After being cooped up since March, everyone is dreaming about summer vacation. We quite literally want to get away from it all. But with COVID-19 still out there, the idea of sitting on a plane or even walking through an airport gives me the heebie-jeebies. Road trip, anyone? It’s time to head for the hills… or better yet, something higher and cooler. The mountains! But we’re not the roughing it sort, and washing your hands fifty times a day is tough when you don’t have running water, so camping is out. A beautiful log cabin in the woods with all the mod cons sounds absolutely dreamy, and one of the best places to find them is airbnb. Here’s four options scattered around the Blue Ridge Mountains that range in price from affordable to ooo la la!
A Cozy Log Cabin Apartment on Lookout Mountain ($99)
Once you see Lori’s adorable log cabin apartment, you might decide you don’t need an entire cabin all to yourself. If it’s just you and the hubster or even your nuclear family of four getting away for a couple days, this three-room suite with private entrance might be just right. Who needs more than a log-lined master bedroom with king-size bed; a bunk room with two twins; a bathroom with aged copper countertops, a jetted tub and separate shower; and a kitchenette when you have Lula Lake Falls, Rock City, Ruby Falls, Tennessee River Gorge and Chattanooga just minutes away?
This cozy log apartment Is just eight miles from downtown Chattanooga, a mid-sized city Outdoor magazine has named Best Town Ever TWICE. Chattanooga has plenty of restaurants, bars and a world-class aquarium if you’re feeling brave enough to mingle. And then there’s what impressed Outdoor magazine: rock climbing, bouldering, hang gliding, boating, paddle boarding, and over 100 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails. Plenty of room to social distance!
Beautiful Log Cabin with Panoramic Views ($150)
How would you like to be near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cataloochee Valley and Soco Falls? This authentic cabin in Maggie Valley is the perfect place to get away from it all without actually being too far from it all. Stay hidden in the forest near the top of the mountain, and take advantage of the huge porches upstairs and downstairs to soak up the view and the cool night air. Even in the dog days of summer, temperatures around here rarely hit 80 degrees.
Recently updated, this place boasts wood-lined walls, huge windows, a stone wood-burning fireplace, a big squishy leather sofa, plenty of board games and smart TVs. A large eat-in kitchen with steel appliances and granite countertops is the perfect place for making a big country breakfast. There’s plenty of room: three bedrooms (a king, queen, and 2 twins) each have their own bathroom. There’s even a sofa bed and a couple of couches if a couple extra friends want to crash. And if you need to do a little work from not home, there’s wifi and a printer.
For isolationists, the North Carolina Smokies offer scenic drives, plenty of hiking trails, waterfalls, trout fishing and wildlife watching. Head into Maggie Valley to Elevated Mountain Distilling Company or the Bearwaters Brewing Company. They’ve joined forces to brew up hand sanitzer. Until they reopen completely for tours and tastings, they’re offering curbside pickup. Stop by, and get some of their scratch-made hand sanitzer. Stock up on their local small batch whiskey, moonshine or craft beer while you’re at it.
For those socially-distant butterflies who just can’t stand another home-cooked meal, restaurants in Maggie Valley and Waynesville are starting to open up as we speak. Tupelo Honey in Asheville (about a 45 minute drive) is already open and celebrating with Mimosas and Build-Your-Own Supper Plate specials.
Biltmore is also back in business! Experience how the 1% lived during the Gilded Age. Built by George Vanderbilt (Anderson Cooper’s great, great uncle) as a country retreat, the 8,000 acre estate includes the 250-room French Renaissance chateau, gardens designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead (he also designed a little thing called Central Park), 20 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, falconry, shooting (clays), kayaking or rafting on the French Broad River. For the less outdoorsy types, there’s a spa, several very good restaurants and a winery with tastings.
Mountain View Luxury Log Cabin, 3 large decks ($179)
Three huge decks on three levels, one with a grill, one with a hot tub and all three with swings and rocking chairs looking out over the forest are just the beginning. This log cabin near Sevierville has three bedrooms with king size beds, three full baths, a fully-equipped kitchen and a game room with both a pool table and air hockey.
