Set high above Miller’s Cove on 5,200 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains of Walland, Tennessee, Blackberry Mountain is a verdant wonderland with awe-inspiring views and indulgent amenities. The resort, opened in 2018 by the Beall family—renowned for their success with sister property Blackberry Farm—prides itself on its environmentally conscious approach toward everything from land preservation and repurposed stone to personal water bottles provided as a means of reducing single-use plastics. With Covid regulations still in place for international travel, a quick plane ride down south felt like a safe and easy option, while remaining a luxurious escape from the daily grind. So, if you’re looking for a truly magical getaway that’s also convenient, I highly recommend heading for the “hills.”
STAY & ENJOY
There’s no shortage of accommodations at Blackberry Mountain. To start, there are two types of stone cottages—Thunderhead and Clingmans—with stacked stone archways, iron windows, reclaimed oak floors, white rough-sawn walls, lime-washed oak ceilings and outdoor patios with wood-burning fireplaces. My husband and I stayed in one of the Clingmans Cottages, which featured spectacular views, an outdoor soaking tub and a separate spa room. It was a quick walk to the Lodge and the main pool and a golf cart to tool around in. There are also the Azalea Gap Homes, which boast a main-floor master bedroom, additional second-level bedrooms, a full-size kitchen, laundry room, dining room that accommodates eight, living room with stone wood-burning fireplace and an all-season screened porch with a second fireplace. If you’re looking for something even larger, you can book the Mountain Homes, ranging from three to five bedrooms, and ideal for group or family vacations. Other, more intimate choices, are the Watchman Cabins and the newly built modern Treehouses, which appear to float on canopies in the woods.
RELAX & REJUVENATE
A visit to Nest, specifically “designed for calm and comfort,” is an absolute must. The subterranean spa encompasses a tranquility lounge, sauna, steam showers and an expansive pool with a picturesque infinity edge. Try one of their many natural therapies including Create, a three-and-a-half-hour curated experience that includes a fifty-minute Aerial Yoga Session, fifty-minute Creative Presence Watercolor Meditation, and an eighty-minute Rejuvenation Facial. Or select a Holistic Health Herbal Remedy, a skincare treatment, a body therapy…the list goes on. I enjoyed the Signature Natural Defense Facial with a customized serum layering system meant to transform the skin and expose a radiant and revitalized complexion. I also delighted in the Tailored Mountain Massage personalized to increase circulation and relieve muscle tension. Mission accomplished!
WINE & DINE
If you’re a foodie like I am, you’ll be blown away by the standout cuisine at the resort’s three restaurants. For breakfast and dinner, their flagship Three Sisters is a requisite. Located in the Lodge with Executive Chefs Bonnie Moore and Joey Edwards at the helm, the menu offers locally foraged produce, internationally curated wines, and beers from Blackberry Farm Brewery. I started my morning off right with the Salmon Hash with poached eggs, potatoes, greens, roasted wild mushrooms and herb coulis. For dinner the Ember Roasted Black Bass with arugula aioli, crispy grains, wilted greens and orange tapenade was to die for. The Firetower restaurant—a restored 1950s lookout tower—for lunch or dinner was phenomenal as well. The casual atmosphere provides the perfect spot to dig into a Wild Mushroom and Leek Pizza with garlic, charred leeks, fontina and jalapeño sauce, or the Thai Mussels with cilantro, ginger, coconut and lime. For a quick midday bite, you can swing into Sycamore for salads, burgers and tacos. I particularly loved the Black Beans and Rice with shaved vegetables, guacamole and cilantro-green goddess dressing.
MOVE & GROOVE
If you like to stay active, your options are seemingly endless with guided hikes, mountain bike rides, trail running and ropes. Also indoor rock climbing, cooking demos, whiskey and wine tastings, horseback riding, fly fishing, paddle sports, boating adventures, sporting clays, archery, paintball, off-roading, pottery, ceramics, painting, sketching and basket and tile making. Not to mention the two pools, pickleball and tennis courts, lawn games, pond, water slides and so much more. If personal fitness is your thing, check out the gym or take a barre or yoga class. There’s also a super fun camp for younger guests—as they say, “The Mountain is a playground for kids of all ages!”
OUT & ABOUT
While you don’t actually have to leave the property, I’m a firm believer in exploring the surrounding area whenever I travel. If you’re thrill seekers like my husband and I are, I strongly suggest renting a motorcycle at Wolf Creek Motorsport and braving the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, which boasts 318 curves on an eleven-mile trail considered America’s number-one motorcycle and sports car road. I will say it’s not for the faint of heart—but what an adrenalin rush! If you prefer something a little less, shall I say, risky, take a drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park—the most visited park in the U.S. You may just see a big black bear like we did!
As a travel writer for twenty-plus years, I always plan my own trips. But with my increasingly busy schedule as an author, columnist and mom, I decided to enlist
Jen Terra, a Weston-based luxury travel advisor and founder of Jen Terra Travels (jenterratravels.com). It was a pleasure and a relief to relinquish the details of our vacation to her. Here are Jen’s five reasons to use a travel advisor:
If it’s not your job to research and arrange travel on a daily basis, don’t expect to be efficient at it. Consider hiring a professional who, after a short call, will curate a customized variety of destinations and accommodations that would likely take you hours, if not days, to find. For those of you who enjoy the process, don’t worry, it can be as collaborative as you’d like.
As an affiliate of Virtuoso, the leading luxury-travel consortium, I’m able to arrange free breakfasts, resort credits, upgrades, fun gifts and often reduced rates to my clients.
Relationships are my currency, and I’ve developed them with hoteliers, suppliers, local vendors and other travel advisors all over the world. Even if I don’t know the best restaurant in every city in the world, I know exactly who to call to find out.
Let’s face it, travel is complicated these days. From helping you navigate destination-specific entry requirements and arranging your predeparture Covid tests to rescheduling your trip when borders close, I’ve got you covered.
Instead of going through an online booking engine or your credit card travel division, why not work with someone trustworthy within your community? Not only will you be boosting a small business, but you’ll pay the same rate and get all of the above benefits.
Photographs: Chef by Bonjwing Lee; lodge and watchman cabin courtesy of Ingalls Photography; all others courtesy of Blackberry Mountain