Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
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About
A 52-mile rail journey through valleys, inside winding tunnels and across spectacular gorges of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Suggested duration
1-2 hours
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
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4.0
3,583 reviews
Excellent
1,902
Very good
773
Average
430
Poor
260
Terrible
218

John W
Athens, GA55 contributions
Oct 2022
We booked an excursion in First Class for the Nantahala trip on the steam train. We also had purchased a guidebook in advance to be picked up. We had paid for parking. The parking experience (gravel lot) was slow and bad. No one checked to see who had paid. When we figured out where to pick up our tickets, it was chaotic. We then had to find their store to pick up the guidebook, which meant standing in another line. They do not put their own package together for pick-up in one location (!!). We suspect this is the real reason they tell you to get there an hour early.

Boarding (remember, this is first class) was slow and cumbersome. It was hard for some older people to make it up the stairs, and then you had to go through at least two cars. It was just as bad disembarking at the intermediate and final stop
Bathroom options at the depot and the Nantahala Center were awful. LInes at each, especially for the ladies.

What made the ride better was our guide (Connie) who did her best in a car where the audio was not working and the air alternated from non-existent to like a meat locker. She was upbeat and informative. The folks we sat next to were also great, and helped turn a two star experience into three stars.

The food (pot roast) was mediocre to passable, but that's not why you come to ride the train.

The real problem is that the ride is just not that scenic. As others have noted, you are hemmed in by banks and kudzu on parts of the journey and forests on other parts. There are some good views, but you can see more on the Blue Ridge Parkway by driving it just a few miles for free. Also, we were not impressed by the Nantahala Outdoor Center. It's on the river but not especially scenic.
Written October 27, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

TarHeel
Durham, NC1,004 contributions
Aug 2022
After years of reading about this railroad, we finally booked a trip that included a train ride and whitewater rafting trip. To be honest, the rafting trip was the best part. When you sign up online, they make it seem like you have to pay to park (if you arrive early enough and drive around town, you can find free parking) and that lunch was included (but you still have to order and pay for it). We arrived early enough to pick up our tickets at will call and to check in with the raft outfitters. Nobody told where to pick up our box lunches and we got all the way to our train car before going back to the food stall and getting our boxes. It was neat to have a "storyteller" walking around giving bits of history, but other than some nice areas around the lake, you don't really see much from the train. We probably wouldn't do this again.
Written August 27, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Tami B
Thomaston, GA5 contributions
Oct 2022
The atmosphere is like that of a tourist town. There are shops and things downtown. The train ride we took was to the Nantahala excursion at peak season of color change it was beautiful. We purchased Crown tickets but I would go with the more expensive one next time. Crown was nice but the more expensive had a place to set drinks, the windows would open for clearer photos, and you are closer to the steam engine to hear the whistle better and experience the steam engine sounds. If you are looking for a nostalgic experience this one might get you half way there. They loaded the train on time, there was live music that passed through the car at least once on the way into the gorge and once on the way out. You are encouraged to swap seats with the other side to get a different view on the return as the train does not turn around. Drinks were served and there were other items you could purchase. We purchased our box lunch which was Chicken Salad and it was good. My only complaint is with the public restroom facilities - they were a mess and some had no toilet paper.
Written October 27, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Raymond L. Wyrick
Statesville, NC102 contributions
Apr 2022 • Friends
Upon arrival & checking in & getting our boarding passes we asked if the train museum & gift shops would be open when our train trip returned later in day. The Depot manager called the gift shop & museum area by radio to ask about their times & he was told they'd be open until 6. Our trip returned close to 5:00 pm & upon entering the store & asking we were told the museum was closed & store was closing in about 8 minutes & ckerks seem to want us to leave. Also during our train excursion we expected a 1 hour stop at the Nantahala Outdoor Center & it was actually less than 30 minutes with no time to do mrethan get off & stretch. I expected much better for the cost of an excursion & the somewhat rude behavior of the gif shop & museum staff was unwelcomed.
Written April 30, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Heaven S
1 contribution
Dec 2021 • Couples
My partner and I bought tickets for this train ride back in July. We've both been fully vaccinated and had our boosters, so we felt a bit safer doing this experience knowing that masks would be required.

Well, once the hostess started talking about the mask requirements she said, "TSA wants me to inform you that masks must be worn at all times unless eating or drinking - but this is first class so don't feel like you have to wear your masks the entire time." Then of course everyone started clapping and laughing and everyone took off their masks and they never went back on. None of the staff wore masks, at least none in our car.

Really tone-deaf.

This is completely unacceptable behavior. These folks believe they are above the law. I'm not a person to write up a bad review but this situation was infuriating. We are in the middle of a global pandemic that isn't getting any better due to attitudes like this.
This was a situation that we were supposed to feel more comfortable with because masks were supposed to be enforced.

We did the Tuskegee River Excursion (I believe) and I think the attendants name was Maddie, we were in the Catamount Car on the 27th of December - and this really should be addressed.

I spent a good amount of money on these tickets for a small vacation for me and my partner and I'm honestly so disappointed in how the "precautions" were handled.

