If the mountain will not come to you, you must go to the mountain. Francis Bacon’s old proverb about submitting to reality has always felt, well, a bit defeatist. But in the case of Tennessee’s newest resort, Blackberry Mountain, we don’t mind the pilgrimage. The second property from the Beall family—the clan behind the cult favorite Relais & Châteaux Blackberry Farm—is an alternative (we might even say upgrade) we’re willing to take.
Located a few miles from the Farm in the Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry’s sophomore effort makes a point of eclipsing its predecessor at every opportunity. It’s bigger (at 5,200 acres, it’s larger than most Tennessee state parks) and more exclusive (just 36 rooms spread over a collection of cabins, cottages, and suites, compared to nearly twice that at the Farm), and it comes with an array of new experiences, like a “hike-in/hike-out” restaurant towering above the tree line and a hard-core fitness program. But what the new resort really excels at is the thing that made the original a star in the first place: food.
The Bealls—already quite adventurous and sophisticated—have upped their culinary game, enlisting chefs Josh Feathers and Joel Werner to run wild with an anything-local-goes ethos that beguiles the palate at every forkful. “The Farm has the farm, and we have the mountain,” says Feathers. “So we forage.”
That’s putting it mildly: The chefs grab fresh ingredients from every available source—and guests can join them—to pile plates high with succulent mushrooms plucked from the forest floor, fresh berries straight off the bramble, and free- range proteins that graze on the slopes. The same goes for the cocktails—mixed with roots, leaves, and herbs—and the hundreds of wine options, many of which hail from high-elevation sites. It’s a good thing trail running, endurance climbing, and tree scaling are common pastimes around here. If it weren’t for those breaks from gluttony, you might leave the resort looking less like a mountain man and more like old gouty Francis Bacon.