to the Historic Valley River Tunnel. ... Andrews Valley Rail Tours Our Location. PHONE: (828) 557-4021. HOURS: Wed thru Sun: Tours at ...

    20. NCDOT Announces Special Train in June from Raleigh to the U.S. Open in

      "This can make the 30,000-40,000 daily visitors realize the conveniences of passenger rail travel in North Carolina and make the USGA's Tournament a great worldwide event." Taking NC By Train is an environmentally friendly and sustainable transportation choice that helps reduce congestion on the state's highway system.

    21. Andrews Valley Rail Tour

      Andrews Valley Rail Tour. Arrive at the Historic Andrews, NC Depot and climb aboard your one of a kind authentic Speeder Cart Tour. This exciting attraction will take you 5 miles into the mountains and wilderness that offers you the opportunity to see awe inspiring landscapes,, forests, views of abundant wildlife while viewing crystal clear ...

    22. North Carolina, Amtrak to run special trains to U.S. Open golf

      RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina's Department of Transportation has announced that the state will run special passenger train to this year's U.S. Open golf championship at Pinehurst, N.C. The "Open Express" train will run daily between Raleigh Union Station and the Pinehurst Clubhouse, near Pinehurst No. 2 golf course, during the June 13-16 tournament.

    23. CATS: No Charlotte trains this weekend

      Updated: 1:32 PM EDT June 3, 2024. CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you plan to use the LYNX Blue Line or CityLYNX Gold Line this weekend, you're out of luck. Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) will ...

    24. Amtrak to New York, then onward by bus

      6 reviews. 6 helpful votes. Amtrak to New York, then onward by bus. May 26, 2024, 6:45 PM. I will be taking Amtrak from North Carolina to Penn Station, New York. From there I plan to continue onward to Niagara Falls by bus from Midtown (31st St & 8th Ave). I've been hearing a lot about how the trains could be significantly delayed.

    25. NCDOT Announces Special Train in June from Raleigh to the U.S. Open in

      "This can make the 30,000-40,000 daily visitors realize the conveniences of passenger rail travel in North Carolina and make the USGA's Tournament a great worldwide event." Taking NC By Train is an environmentally friendly and sustainable transportation choice that helps reduce congestion on the state's highway system.

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      North Carolina saw $35.6 billion in visitor spending in 2023, the highest amount ever, according to new data from the state's tourism arm, Visit North Carolina. In terms of jobs, the state's ...

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      Last week, Donald J. Trump became the first U.S. former president to be convicted of a crime when a jury found that he had falsified business records to conceal a sex scandal. Nate Cohn, who is ...