"When was the last time you truly relished the great outdoors? I don’t mean a beach vacation – I mean really getting back to the land: a cabin in the woods, a comfortable, high-altitude hideaway. On a hillside deep in the Great Smoky Mountains, that’s exactly what Blackberry Mountain has to offer."
Starting from the winding, three-mile drive up through Tennessee's woods, you know nature is the central amenity at this secluded Relais & Chateaux property. In fact, the members of the Beall family, who own this resort and its sister property, Blackberry Farm, have dedicated 2,800 of their 5,200 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains to conservation to ensure that the land and its guests could coexist as one. And they’ve seamlessly done that with every aspect of a stay here.
From the moment you check in, you’re handed a road and trail map of the property, as well as a 32-page Field Guide. In it, you’ll find practical tips, like how to find true north and how to whittle, in addition to information on the complimentary Lexus program. It’s with this simple handoff that you enter the unique world of Blackberry Mountain, where the elegant comforts of the indoors flow to life outdoors.
Activities in the great outdoors
Throughout your stay, you’re encouraged to spend as much time as possible in the natural surroundings by going on hikes, mountain biking, rock climbing, and participating in the inclusive wellness activities, such as yoga and sound bathing. A menu details the available daily activities and a host of guides you through a chosen adventure (or two).
Just the way a traditional concierge would assist you in taking advantage of what’s available at a hotel, these adventure concierges – as I came to think of them – help you maximize the property’s best amenity: nature. The mountain biking, for example, is led by expert cyclists who will take you whizzing zipping across the mountain’s spine and over eight miles of private trails, making the experience as easy or difficult as you like.
There’s also outdoor yoga on a platform that juts out over the mountains and private hikes complete with hidden art and purified water-filling stations. Even the indoor activities at The Hub feel as though you’re among the trees. The studio where sound bathing and yoga classes are held features large windows with views reserved for birds; the rock-climbing wall is situated in a building with a fully retractable wall; and you can peer out into the woods while running on the treadmill in the gym.
Sustainable architecture in harmony with the landscape
Beyond the environment-infused activities, the relaxing aspects of a stay at Blackberry Mountain embrace that outdoorsy mindset, too. The accommodations are a series of individual cabins and cottages, as well as large homes, all of which were constructed to fit the land, instead of disturbing the land to build.
My stone cottage, Chickasaw Plum, was built into the hillside using stones harvested from the property, making me feel at one with the mountain. The unobstructed bird’s-eye views from the bed, the bathtub, and the outdoor hot tub certainly helped with that harmonious feeling of being tied to the land.
The construction team did an incredible job of building with sustainable practices to create nature-focused architecture for all the facilities, while creatingfashioning modern and captivating elements. The Firetower restaurant was constructed around a restored lookout tower from the 1940s and features a wall of windows with all the tables facing out across the valley. And the main lodge boasts a sizeable screened-in living room with the breeze flowing through, as not to mentionwell as the Three Sisters restaurant, which has panoramic views.
A unique experience
The culinary options also promote this idea of outdoor living. The menu is flavor-forward, much like sister property Blackberry Farm. But it focuses on simple, natural, healthy ingredients to fuel your body for a day of adventure. Breakfast and dinner are included in the nightly rate, but lunch is not, as you’re meant to be entrenched in wildlife during that time. Grab-and-go options are available if you need a bite, or you can head up—two miles via the recommended hikeing—to the Firetower for a relaxed meal.
Regardless of where you spend the most time on the stunning property, it’s impossible not to feel the effects of wildlife. From the architecture and the grounds to the amenities and activities, everything is centered around on embracing nature and a sense of adventure. But just because there’s a more rugged focus doesn’t mean you have to rough it.
My experience was one of feeling like I was simultaneously living inside and outside simultaneously, and it’s a perfect example of Relais & Chateaux’s overall unique relationship to with nature. Their commitment to protect protecting and conservinge these incredible sites means more of us have the opportunity to find that youthful delight while maintaining our adult sensibilities.