Decorated with standard issue bear paintings, antler art and big brown leather sofas, the double-height living room with lots of windows is both cozy and airy. The knotty pine kitchen is charming and functional. And the chunky wooden post beds look sturdy enough to support the weight of your friend Big Mike. To make it even more of a party pad, there’s three sleeper sofas plus two futons in the loft in the upper floor bedroom.
This cabin is part of a resort community, so if hiking from your front door isn’t enough exercise, hit the club house gym, pool or sauna. If that’s not enough to keep you entertained, Sevierville, the birthplace of Dolly Parton, is less than 30 minutes from her Dollywood Parks and Resorts in Pigeon Forge. As of this writing, the Dollywood theme park, water park and dinner shows have not yet announced a date when they will reopen. But Great Smokey Mountains National Park, lots of whitewater rafting, zipline parks and ATV tours are. That should keep everybody happy and at a safe distance from (most) strangers.
Entire New Custom Log Cabin-Hot Tub-Billiards-View ($695)
Now if you’re really living large or just living with a large crowd, Lisa and John’s new place on Lake Lure might be just the ticket. About an hour southeast of Asheville and Biltmore, it offers plenty of privacy, even from the crew you came with. Five bedrooms with king beds and five baths are spread over three levels. Upstairs is a game room with a pool table and views of Bald Mountain. Downstairs is a family room with a popcorn machine and fridge perfect for movie night. How about Dirty Dancing, Firestarter, The Last of the Mohicans or My Fellow Americans? All were filmed nearby!
On the main level, a huge modern chef’s kitchen boasts a gas stove, stainless steel KitchenAid appliances (the biggest dishwasher I’ve ever seen!), both drip and Keurig coffeemakers, and an island with room for three or four barstools. The open plan living/dining area is elegantly furnished with a dining table that seats ten, four roomy arm chairs, a huge couch and a coffee table bigger than a twin bed in front of a two-story stone fireplace. Massive windows overlook Lake Lure, named one of the most beautiful man-made lakes by National Geographic magazine. That view lures you out past the couch, barbeque and dining area on the covered porch and down a smooth concrete path that leads to your own private cove on the lake.
Sit in the sand of your own private beach, nap in the hammock or join your friends on kayaks or paddleboards thoughtfully supplied by your hosts. Explore Lake Lure’s 21 miles of shoreline or fish for bass (small mouth, large mouth or white), crappie, catfish or perch. Kick in a couple extra bucks and rent the pontoon boat docked a few feet away for trips across the lake for lunch or ice cream. If the water is too chilly, throw a couple logs into the fire pit for warming up and toasting marshmallows.
Prefer mountain sports to water sports? Just walk out your door and hike to Party Rock. If you prefer more official trails or rock climbing, Chimney Rock State Park and Chimney Rock State Park-Rumbling Bald Trail are both open (at limited capacity) for hiking and climbing (check their website for current hours). Buffalo Creek Park offers hiking, mountain biking and bouldering among waterfalls and wildflower. And for those that require a more even path, wander across the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge. Built in 1925, former Rocky Broad River Bridge links Lake Lure to Chimney Rock Village and when it was replaced in 2011, local volunteers transformed the old bridge into a garden.
Lake Lure also has three golf courses within 20 minutes, including nine holes at Lake Lure Golf Club and two eighteen-hole champion courses at Rumbling Bald Resort.
The Blue Ridge Mountains offer enough outdoor fun to make them the perfect place to spend an isolation vacation. And airbnb, with its mix of offerings from rustic tiny homes to mega log mansions, some more remote than others, makes it easy to find the perfect place to get away from it all.
Caroline Geertz is a native Floridian who misses her beach and is grateful for the start of mango season. She has designed magazines as varied as the Baltimore Jewish Times, Weekly World News (yes, the one with Bat Boy), The Enquirer UK and travel magazines for several cruise lines.