Originally a family’s private mountaintop getaway built in 1969, The Swag welcomed visitors for the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, which inspired them to become a luxury retreat.
Set along the Cataloochee Divide in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it now has a loyal group of annual guests that return season after season, from April to November. A couple who honeymooned at the 250-acre resort purchased it in 2018, allowing future generations to continue to enjoy a visit to this special place.
There are multiple room types among the property, from king rooms to multi-room cabins. Most are in the Swag House or Chestnut Lodge and each has its own design and features. Decor is rustic but cozy with in-room fireplaces.
Some rooms have outdoor showers and tubs, porches overlooking the mountains, a mini bar, and steam showers. All are equipped with WiFi, comfy robes, a Bose CD player and XM satellite radio, coffee maker and bean grinder, and daily delivery of a New York Times Digest.
Your stay includes all meals, starting with the hearty breakfast buffet of pancakes, sausage, oatmeal, yogurt, and an omelet station. There’s also coffee, espresso, and hot tea as well as fruit juices. Lunch is typically taken to go in a picnic basket, to be enjoyed in one of the many scenic spots nearby.
Usually made up of sandwiches and sides, you can also eat lunch at the lodge with the staff. “High” tea is named for the altitude and includes freshly baked cookies, while pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres include charcuterie and cheeses.
Dinner is prepared by the culinary team and can be pre-selected from the menu earlier in the day. It usually includes a soup, salad, entree, and dessert, and can be changed for dietary restrictions or paired with wine. You can dine communally with other guests or on your own.
Every day, activities are posted on a board in the lobby, offering guided hikes, nature walks, and even painting classes. Guests are also provided with hiking sticks, backpacks, and water bottles to take with them on hikes in the surrounding national park.
Within the buildings, there’s also a library stocked with every genre, puzzles, and outdoor games like cornhole. They also have a sauna, massage services, an outdoor hot tub, and an indoor racquetball court.
There are also special events throughout the week that are open to both guests and visiting diners. Sunday brunch is a large affair with tables covered in sweet and savory treats. Wednesday is the day of the picnic atop Gooseberry Knob. Special dinners also occur throughout the rest of the week.
One of the beloved traditions is that a new logo is designed for each season’s hiking pole. In addition to the cozy corners of the lodge, the Swag property has so many unique places, from lookouts named for past guests and employees to a real-life treehouse. There is a waterfall, a pond, and a swinging bridge.
Gooseberry Knob also has a gazebo with a hammock and Adirondack chairs with the best view around. There is a Nature Trail that loops around the property, which is the ideal first foray into the surroundings. There are also many trails that leave from the property, including the Cataloochee Divide trail and the Hemphill Bald trail.
If You Go
The Swag is located at 2300 Swag Road, Waynesville, North Carolina 28785, around 40 minutes from Asheville. To avoid getting lost, use the websites on the official website and take your time on the steep, winding one-way road. Parking is included in your stay.
Most cell phone providers don’t have service atop the mountain. Rates start around $500 per night, including all your meals for two people, and require a minimum of two nights. The resort is open from April to November. Book by calling (828) 926-0430 or visiting their website.
The Swag hosted my stay.