McCloud Mountain Lodge: Sky-High Getaway in East Tennessee
While driving U.S. Highway 25W from Caryville to LaFollette, I keep looking up at the ridge top of Cumberland Mountain. Rock outcroppings break the line of green forest. I imagine overlooks that hikers on the Cumberland Trail are enjoying. The mountain spans 50 miles from Bruce Gap by Caryville to Cumberland Gap near Harrogate.
From my patio I peer into the Powell Valley and watch turkey vultures ride warm air currents. I catch glimpses of Norris Lake in the distance, along with farms and crossroads. The streetlights of LaFollette appear below at night and a thousand stars move in. In the morning, a thin fog hides the valley. Once it clears, my view extends to House Mountain and Clinch Mountain in the distance.
McCloud Mountain Lodge is far from any of Campbell County’s attractions from its perch at 2,700 ft. Guests come to get away, and I would say most stay put once they manage the twisty, two-mile road to the top. A restaurant with ample window seating serves steak, chicken, seafood, salads and sandwiches, so there’s no need to descend the mountain for dinner. One circular dining room extends out over a cliff for panoramic views. In addition, guest suites have small kitchenettes. The 11 suites also offer king-sized beds, whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, twin easy chairs and private balconies.
For many years, the mountain was known to locals as a hang-gliding destination. From Lookout Rock they soared into the “Promised Land,” as they called the Powell Valley. Of course, before the road was built, they had a difficult time getting to the top. The rugged terrain—punctuated with caves, natural arches, rock shelters, waterfalls and massive boulders—was essentially wild and populated by black bears, deer, fox and bobcats. Jim McCloud owned the property for nearly 50 years before it was bought by developers. Paul R. and Madeline Fields own the lodge and restaurant.
A few homes are now atop the mountain, but most of the property around the lodge is undeveloped. Guests relax on their balconies or explore the woodlands by following walkways to rhododendron thickets and fern groves. Wildflowers and mountain laurel shrubs are plentiful.
Visitors take in the views looking north toward Kentucky at the Chimney Skywalk, a wooden walkway across stone chimney formations. In all, 32 stone formations rise up, some as high as 250 feet.
The overlooks are open only to property owners and guests of the lodge and restaurant. Sightseeing without a reservation is not permitted.