The Swag, Waynesville’s gem of a mountain-top hideaway, has long been known for its serene setting, adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Situated at 5,000 feet, The Swag is an intimate, boutique mountain inn with just 16 guest rooms.

Western North Carolina people know a good way to get a taste of The Swag — the chef’s picnics atop Gooseberry Knob.

A Signature Experience

The Swag picnics have been popular with locals, with day guests ranging from Asheville to Cashiers.

In fall 2020, the picnics were expanded from Wednesdays to include a second picnic on Saturdays. Visitors to the inn and picnic guests leave their cars at the new, beautifully appointed Welcome Center cabin, then are shuttled up to The Swag in Volvo electric cars.

Picnic guests may choose to continue to ride in the shuttle cars out to Gooseberry Knob, although many prefer to hike out to the picnic site, a quarter mile from The Swag main house.

Once at Gooseberry Knob, guests will find stunning mountain views, a rustic gazebo, plenty of chairs and tables, and a food pavilion.

Executive chef Jake Schmidt works the grill at the picnics, offering a main course of bison or beef burgers, sausage, grilled fish and cast-iron fried chicken.

The spread of side dishes often include produce from The Swag’s garden, with a variety of food sure to please the palate. Picture fresh fruit and salads like roasted beets and arugula.

Save room for dessert, because the dessert table features in-season fruit pies, cobblers and the famous Swag Bars. It’s alright to visit the dessert table first.

Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are served.

Some picnic guests choose to eat in the group setting of the gazebo, sharing experiences with other Swag guests. Others want to enjoy the peacefulness of the rustic Adirondack chairs, or conventional seating of the picnic tables.

The sharing of stories with Swag guests, both in-house and day guests, is one of the highlights of the afternoon.

After the Picnic

After enjoying the picnic meal, guests are free to see The Swag’s property. Some guests cross onto the Cataloochee Divide trail in the adjacent Great Smoky Mountains National Park to hike back to the main house, since The Swag shares a mile-long border with the GSMNP. The Cataloochee Divide trail is estimated to be 6,000 years old and was ‘the highway’ of foot traffic long ago in the mountains.

Other guests meander back to The Swag house, stopping at the newly built fire pit and relaxation chairs.

Those who haven’t been to The Swag in some time should check out the new 2,500-square-foot addition to the main house, off the great room. The two-story area includes a bar, a sunroom for small gatherings, a covered outdoor dining porch with a fireplace, and a 1,100=square-foot wine cellar and comfortable cellar room downstairs.

What was formerlly the parking area at The Swag’s main house and cabins has become a lawn area for relaxation. From there, venture into The Swag’s garden to see the array of flowers, herbs and vegetables grown to enhance dining. The dahlias blooming now are spectacular.

The experience of the picnic and seeing The Swag’s new additions may just whet one’s appetite to come back for a stay. The rooms feature rustic chic décor, with accents to compliment the mountain setting. Most of the rooms have wood-burning fireplaces and steam showers to provide for a relaxing getaway.

A new spa, The Still, was completed off-season, with three treatment rooms, an infrared sauna and a relaxation room.

The Swag has reopened its dining to locals and visitors not staying at the property, for parties of up to six people.

For dining reservations at The Swag, email to inquire about availability. The Swag’s 2021 season runs through Nov. 27.

The Swag is a member of Relais & Châteaux, and is the highest elevation of any Relais & Chateau property on the East coast.

David and Annie Colquitt purchased The Swag from founders Dan and Deener Matthews in 2018. Visit

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