Geotourism Mapguide: A travel guide to the places most respected and recommended by locals.
  Train Excursions

Hiwassee River Rail Adventure - Scenic Train Ride

Train Crossing Hiwassee River in Reliance
Train heading to the Loop
Train crossing Hiwassee river.
Engine traveling under the Loop
Train in fall crossing bridge in Reliance
Train Conductor
Train in the Fall
East Tennessee River Valley MapGuide Supporter

On this scenic train excursion, passengers can view the beautiful Hiwassee River and Gorge as the train travels alongside the river and then circles around the historic “Hiwassee Loop.”  The loop corkscrews up the mountain passing over a bridge 62 feet above the tracks on which passengers have just traveled.   

 The Hiwassee River Rail Adventure is a truly unique railroad experience and has several features that set it apart. The Hiwassee Rail Loop is one of the most unique railroad structures in the nation. It is reputed to be the third longest rail loop in the world.  The train travels across the “Old Line,” a railroad that was carved into the mountains and river gorge in 1890 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Hiwassee River Gorge is another striking feature. Tucked into a wilderness area, this natural wonder is accessible only by rail. The Gorge has received the USDA National Forest’s highest ranking for scenic beauty.

In warm weather you’ll enjoy waving at people riding in canoes, kayaks, rafts, and tubes as they drift with the current.  When autumn arrives, the forest bursts forth in orange, yellow, and red hues.  To round out the seasons, as the leaves fall from trees, the scenic vistas are opened up allowing views of the surrounding country as well as a glimpse of Apalachia Dam which is situated just across the North Carolina border. 

There are two train trips available; one is a half day trip which departs from Etowah, TN travels around the "Loop" and returns. The other trip is an all day ride from Etowah, which travels around the Loop and then on to the historic copper mining town of Copperhill. This trip includes a two hour stopover for dining and shopping.  

All trips begin at the restored L&N Depot & Museum in Etowah, Tennessee.  Passengers take a short shuttle ride to the train boarding location before transferring to the train.  Once on board, the trip begins with a ride along the river crossing over a the Reliance Bridge.  Thus begins the circuitous route nestled between hillsides and the scenic Hiwassee River. 

This is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors of the river and the Cherokee National Forest while sitting in a comfortable, climate-controlled environment.

About the Train

This is a  restored, vintage diesel train.

Seasons and Times Excursion Departs: The train runs May - November - Weekends, except last week in October (Mon-Sunday)

Length of Excursion: Copperhill Special: all day trip departs at 9:15am with a two hour stopover in Copperhill arrives back to Etowah at 5:00 pm. Hiwassee Loop Trip: 3 1/2 hours. Departs at either 9:15 am or 1:30 pm.

Costs for Excursion: Fees: Summer/Winter: Loop $33, Copperhill $56 Fall (Oct 1 - Nov. 14): Loop $37, Copperhill $66

Age Requirements for Excursion: Children's Rates: Ages 3-12 Summer/Winter: Loop $23, Copperhill $39 Fall: Loop $27, Copperhill $39

How to Get to the Departure Point

From Knoxville - South:

 Travel south on Interstate 75 to Athens Exit 49

  • Turn left (east) off exit onto US HWY 30. Travel approx. 15 miles on US HWY 30 E toward Etowah/US HWY 411
  • Turn right (south) onto US HWY 411. Travel approx. 1.2 miles on US HWY 411S. The L&N Depot will be on your left.
  •  The address is 727 S. Tennessee Ave. Etowah, TN 37331.  Phone 423-263-7232 M-F  or 423-263-7840 Weekends

Driving Directions from Chattanooga/Nashville/Birmingham/Cleveland, TN.  to L&N Depot in Etowah. 

Travel north on Interstate 75 (toward Knoxville)

  • Take EXIT 20 toward US-64-BYP E/CLEVELAND.  Travel two tenths of a mile
  • Take the US-411 ramp toward Benton
  • Merge onto US-74/APD 40 toward US-11/US 64 BYP/Cleveland/Cherokee National Forest.  Travel for   6.4 miles.
  •  Merge onto US-74-E/US 64 E/TN-40 E toward Ocoee.  Go 7.7 miles
  •  Turn LEFT onto US-411 N/TN-33 N. Continue to follow US-411 N. Travel for 18.7 miles
  • The L&N Depot is on the right.  The address is 727 S. Tennessee Ave. Etowah, TN. 37331.  Phone 423-263-7840
 ADA Accessibility Notes

Though we cannot accommodate wheelchair use or access within our historical passenger cars, all persons who can board the train themselves and occupy a standard passenger seat are welcome and encouraged to ride.

 Pet Friendly Notes

No Pets.

For More Information, Contact:

Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association
727 S. Tennessee Ave, PO Box 143, Etowah, TN 37331
423-263-7232 · toll-free 1-877-510-5765

Judy Byrd wrote on September 10, 2016: This train ride was one of the main reasons we booked our trip to the Benton/Etowah area. We arrived at the station at 9:15 on Sunday morning, planning to take the 3 1/2 hour tour per your website, only to find that there was no train departing until 1:30. There was no one at the station so we were unable to purchase tickets in advance. We left and returned at 12:00 to buy our tickets for the afternoon train. We were then told that unless we had made advance reservations there were no tickets available. We also found out that the train would not be running at all the following day (Labor Day) and because we were leaving the area on Tuesday, we were unable to ride at all. We were also made aware that the Etowah station has no control over what the TN Valley Rail posts about the excursion. Based on the information provided on this website, we felt very misinformed and our trip was not all that we hoped it would be. Please correct the information on this site to show actual dates and times that the train runs, and also advise people that it is recommended to make reservations in advance, so that others will not be as disappointed as we were. Thank you in advance. Judy Byrd (

anna payne wrote on March 02, 2014: we are going to take a ride on our anniversary. never been on a train ride, so it is new to me. it will be in march

cabrina dunn wrote on August 26, 2013: Haven’t ridden yet but looks like a wonderful experience.Plan to ride this fall. Will let everyone know about it.

Boundaries and names shown do not necessarily reflect the map policy of National Geographic.

Latitude: 35.323529100
Longitude: -84.524409800
Elevation: 807 FT (246 M)
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