All the Cataloochees I’ve visited are worth experiencing, but the one you won’t find in any guidebook turns out to be the one where you should stay throughout your trip to these mountains. Known simply as Cataloochee Mountain Cabin, it sits in a wooded enclave that is far enough from town that you’re well into the country, yet close enough that getting to town is easy. Pictures do not do it justice, but here is one I took in January 2008:
Pehaps best of all, the cabin seems to be within 30 minutes of everywhere. Hop in the car and it will not take you long to wind up in any of the places mentioned below.
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Cataloochee Ski Area: Perched high atop
Waynesville: This small town has an immaculate
Biltmore Estate: Though it was built more than a century ago, the palatial “summer home” of George Vanderbilt III is still the largest house in
Ghost Town in the Sky: If you have kids (or think of yourself as one) this western-themed amusement park is the place for you. Ride a chair lift 3,300 feet up and over
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While it is wonderful that Cataloochee Mountain Cabin offers ready access to so many fine places, what should not be overlooked is that it is a fine destination in and of itself. One of its porches has a picnic table and grill, which is wired into the cabin’s gas line so you don’t need to worry about running out of propane while you’re cooking. Its other porch has a bench swing and multiple chairs, and is ideal for relaxing with a book in the clean mountain air. And if that’s not relaxing enough, you can take your book to a hammock in the yard:
Uphill from the cabin you can walk to one of the best views I’ve ever seen, by taking the first left turn on the gravel road and then the first right you come to next. A minute later you will crest the ridge and find yourself gazing over a wide valley rimmed by mountains. Meanwhile, downhill from the cabin is a pasture with donkeys that will calmly eat from your hands, and a pond where
In other words, if you don’t feel like driving to one of the area’s renowned wilderness trails, there is decent enough hiking right here. And if you are here when it snows in the winter, Cataloochee’s sloping driveway (the cabin is situated below the road) makes for the perfect sledding hill.
With a fully equipped kitchen at your disposal, you can stock up on groceries and prepare some of your own meals, which saves money compared to eating every meal out. And with a washer and dryer at your disposal, you can pack fewer clothes and won’t have to be overly cautious about not getting them dirty when you’re in the outdoors.
To top it all off, the owners are accommodating and very easy to work with. Regardless of whether you’ve been to
The picture immediately above, and the one of the hammock, are courtesy of the owner.