One of my favorite places to visit here in North Carolina is Bryson City, located in the western part of the state. Bryson City is home to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, a very popular attraction for locals and tourists alike. I absolutely love riding on the train, especially in the fall or spring of the year when the colors are bold and bright. It’s something that my family and I try to do at least once a year. 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of the GSM railroad, and during each of those years, 200,000 visitors have enjoyed the beautiful scenery of North Carolina’s mountains by taking a ride!
During the holidays there are special excursions like the wintertime Polar Express, or the upcoming July 4th Freedom Train, which will include one of the biggest fireworks displays in the state. All throughout the year, though, there are 2 main excursions to choose from when you visit the railroad. You can choose the Tuckasegee River Excursion or the Nantahala Gorge Excursion. Each one takes off in Bryson City and each trip is packed with amazing views and entertainment.
The Tuckasegee River Excursion takes you through some of the prettiest countryside in the state. It’s a relaxing and peaceful 4-hour trip that seems to go by way too fast! I’ve been on this trip twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. The main stop on the excursion is in the picturesque town of Dillsboro. Dillsboro has been a popular tourist town since the train started rolling through back in the late 19th century. If you’re looking for a vintage, nostalgic town, this is the place. There are lots of old-timey stores and restaurants to enjoy while you’re there and many local artists who work with clay, glass, metals and gems. And just like our coastal area is known for being a popular movie filming location (all of Nicholas Sparks’ books are based in NC and the movies are filmed here), the mountains have a claim to fame too! While you’re on the Tuckasegee River Excursion you’ll pass right by the movie set where The Fugitive (with Tommy Lee Jones & Harrison Ford) was filmed.
The 2nd main trip, The Nantahala Gorge Excursion, is another fantastic ride. You travel alongside the beautiful Nantahala River, while listening to Appalachian stories being told and bluegrass music being played. It will definitely put you in the country spirit! The Nantahala River area is a dream for anyone who loves the outdoors and outdoor activities. There’s canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, waterfalls and much more to do while you’re there. You’ll also cross over the historic Trellis Bridge, which will take you across Fontana Lake. The lake is held in place by the Fontana Dam, the highest dam east of the Rockies. It holds back around 30 miles of water!
No matter which excursion you take, you’re sure to have a great time. I think the GSM Railroad is really one of the best ways to take in all of the beauty that the NC mountains have to offer. I’m a mountain girl at heart, so I always feels right at home sitting back in the open car of the train, feeling the wind and enjoying all of the stunning scenery as the train drifts on down the tracks.
Have a great weekend everyone!