Truly wish I could get a refund for this trip, as we would never have purchased tickets if we had known they were not following their own advertised COVID protocols.
Written December 27, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Rdrunnr
DeLand, FL79 contributions
Jul 2022 • Family
If you like kudzu, that green invasive vine that completely covers and consumes trees and foliage, this train ride is for you. 90% of the view out the windows of this train is nothing but kudzu covered brush. A few nice cue views of Fontana Lake and quick glimpses of the Nantahala River are not worth the price of this “scenic” train ride. I’ve ridden the Durango & Silverton train, in Colorado, and this train is nothing at all like that one. We got the box lunches, which were ok but certainly not worth the $13 charged for them. Small sandwich, bag of chips and a cookie, and a warm bottled water. Even my 5 year old grandson quickly got bored of looking at nothing out the windows of this train and was whining “How long do we have to be on this train?” after the first hour of this 5 hour mistake.
Written July 14, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

soupson2015
Paducah, KY22 contributions
Oct 2022
What a terrible disappointment. First off, I had paid $6.00 for parking. Parking passes were never checked. Every car was admitted to parking area. Even though I had paid I still was directed to an area well over a block away and had to walk on gravel to get to the Depot. Once at the Depot, I was told we would be boarding at area #6. Once again this was a lengthy walk of probably 1/2 mile. This time on gravel and railroad tracks. They did have a very limited number of golf carts to transport people but were always full the few times I did see one.
The trip couldn't have been a bigger disappointment. Mostly what was seen from the train was overgrown kudzu. Occasionally Cumberland Lake would be visible but mostly what was seen was dry lake bed as the lake had already been dropped to winter pool. It was so low that boat docks were sitting abandoned on dry ground.
The one hour layover at the Outpost was an absolute joke. Saw nothing there that was even remotely worth getting off the train for. Additionally, there were so many cars hooked to the train that day, it would have been another extremely long walk on gravel along railroad tracks to get to the Outpost.
So many cars were attached to the steam engine this day that we only got a couple of glimpses of it as it rounded curves.
We had coach class tickets and many of the seats were ripped and showing signs of wear.
Upon disembarkment back at the station, the long walk back to the depot on gravel and railroad tracks was still ahead of us and then the long walk back to where our vehicle was parked.
I was seriously disappointed in this adventure. I have personally know people in the past who have taken this trip and truly enjoyed it. I feel the trip has been in serious decline and some drastic improvements are needed.
It is certainly overpriced as mostly what is visible along the 4.5 hour ride is kudzu and a dry lake.
Written October 25, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

fraunies
Wisconsin Rapids, WI27 contributions
Oct 2022
This day, the littles (children, grandchildren) went to Gatlinburg, and we (grandparents) decided to have a quiet day on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. The drive up there (through the park) was beautiful. Cherokee NC has a nice park to visit on the way if time is on your side, however once we got to Bryson our expectations of the day slipped. We prepaid for parking - not understanding that we'd be walking about 3/4's of a mile to where we got on the train. The parking iot is not paved so wear good soled shoes! The bottoms of my feet were sore by the time we got to the train loading area as I was not wearing the proper footwear. It was a beautiful day so we chose an open air car..no complaints there. The ride is about an hour and a half one way, with another hour plus layover at a beautiful park. We brought our picnic lunch and enjoyed the scenery at the park. (There is hot food for purchase as well). On the way back we sat on the other side of the train so we could see that side of the views. Again, we had the long walk back to the car so from the time we arrived to the station, unloaded and got to the car it was another hour added on to the day. Plan accordingly - we were rushed as we arranged to pick up the littles at a specified time.
Written October 15, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Jason B
Wildomar, CA30 contributions
Sep 2021
Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience is a must. Our Guides Steve B and Steven (aka Steve squared) made the moonshine tasting a truly excellent experience. The pulled pork meal was very good. Steve B was very knowledgeable of the local area's history and area's attractions for after the tour.
Spend the extra money for the first class or moonshine package, you get a tour guide, If not you will not know what you are looking at and the layover at NOC gets crowded for food
Written October 10, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Joseph T
New Port Richey, FL28 contributions
Nov 2021
We took the Tuckaseegee River Excursion. The train left at 10:30 AM and arrived in Dillsboro at 12:10 Pm for what we expected, as advertised to be a 1 1/2 hour layover. We were told to be back on the train by 1:10 PM. By the time we were allowed to get off the train, about 12:20 PM, we had 50 minutes in town. That gave us just enough time to walk into the RNR Tavern, located 50 feet from the track, eat a quick lunch and get back on the train. So much for the hour and a half layover. We didn't even have the time to explore the town. We got off the train, ate lunch, and got back on the train, and headed back to Bryson City.
The route was along the river and the river was lined with RV parks, junkyards, and abandoned cars. We did get to ride by The North Pole as The Polar Express starts tonight. The train ride was very slow. Our "hostess" on board the Piedmont car said that she was handling two train cars but she would get us our drinks and "you won't go thirsty". There was a coffee station at the head of the car. Wanting a cup of coffee after lunch, both coffee urns were empty. You would think that while people were off the train would be a great time to replenish the urns but that didn't happen. After we said something, she brought one small urn and provided coffee but it didn't last and before we got back to Bryson City, people wanted more coffee but it was empty so they didn't get any.
In my opinion, this was an expensive trip, over $150 per couple, only to arrive long enough to have a quick lunch and go back. If you want to go to Dillsboro from Bryson City, drive your car the 16 miles and explore the city and enjoy your lunch on your own time. You'll be glad you did. This was a big waste of time and money.
Written November 11, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (Bryson City) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

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Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is open:
  • Sun - Sat 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM