The drive is worth the drive from Bryson City, so I wouldn't worry there. Loads of things to see along the way: more than you can enjoy in a day, or three, and that's without getting into hiking options. Ideally you could spend a night on this side of the park to take advantage of all the sightseeing opportunities at a more relaxed pace. While in Bryson City be sure to check out Deep Creek, an idyllic entrance of the national park with a two mile trail that takes you by three high-quality waterfalls. My most favourite short waterfall hike in the park. Take Galbraith Creek Road on your way in or out to enjoy a short back country road with the windows down.
Now that sounds like an adventure we will have to explore next time down. Have never really been to that side of the park. Sounds like we are missing a lot.
We've only rode the Polar Express at Christmas, but we loved it! I'm hoping to do a summer sight-seeing excursion soon.Edited: 26 January 2010, 13:33
>> Have never really been to that side of the park. Sounds like we are missing a lot. <<
No doubt! Loads and loads of things to see, especially considering you've got Nantahala National Forest there as well as the North Carolina side of the national park.
The railroad is pretty as you take it out of Bryson City and into the Nantahala Gorge. Have ridden it twice with my kids. Then again we spend a lot time boating on Lake Fontana so the experience of the train in terms of the lake was not as impressive to them. With that said, the train ride is nice and if the weather is warm a ride in those open air cars is great.
Bryson City is the anti-pigeon forge of the Smokies. It is a quaint mountain town surrounded by mountains. No big outlets, no gokart tracks, no traffic jams, just a great little town. If you do this trip, my favorite places to eat at Jimmy Macs next to Ace, Pasquilinos on Everett Street and the BBQ Wagon.
The town is an unsung hero of Great Smoky Mountains National ParkSmoky Mountains National Park with Deep Creek offering nice family oriented hiking and Lake Shore Drive offering an off the beaten path drive on the national park along with some nice views of Lake Fontana and the Snowbird Mountain Range to the West.
If the weather is warm, white water rafting is king or a flatwater paddle on Lake Fontana or pontoon boat rental at Almond Boat Park is nice too.
If you are into mountain biking, Tsali is a great trail system and road biking is excellent too. I like the charm of the place, the simplicity of it all compared to the hustle and bustle of other places in the Smokies.
That South side of the Smokies offers some of the most beautiful/wonderful drives/rides you'll ever find! You can spend a weekend exploring the local roads.
Sorry this is late - I just saw your post. The ride is worth it from Pigeon Forge. We love taking the train ride. We always get the club car since our kids are grown and gone now. In that car they serve food and soft drinks and juice included in the ticket price. And no kids are allowed in that car - only adults with tickets for the car. We find it to be a very relaxing ride with some very nice scenery. We have done the trip about four times.
We did the trip a few years ago. We got the air conditioned car, but they didn't serve food. We had our 13 year old son with us. We were able to go to the open air car, but the people with tickets for the open air car couldn't come into the a/c car. The open air was nice until you went through the tunnels, then it was pretty yukky. We loved the trip. It was well worth it. We went from Gatlinburg, then to Cherokee for a couple of days. We also visited the Biltmore from Cherokee. Beautiful scenery on the way to both places.
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