Tennessee Fall Foliage By Train, Boat, and Air

A sightseeing trip to see Tennessee’s autumn leaf display doesn’t have to be a drive in a car. You can leave the navigation to someone else and jump aboard a train, boat, or air.

By Train:

Ride the historic Hiwasee River Railroad through Cherokee National Forest. The train departs from the L&N Depot and Museum in Etowah and enters the Hiwassee River Gorge. The trip lasts about 3.5 hours; longer excursions are also available.

Tennessee Valley Railroad in Chattanooga operates excursions to Missionary Ridge, Chickamauga and all-day trips to Summerville, Georgia. Trains depart from the Grand Junction, site of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, and run on the historic route that includes the Missionary Ridge Tunnel.

The Secret City Scenic Excursion Train is operated by the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum in Oak Ridge. The 1940s train, pulled by a 1950s diesel locomotive, departs from the Heritage Center (formerly K-25) and winds along Poplar Creek for about 14 miles.

Check websites for train schedules and make reservations during peak weekends in October.

By Boat:

Star of Knoxville, the 325-pasenger paddlewheeler operated by the Tennessee River Boat Co., departs from Volunteer Landing Marina for a sightseeing journey. The Volunteer Princess, a 100-foot yacht, offers a gourmet lunch and cruise for viewing the foliage along Knoxville riverbanks.

In Chattanooga, the 500-passenger Southern Belle Riverboat has several cruises a day, including dining cruises. The three-decked paddlewheeler-style boat departs from Pier 2 in downtown. Two hour cruises aboard the Tennessee River Gorge Explorer go downstream past the foot of Lookout Mountains and into Tennessee’s Grand Canyon. This 70-passenger hydrofoil assisted vessel travels upstream for sightseeing through downtown and to the Chickamauga Dam on the “Seven Bridges Cruise.” Check out this video.

Color pontoon boat trips are available at Norris Dam Marina. Norris Lake State Park rangers narrate the trip and share information about tree species and history of the region. Trips run  four times daily Oct. 13-28. Friends of Edgar Evins State Park will host a fall color cruise on Nov 3. The group will begin accepting reservations on Oct. 1.

By Air:

The possibilities seem endless! Helicopter rides and hot air balloon rides are available from private companies and vendors in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Dandridge and White Pine for sweeping views of the Smokies. The Hiwassee River Valley can be seen from a glider. It departs with its tow plane from Chilhowee Gliderport in Benton.

You can soar like an eagle from a hang glider at the 44-acre Lookout Mountain Flight Park and Resort. Certified instructors give comprehensive training. First-timers may opt to fly tandem with an instructor piloting the hang glider.

Anyone else have ideas for alternate modes of travel to take in East Tennessee’s beautiful fall foliage?


Hi! I’m Linda Lange. As a travel writer living in Knoxville, I fully appreciate barbecue, bluegrass and Dollywood. My...Read on



    helen johnson

    I’m interested in a train ride real train from chat. Tenn.

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