Road Trips, United States

A Luxe Base Camp Beside the Smokies

Taking in the views on a hike at Blackberry Mountain resort in Tennessee

In the doldrums of a quarantined summer, when the itch to travel was at its most incessant, I began scheming up a socially distant road trip plan for our little crew of three.

I’d been in search of an excuse to visit the luxe homestead property Blackberry Farm for years, so that’s exactly where I looked first. And lo and behold, I stumbled upon something that felt even more fitting … Blackberry Mountain, the Farm’s sister property, located just up the mountain, alongside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

Immediately, Blackberry Mountain felt like the perfect destination. It was far, but not too far for a road trip. It was remote, but also conveniently located next to a national park. It was a big splurge, but it also turned out to be our one major vacation in 2020. And best of all, lodging at the property was stand-alone cabins, so there was plenty of open air and space from fellow guests.

The view walking up to our Thunderhead Cottage – “Leather Flower” – on the ridge.

We booked one of the resort’s Thunderhead Cottages for our three-night stay. Perched on a ridge overlooking the valley, the cottage boasts a big, airy bedroom and sitting area, a spacious bathroom with soaking tub and a large patio with a wood-burning fireplace.

The adults-only pool, just outside the spa, a short walk from our cottage.

It’s gorgeous, yes. But here are a few things that really set the property apart:

  • Inclusive Meals: While the price tag feels steep, both breakfast and dinners (the three-course kind) are included in your stay.
  • Trail System: A groomed network of trails run throughout the property, making it easy-peasy to hike and soak up epic views without ever getting into your car.
  • Amenities of All Types: Book a treatment at the spa, relax by the adults-only infinity pool, or head toward the valley to play in the family pool or the lake, which includes two water slides, a diving dock and over-water hammock. Wellness classes (like sound bathing and yoga) are offered throughout the day too, although we didn’t take advantage of them.
  • A Golf Cart of Your Own: Every cottage comes with its own assigned golf cart for zipping around the property … up to the Fire Tower for dinner or down to the lake in the valley for a slip down the waterslide.
His first golf cart ride :)

For us, the resort felt like a beautiful fit.

  • The roomy cottage more than accommodated the two of us and a crawling baby. And the large bathroom meant that we could set up the little guy’s travel crib (and his sound machine, too) and still enjoy the rest of the spacious cottage and its patio for ourselves post-bedtime. Massive windows overlooked the mountains, so much so that it took us two days to even realize that there was a TV tucked within a wall cabinet.
  • Resort-employed babysitters were available to stay in our cottage with the sleeping babe while we walked over to dinner at one of the resort’s two restaurants. (We arranged for childcare in advance of our stay and paid around $25 an hour.)
  • Family-friendly spaces – like the valley pool and pond – were available and not at all crowded during our stay. It was heavenly! And they served drinks ;)
  • There’s no need to leave the resort if you don’t want to. Truly, there’s plenty to occupy your time right on the property, from the spiderweb of mountain hikes, the wellness classes, spa treatments, dining options, all the way to a little mountain-top library with crackling fire … It’s all right there for you.
  • But if you want to leave, the Smoky Mountains are just a hop, skip and jump away. And gosh, they’re gorgeous. We didn’t explore the national park nearly as much as we anticipated {we’re just tired new parents and took advantage of the pool time for once in our lives}, but man, even driving along Little River Road felt more magical than I’d expected.
Post-breakfast views from the top of the fire tower.

I mentioned that the property is a splurge, so it wasn’t surprising that friends asked us, “Is it worth the price?” when we returned.

I’m not sure, to be honest. The lodging was gorgeous. The customer service was exemplary. But we were also limited in what we could do given that we were traveling with an infant. Had it just been Trevor and me traveling, we’d have likely spent more time exploring the entirety of the property and taking advantage of the wellness classes and experiences offered. Additionally, if it weren’t for COVID, we’d have also spent an afternoon at Blackberry Farm and likely had at least one of our meals there, too.

Do I feel that our stay didn’t maximize the full value offered by Blackberry Mountain? Absolutely. And that falls on us, and our unique baby-toting, COVID-cautious circumstances.

Would I go again? In a heartbeat. With an older child. Or on a parents-only trip ;)

Hiking on the resort property; tons of gorgeous views and hikes of all levels.

While our three-night stay at Blackberry was the perfect introduction to the region, we were eager to see a bit more.

For our second leg, we drove a couple of hours east, toward Asheville, North Carolina, where we’d found a log cabin Airbnb that would provide similarly rolling landscapes but with proximity to the eclectic city of Asheville, it’s brews and also the eye-boggling Biltmore Estate. {More details on that portion of our travels coming soon!}

For more photos from our stay at Blackberry Mountain, scroll down …

The kid enjoying be out of his car seat and on luxury linens.
We had a resort sitter watch the baby once he’d gone to bed so we could sneak to dinner.
Popsicles at the pond.
The Thunderhead Cottage bathtub … ahhhhh.
The Spa at the resort; we both booked 90-minute massages.
I mean, you can’t beat views like this.

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