Blue Ridge Parkway road trip to The Mast Farm Inn
Tucked in a serene valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a series of rural roads and scenic byways transport travelers to a place where southern history and sweeping beauty are bottled up like a well-preserved Mason jar of North Carolina’s best jam. Here, where every bend in the road is a postcard, one of the area’s most historic settlements invites guests to a bygone area of southern hospitality. Welcome to The Mast Farm Inn, a country inn in Banner Elk, North Carolina and a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip.
A Banner Elk historic country inn
The Mast Farm’s beginnings date back to 1792, when Joseph Mast was the first to settle in the valley. As the centuries passed, the estate grew from the Masts’ two-room log cabin into a myriad of 16 buildings, all of which still stand today. The main farmhouse was added in 1880, and within 10 years, the homestead was operating as both a prospering farm and a gracious country inn. Now, more than 125 years later, the inn still welcomes area guests.
Today, the inn flaunts seven period guestrooms in the farmhouse (each with charming family names), along with eight quaint cottages, including the original cabin from the Mast settlement. The historic cabin became known as the “Loom House” after it was converted to house Aunt Josie’s prosperous weaving business in the early 1900s. By 1913, word spread of Josephine Mast’s work, catching the eye of President Woodrow Wilson, who solicited Josephine to create weavings for his daughter’s room in the White House. Today, some of her work is displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Aside from the weavings, the Loom House is widely believed to be the oldest inhabitable log cabin in the state of North Carolina.
For that reason and because of the other 15 well-preserved buildings, the original Mast Farm settlement was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, The Mast Farm Inn is one of 30 stops in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, making this an idyllic stop for history buffs looking to make a nostalgic road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains. A New York Times writer who stayed at the inn summed it up best: “The Mast Farm Inn is about as close as you can get to defining the word homespun.”
Mast General Store and nearby attractions
Nestled in the Valle Crucis Historical District of North Carolina, The Mast Farm Inn is just one of many memorable stops during your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. Here, smatterings of peaceful rural communities have gone untouched in the high Appalachian Mountains. A two- to six-hour drive from most major southeastern cities transports road trip enthusiasts to a bygone era, including the town of Banner Elk, population 500, where the inn is located.
Valle Crucis is famed for its historic Mast General Store, which sprung up before the Civil War. The store’s Mast name is no coincidence — both it and the inn have Mast family influence. In the past, the store carried everything from “cradles to caskets.” By 1973, Mast General Store was added to the area’s National Register of Historic Places, joining a year after the inn. Four years later, the store underwent a brief closure, but when it reopened, its new owners set out to revitalize Mast General Store’s beloved nostalgia. Today, visitors can still peruse the store’s eclectic mix of wares, mail a letter at the corner post office, warm up near the pot-bellied stove or enjoy a 5¢ cup of coffee.
A number of other quaint mountain towns dot the Valle Crucis Historic District: Asheville with its Art Deco buildings, Boone with its small-town university and Linville with its awe-inspiring Grandfather Mountain. The area itself has become renowned for its culinary road trips, where artisanal foods, craft beer and southern spirits draw foodies from around the nation. Be sure to check out the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail to see the area’s cheese makers in action, or drop by Asheville to enjoy the town’s burgeoning craft brew scene.
Guests are treated to some of North Carolina’s finest moonshine (the legal kind, of course). Sip on Troy & Sons Distillers, Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon and Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine. Road trip enthusiasts may also be thrilled to discover that the area’s roads were once used to smuggle illegal moonshine, which eventually paved the way for the beginnings of NASCAR racing, as skilled drivers were born out of necessity on these winding roads. The inn boasts one of the area’s most renowned restaurants, Simplicity at The Mast Farm Inn, open Friday and Saturday evening. Meanwhile, across from Mast General Store, the owners of The Mast Farm Inn have opened a destination restaurant — Over Yonder — an Appalachian kitchen filled with southern comfort food like grits, gumbo and cobbler, all of which are perfect additions to a day on the open road.
A Blue Ridge Parkway road trip
The roads themselves are as iconic as the many historic places nestled alongside them. Some travelers call the Blue Ridge Mountains the “Road Trip Capital of the World,” with many being particularly fond of the breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway, which has garnered its own name — “America’s Favorite Drive.” The parkway boasts majestic scenery and endless recreation, making it one of the most visited national park systems in America with 469 miles of scenic road connecting Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains.
Motorcycle enthusiasts are particularly fond of Deals Gap, a mountain pass that runs along the Tennessee-North Carolina state line. The start of the pass is just two hours away from The Mast Farm Inn, where road trip fanatics drive the “Tail of the Dragon,” famous for its 318 curves in 11 miles. Some of the Dragon’s sharpest curves include names like “Wheelie Hell,” “Gravity Cavity,” “Copperhead Corner” and “Hog Pen Bend.”
Car enthusiasts are also drawn to the Blue Ride Mountains. During the summer months, there’s hardly a time that goes by when a Porsche Boxster, classic Corvette or some other vintage car isn’t parked in front of the country inn. Reflective of the area’s bygone era, these classics seem to blend right in with Valle Crucis’ historic surroundings. While cruising during your road trip vacation, take a moment to steer away from the area’s scenic byways, detouring to some unexpected treasures along the back roads of the Appalachian Mountains.
With every corner you turn, you’ll discover postcard moments, and some of them truly historic, like The Mast Farm Inn.