Almost Heaven – The Swag

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

A Mountain Inn that Touches the Sky & Soothes the Soul!

Majestic Mountain Views!

Majestic Mountain Views!

Miles of majestic mountains that gently touch the sky. A paradise where endless panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the front yard and the enchanting Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the backyard.  Sitting at Gooseberry Knob enjoying our tantalizing gourmet picnic lunch with these breathtaking views it’s “Almost Heaven.”  The Swag is a “Bucket List” destination!  A rustic, yet sophisticated high mountain inn, surrounded by 250 acres atop a 5,000 foot ridge in western North Carolina. The Swag will “soothe the soul.”

Views from the Swag

Views from the Swag

It’s a mountain paradise! A vacation “like no other!”  A place where the breathtaking mountain views, the cooler temperatures (at 5,000 feet), and rustic cabins blend together to create an intimate getaway.  From The Swag Porch, Gooseberry Knob, or a Swag swing we sit back, relax and take in the magnificent, ever-changing landscape of four of North Carolina’s six highest mountain ranges.  Sitting in Adirondack chairs enjoying our scrumptious gourmet picnic lunch at Gooseberry Knob, we are mesmerized by the astounding panoramic vista of miles of the world’s oldest mountains.  The North Carolina Mountains are referred to as “God’s Country”, to us The Swag is “Almost Heaven!”

Just a few steps and we're in the Smoky Mt. National Park

Just a few steps and we’re in the Smoky Mt. National Park

Explore the mountains!  Take a hike! Where else can we walk out the lodge door and literally be “in the Smoky Mountain National Park?”  The Swag has hiking trails where we can choose a gentle short hiking adventure or a multi-mile day long trek.  With personalized, complimentary hiking sticks, we take a fun expedition to the waterwheel and swinging bridge walking under an enchanting canopy of blooming rhododendron.   Other paths lead to the waterfall or we can tackle the hike to the top of Hemphill Bald for the most scenic views of the mountains.  Plus The Swag makes us delicious picnic lunches to take on these excursions, including their famous “Swag Bars”. Just strolling the grounds is serene along this rolling hilltop with its flowering trees, shrubs, and the deep forest of the Smoky Mountains.  A walk through the Swag garden has us seeing if we can recognize the many vegetables and plants.  Other leisurely options are croquet, horse shoes, or badminton.


The Swag!  Rustic and welcoming!

The Swag! Rustic and welcoming!

Delight in a Mountain Retreat! So many choices! Take a nap in a hammock in the cool shade of a tree.  Sit in a sturdy swing or Adirondack chair and enjoy the views.  Relax on our private porch and read a book.  Soak in the outdoor hot tub.  Locate one of The Swags serene “Hide-a-ways” to just chill.  Refresh in our suite.  The Swag is a place where we visit and never leave the mountain top.  With its rustic weathered cabins and a lodge of old hand hewn logs and local field stone The Swag has the warmth and charm of a mountain hide-a-way.  In fact, the cabins and main lodge were all old 18th century and 19th century buildings that were disassembled, brought up the mountain, and reassembled into unique mountain accommodations. W ith only 14 individually decorated and furnished rooms, we find this secluded Smoky Mountain escape has five-star service.

Our lush outdoor shower!

Our lush outdoor shower!

Relaxation is utmost! In our suite, the Family Room, we can choose to refresh in the romantic “double person copper tub”, our own private sauna, or the steam shower. Even more exotic is our private outdoor shower!  Fabulous!  Showering outdoors is thrilling!  Further comforts of our suite include its cathedral beamed ceiling living room with a wet bar (complimentary refreshments) and a stone fireplace.  Each evening we enjoy a roaring fire to take off the chill, even though it’s summer.  The separate bedroom has a king bed and a sitting area with skylights adding a special warmth. The original artwork, rustic antiques, woven rugs and handmade quilts blend with our Smoky Mountain suite.

Dining is simple at The Swag.  An all-inclusive resort we enjoy the camaraderie of meeting other guests at the Wednesday Gourmet Picnic lunch.  While the view is front and center the food is delicious with plenty of hearty dishes and lots of sweets.  Ah, Almost Heaven!

Delicious!  A fantastic Swag Picnic!

Delicious! A fantastic Swag Picnic!

The ultimate relaxation is sitting in the Adirondack chair with miles of mountain views sipping a tantalizing Root Beer Float. The evenings are spent visiting with other guests on The Swag porch sharing the day’s adventures over hors de oeuvres as well as the magnificent mountain vista and cool weather. It’s BYOB at The Swag!  We just bring our own favorite alcoholic beverage each evening.  On Wednesday evening we have a wonderful multi-course dinner in the beautiful Swag dining, room a former 18th century church.  Then Thursday evening is The Swag BBQ with plenty of options of BBQ meats and a variety of veggies and salads. Each morning we have lots of choices at the breakfast buffet, including hot and cold items as well as made to order omelets.  The large plank community table encourages getting to know the other guests and share our Swag experience.

Ah! The warmth of a blazing fire!

Ah! The warmth of a blazing fire!

Make lifetime friend!  We met an amazing gentleman at The Swag. John Smart is 94 years young and the ultimate “Happy Camper” or more appropriately the “Happy Hiker.” He has been guiding hikes at The Swag for over 25 years. This was the first year John wasn’t able to guide (he is using a walker now).  Once he told his friends, who have hiked with him in the past, that he was going to be at The Swag, it was quickly booked.  Everyone wanted to get to visit with John again at The Swag. Probably one of the most positive and upbeat individual we have ever met. John is always smiling, sharing tales, and readily breaks out in a song.  With John, we each are reminded to enjoy the moment!

Needless to say we are definitely “Swag Fans!”  Visiting The Swag, we leave the hectic world behind finding a beautiful relaxing, refreshing, and rejuvenating mountain escape.  Founded as a country inn by innkeeper and owner Deener Matthews in 1982, The Swag originally was built as a family home in 1971 by Deener and her husband, Dan, an Episcopal clergyman, who is rector emeritus of Trinity Church, Wall Street, in New York City.  Today, it is an enchanting mountaintop hiking inn with an award-winning restaurant, pampering accommodations, world-class hiking trails, warmhospitality, and five-star comfort.  Add it to your “bucket list” for a fabulous mountain retreat!

If you go:
The Swag Country Inn, 2300 Swag Road, Waynesville, NC 38785;
Phone: (828) 926-0430 | Toll Free: (800) 789-7672;


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About Charlene Mixa

Seeing new places, learning about cultures and seeing the sights has always been my dream. Growing up I was blessed with parents that enjoyed traveling and thought nothing of taking a family of seven on excursions. My career in Human Resources and later as a consultant for an international Human Resource firm offered some travel, but I knew as my husband and I approached retirement, my goal was to do more traveling and broader trips. The nine years since retirement has been filled with fantastic adventures from short local one day trips to several week excursions. Living in Florida, it is especially enjoyable to be away in the summer to cooler climates. Multi-week driving trips across the good ol' USA, settling in for a month in the mountains to explore the local area, or a combination of both fill much of our summer season. Our travels are predominantly self-orchestrated, bringing the fun and challenge of getting everything to click. It's all about doing and sharing! Experiencing a travel adventure is exciting. Reliving a special travel moment with a friend or family is exhilarating. I feel my heart race and pulse quicken, as I sharing that special moment. Thank you for joining in my travel adventures and allowing me to hear your stories.