The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will take you on a journey through the Carolina Mountains and some of the most beautiful landscapes in America. The Carolina Mountains border the entire western edge of North Carolina, comprising some 52 percent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The region also includes the southern crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pisgah, Cherokee, and Nantahala National Forests. Hundreds of years ago, glacial and volcanic movement left etchings still visible on the land. In more recent times, roads and flood controls have opened the area to commerce and tourism.Early in the 20th century, the railway played a major part of the story of the development of the region.
As you ride through the mountains, keep your eyes open! There are 125 varieties of trees in Western North Carolina, including hemlock, yellow buckeye, umbrella magnolia, oak, birch, sugar maple, mountain ash, Fraser fir, and short needle pine. Wild blackberries and blueberries are abundant in their seasons. In spring the mountains are alive with dogwood, redbud, flame azaleas, and mountain laurel blooms.
The coming of summer heralds rosebay rhododendron and an almost endless variety of wildflowers. In the fall, many of these plants show their bright berries, while the trees glow in all shades of red, russet, yellow, and orange. A nature lover can enjoy more than 1,000 species of flowering plants, 200 birds, and more than100 species of fish and animals.
This delightful mountain vacationland is like a nature conservancy dotted with small towns. Old railroad depots are located in three historic towns; Dillsboro (no current departures), a village of shops and crafts; Bryson City, located on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; and Andrews (no current departures), a scenic valley town in the Snowbird Mountains. All were founded in the 1800s and have retained some of their original character, adding to their historic charm.