In 1905, two hoteliers from Georgia began construction on a Victorian inn nestled in North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains. Situated at an elevation of 3,500 feet, the Balsam Mountain Inn was built to serve travelers passing through the Balsam Gap depot, one of the highest railroad stations in the southeast. To accommodate steamer trunks, the hotel's rooms and corridors were built extra wide. A restoration in 1991 added private baths, but the inn's spacious layout and ample, 100-foot-long porches were preserved. Vintage furniture, an original mansard roof, and an absence of TVs and other noisy distractions serve as a nostalgic reminder of the past.
Each of the 50 guest rooms is decorated in different colors, textures, and furnishings. Stationed just off the lobby, room 100 evokes country elegance with pink iron bed frames, rosebud bedding, and a diamond-studded butter churn. Suite 334, a two-room lodging on the third floor, features a palette of greens and reds, complemented by whitewashed wooden floors and a wall tapestry depicting a farm scene. In suite 310's plum-colored bathroom, a claw-foot tub stands next to a rope hammock.
While the menu varies by day, a complimentary breakfast may include blueberry waffles and bacon served in the wood-appointed dining room. A la carte meals can also be savored on the adjoining dining porch, where floor-to-ceiling windows frame vistas of a sprawling, verdant lawn. The restaurant also hosts Songwriters-in-the-Round, a long-running music series that features performances from Grammy Awardwinning Nashville artists.
The small town of Balsam is tucked between the Plott Balsams and Great Balsam Mountains, 40 miles west of Asheville. Twenty-four acres of wooded hiking trails surround the inn, and an entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway lies just a half-mile away. One of the country's most popular scenic drives, the road winds along the lavender spine of the Blue Ridge Peaks and through the fog of the Great Smoky Mountains, passing wildflower meadows and ziplining elk along the way. More than 100 hiking trails branch off the parkway, including the Appalachian Trail, which stretches all the way from Georgia to Maine.
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