Checking In and Checking Out

A Spectacular Mountainside Retreat In the Foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains

by Berit Baugher
Blackberry A guest cabin at Blackberry Mountain. Photo courtesy of Blackberry Mountain.

Blackberry Farm, one of the best resorts in the United States, takes over a mountain in rural Tennessee. It is bucolic bliss.

WALLAND, Tennessee - Life has a funny way of shaking things up when you least expect it, which is how I found myself driving up the Natchez Trace, a historic forest trail that extends roughly 440 miles from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. I had spent the past couple of weeks living on an old plantation (a story for another time) and was heading home to Brooklyn. I wanted to take the scenic route — a winding, tree-filled, two-day drive starting in Natchez and ending in Knoxville, followed by a two-hour flight the next evening to New York City. Along the way, I planned to spend a night at the newly opened Blackberry Mountain, the long-awaited sister property to the iconic Blackberry Farm – an award-winning culinary powerhouse and a favorite among chefs, celebrities, and tech titans looking to unwind in nature (and a winner of a Fathom Travel Awards as one of The World's Best Foodie Escapes). 

The view from the Firetower at the top of the mountain. Photo by Berit Baugher.
Three Sisters restaurant. Photo courtesy of Blackberry Mountain.

The chic mountain resort is set on 5,200 acres in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, with more than half of that land dedicated to conservation. The new Relais & Châteaux resort reminded me of a luxurious and discreet adult sleepaway camp with all the trappings of a five-star hotel. There are six cabins, eighteen cottages, and several multi-bedroom homes, each designed with the look and feel of a finely decorated holiday home. Guests navigate the mountainside by electric golf cart. 

Crudite at the Firetower. Photo courtesy of Blackberry Mountain.
Guest cabins. Photo by Berit Baugher.

Activities range from hiking and cycling excursions on nearby trails to aerial yoga and sound baths. To take advantage of the dazzling scenery, I opted for an early afternoon hike and was pleasantly surprised when my guide took me down the mountain instead of up, deep into a cool and verdant rainforest-like terrain laced with waterfalls and wildflowers. It looked like the a scene from Lord of the Rings — I kept my eyes peeled for fairy sightings. 

Those looking to unwind in a more traditional sense will love the spa located in the main lodge, designed with the help of naturopathic specialist Dr. Jill Beasley. Treatments range from the usual hot-stone massages and hydro-facials to more holistic offerings like acupuncture, reiki, and crystal meditations. 

Wildflowers. Photo by Berit Baugher.

Outside the spectacular views that can be seen from almost every vantage point, the food shines. While Blackberry Farm is known for its elevated take on classic Southern fare, much of which is locally sourced, Blackberry Mountain's two restaurants, Three Sisters and Firetower, have a wellness focus that draws inspiration from cuisines across the globe. My favorite dishes included a brothy, five-spice soba noodle breakfast bowl and a veggie and dip platter comprised of raw crudité, homemade oat-turmeric crackers, hummus, miso butter, and Marrakech Brebis. Both dishes were the right amount of sustenance for an active day on the mountain, with nothing too heavy or indulgent. Dinner, a multi-course affair with wine pairings in the main lodge, was equally impressive.

A waterfall sighting on the Roaring Branch Trail. Photo by Berit Baugher.

Did I mention the jaw-dropping views and bucolic scenery? Because, really, that is what will stay with you the longest after you return home. Fellow city dwellers will know what I mean when I say that even a taste of this kind of unadulterated nature can be truly soul-quenching and have you wondering what life could be like if you lived outside a busy city. 

Amazingly, this heavenly slice of nature is easy to reach from my home in Brooklyn. I'm going to remember that on many a future subway ride.

Book It

Rates change seasonally and start at $1,045 per night and include breakfast, dinner, morning wellness and fitness activities, non-alcoholic beverages, pantry snacks, and access to all hiking trails. Click here to inquire about reservations. Or get in touch with the Fathom Travel Concierge, and we can plan your trip for you.

How to Get There

Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) is the closest airport and a 30-minute drive from Blackberry Mountain. Daily commercial flights are offered through Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airline, and United Airlines. Car rentals are available at the airport (best to book in advance), though Blackberry Mountain can easily arrange a transfer.

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