If you saw “Our Favorite RV Campgrounds for Fall Colors in the Smoky Mountains!“, you might remember us talking about the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City, NC, and saying, “We need to come back here and ride that train!”

Luckily, we could book a ride before all of the leaves were done falling, and Chad's parents were able to join us. 😊

Bryson City, NC

The GSMR is located in Bryson City, North Carolina, which is a great little mountain town we've visited many times since Chad's parents live nearby. Like many of our favorite small towns, this one has no lack of places to shop and eat!

Bryson City, North Carolina, is a quaint, picturesque small town in the Great Smoky Mountains. Renowned for its natural beauty and outdoor recreational activities, it serves as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The town offers a perfect blend of natural wonders and cultural heritage. The Tuckasegee River, flowing through Bryson City, is a haven for fishing, kayaking, and white-water rafting enthusiasts. The downtown area, though small, is charming and filled with unique shops, cozy eateries, and local art galleries, reflecting the town's rich Appalachian culture.

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

The GSMR has many variations of trips you can book online, over the phone, or in person for either of two lines: one from Bryson City to Dillsboro and another from Bryson to the Nantahala Gorge. They also offer several types of cars with varying amenities on those two lines and have various specialty rides, like a moonshine tour and the very popular Polar Express, based on the movie of the same name.

They also offer some trips that include their steam train! The #1702 locomotive dates back to 1942, when the engine’s construction was an officially commissioned WWII steam engine. It is of the world’s largest engine class and is one of two remaining in the United States. We LOVED the steam whistle!

We highly recommend checking out their website for more details, as there's way more than we can go into here.

Nantahala Gorge Trip

We booked the Steam Train to the Nantahala Gorge, which travels over the historic Fontana Trestle across Fontana Lake. Our tour guide (there is one per car) was Jacob, and he was awesome, pointing out everything so we didn't miss anything!

One of the most interesting features of our trip was Fontana Lake, which is a reservoir impounded by the Fontana Dam in the early 1940s.

Created between 1942 and 1944, the lake was formed by the construction of Fontana Dam, the highest dam east of the Rockies, built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). This was part of the greater effort during World War II to generate electricity for the burgeoning war industry, particularly the production of aluminum for aircraft. The damming of the Little Tennessee River led to the creation of this deep, 29-mile-long lake. The creation of Fontana Lake and Dam had significant impacts on the surrounding communities, including the displacement of hundreds of families and the submerging of numerous roads, homes, and structures. Additionally, the lake's borders touch the southern boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it a scenic and recreational hub while also serving as a reminder of the sacrifices made for wartime industrial efforts.

Polar Express

The GSMR has started running their “Polar Express” trips, which is an amazing experience for families with kids, or even just adults who love the story.

The Polar Express Train Ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad offers a magical holiday experience inspired by the beloved children's book and film “The Polar Express.” This enchanting journey takes passengers on a scenic ride through the frosty wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountains.

As the train chugs along, guests are treated to a live reading of the classic story, complete with hot chocolate and cookies, just like in the tale. The highlight of the trip is a visit to the “North Pole,” where children can see Santa Claus and receive a special gift. This festive excursion is a dream come true for fans of the story, creating unforgettable memories and bringing the spirit of the holidays to life.

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