The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is certainly the most sought-after ticket in all of North Carolina. With such a stunning stretch of the Blue Ridge Mountains to explore just outside of Bryson City, it’s no wonder this railroad is still in such high demand. Originally the Murphy Branch of the Western North Carolina Railroad, these tracks were laid in 1880 and effectively connected Asheville to the rest of America. This 53-mile span of railroad track cuts through some of the most scenic stretches of land in Appalachia, including mountain tunnels and 25 bridges, and offers unique experiences you can’t find anywhere else. Rail adventures that are always on offer include the Nantahala Gorge Excursion, a beautiful traverse cutting 44 miles through alpine forests, and the Tuckasegee River Excursion, which chugs 32 miles in unison with the powerful Tuckasegee River itself.
Look through their full list of special train journeys, which include the Carolina Moonshine Experience and holiday events like the Polar Express. Tickets range in class from a fancy affair in Adult First Class, Premium Open Air Gondola, and Crown Class to humble rides in Coach Class and the Open Air Gondola. Depending on which option you choose, your ride length can range from 3 ½ hours to an entire day! Both historic steam locomotives and diesel trains are used; although steam engines are undoubtedly the most magical experience, it can be difficult to snag these limited tickets. Whether your interest is thoroughly peaked post-train ride or you’re an avid rail buff and trainspotter, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Model Train Museum is a delight with its vast collection and the perfect finale to your visit.
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