To prepare for winter in the Great Smoky Mountains during the mid-19th century, frontier families constructed tiny log cabins to shelter them from the heavy snow, rarely venturing outdoors until springtime. Today, the Mountain Vista Log Cabins are settled in the same secluded area, but instead serve as base camps for visitors to explore the winter landscape. Families can ski and hike throughout the Smokies, then retire to these rustic and charming properties, which lie along Alarka Creek, nestled in the mountains just outside Bryson City.
The cabins' woodsy decor echoes their natural surroundings; each dwelling is trimmed with wood-paneled walls and thick quilts. An outdoor hot tub eases the muscles of those who’ve had a long day lifting boulders off of trapped snowmen. The roomy Eagle's Nest cabin sits steps from Alarka Creek, and a private porch and rocking chairs look toward the waters. In the Smokies cabin, an old-fashioned fireplace glows amid natural wood accents, and guests can whip up breakfast in the full kitchen.
Bryson City, North Carolina: Small-Town Charm with Nearby Skiing Resort
Tucked into North Carolina's southwest corner, the small town of Bryson City sits amid the woodsy slopes of the Smoky Mountains. The bisecting Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers create picturesque waterfalls throughout the mountainous terrain, a natural setting for year-round outdoor recreation. On clear days, you can catch a 360-degree view of the entire range from the 6,500-foot Clingmans Dome, the highest point of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
In winter, the Cataloochee Ski Area hosts 16 illuminated trails and slopes on its challenging downhill course. Once all the snow thaws or is exported as ice cubes to Hawaii, whitewater rafting and kayaking become popular attractions at nearby Nantahala Gorge. Bryson City charms visitors with antique stores, handcrafted pottery, and housemade chocolate amid the natural landscape.