Comfy Cabins in the Great Smoky Mountains
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; they rarely ventured 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 along Alarka Creek 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. Situated just steps from the creek, the roomy Eagle’s Nest cabin has a private porch and rocking chairs overlooking the water. 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 amid Great Smoky Mountains
Tucked into North Carolina’s southwest corner, the small town of Bryson City sits amid the woodsy slopes of the Smoky Mountains. The Tuckasegee River flows right through town, creating picturesque waterfalls and fishing holes teeming with rainbow and brook trout. On clear days, head a few miles north to 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. You can also tour the rugged wilderness by train—the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad runs year-round excursions in restored, historic railroad cars that depart from Bryson City.
In winter, the Cataloochee Ski Area opens 17 trails and slopes on its challenging downhill course. Once all the snow thaws, whitewater rafting and kayaking become popular attractions at nearby Nantahala Gorge. All the while, downtown Bryson City charms visitors with antique shops, handcrafted pottery, and housemade chocolates.