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NC Relaxed Luxury Smoky Mountains • McCool Travel

10 min read
NC Relaxed Luxury Smoky Mountains • McCool Travel

Historic Tapoco Lodge in western North Carolina near the Tail of the Dragon offers relaxed luxury lodging, tranquility and nature, and fun adventure opportunities in a gorgeous setting. Kick back at this favorite resort and enjoy nearby scenic drives, famous movie locations, and much more.

Read our review of Tapoco Lodge below—including property features and highlights along with tips for future guests.

Thank you to Historic Tapoco Lodge for hosting McCool Travel.

Where is Historic Tapoco Lodge?

Historic Tapoco Lodge is nestled in the gorgeous western North Carolina mountains, less than three miles from the start of Tail of the Dragon scenic drive.

The property is located 15 miles from the nearest town, Robbinsville, North Carolina. The closest major cities (and airports) are Knoxville, Tennessee (90 minutes north) and Asheville, North Carolina (two hours east).

Historic Tapoco Lodge Background

Two helpful background things you should know Tapoco Lodge before your visit:

1. Most visitors think that Tapoco has a Native origin. Tapoco actually is an acronym—think Ta-Po-Co. The TaPoCo property was created for and housed a community of approximately 200 workers for Tallassee Power Company, which built nearby dams to supplied hydroelectric power to Alcoa steel plant. The town of Tapoco was founded in 1913.

2. Tapoco is pronounced Tah-Poke-Ah (not Tah-Poke-Oh).

McCool Travel tip: Look for the old school mail boxes in the lobby. US music road trip fans will enjoy knowing that Ronnie Milsap lived across the street with his grandparents and came here as a kid to get the family mail.

Tapoco Lodge entrance gate sign
Tapoco Lodge entrance

Quick Look at Historic Tapoco Lodge

The Historic Tapoco Lodge is the main building on a 120-acre resort property in the North Carolina Yellowhammer Mountains region. Historic Tapoco Lodge received National Register of Historic Places recognition in 2004.

Tapoco Lodge is a very popular stop for drivers heading to and from the Tail of the Dragon scenic drive. During your Tapoco visit you will likely see millions of dollars worth of high-performance sports cars, motorcycles, and/or other vehicles in the parking lot. Several times!

In addition to overnight lodging, the Historic Tapoco Lodge serves excellent food between 8am to 8pm. Snacks are available 24 hours in the lodge lobby.

Hike and explore the property’s 22 miles of trails. Enjoy guided hikes, tennis, pickleball, axe throwing, and other activities with a celebrity (more about her below!).

The Tapoco Tin Can Theater served as the community center and dance hall. It has been modernized and restored and serves as an event space for weddings, movies, meetings, church services, and more.

Porsche Boxster at Tapoco Lodge
Porsche Boxster at Tapoco Lodge

Historic Tapoco Lodge will remain open during the entire winter in 2023-2024. In recent years, the property was only open on weekends in January and closed for two weeks in December.

Continue reading for our Historic Tapoco Lodge review and more information.

Lodge Rooms at Historic Tapoco Lodge

Staying in the Historic Tapoco Lodge building is a wonderful relaxed luxury experience with classic rustic craftsmanship. The lodge was built in the 1930s and retains a lot of original features (like the gorgeous wood floors) but has modern and luxury conveniences (like the tiled bathrooms).

Overnight guests in the main historic lodge building can choose among three relaxed luxury suites or six plush rooms.

Historic Tapoco Lodge room
Historic Tapoco Lodge room

The main level suite is ADA accessible and has a private queen bedroom along with a king bed and a seating area. It is the only lodge room that allows more than two guests. The other two suites are on the third (top) floor—each has a king bed, jetted tub, separate shower, and extra space.

Or choose among six Tapoco Lodge rooms to savor relaxed luxury during your visit. All feature a king bed, wooden floors, tiled bathrooms, high ceilings, and much more.

McCool Travel Historic Tapoco Lodge room tips:

  • Since each Historic Tapoco Lodge suite and room is unique, check the website photos and descriptions to choose your favorite. See below for booking information and tips.
  • Rooms either face the river or the property. On the river side, the continual water noise can be soothing. The other side, especially on the second floor, overlooks the main entrance and parking lot.
  • Note that there is no elevator in the Historic Tapoco Lodge building.
  • Also, there are no TVs in any lodge suite or lodge room. There is a TV in the Tavern Bar and a couple of flat screens in the riverside bar area.

Tapoco Lodge Cabins

The cabins at Tapoco Lodge offer another lodging option. All cabin rooms offer relaxed luxury experiences. As with the Historic Tapoco Lodge rooms, each cabin room is unique so check the website for configurations, details, and information.

There are seven Tapoco Lodge cabins with a total of 18 separate cabin rooms. Cabins may feature a porch (shared or private), hot tub, or full kitchen.

cozy porch Tapoco Lodge cabin
cozy porch Tapoco Lodge cabin

Two cabins offer connecting rooms, which are perfect for small groups, larger families, or two couples traveling together.

Two Tapoco Lodge cabins (five rooms) allow pets. A non-refundable pet fee is charged at registration ($75 for first and $25 for second pet).

Tapoco Lodge Dining

At time of publication, Tapoco Lodge offered breakfast in the Cheoah Dining Room and lunch and dinner in the Tapoco Tavern.

Omelets and scrambles are particularly hearty breakfast items and the grits were really good.

See the current Cheoah Dining Room menu.

Our favorite items for lunch and dinner included the hippie bowl, yummy pizza, and blackened trout (entree, sandwich, and atop a salad). Make a reservation for a riverside table in case it is busy. It is such a gorgeous setting.

Tapoco Tavern outside dining
outside dining at Tapoco Lodge

See the Tapoco Tavern food menu and bar menu.

Order the hash brown casserole as a side for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. At least once!

Tapoco Lodge Activities

Remember the celebrity I mentioned earlier? She is none other than Tina Wesson, winner of CBS’ Survivor second season. Tina is the activities director at Tapoco Lodge and has been here since 2010.

Tina speaks about Survivor and Life every Saturday evening at 8pm around a campfire but she might also do so at other times. Check the daily schedule or ask her. She gave us a short version on a non-Saturday night.

During our Tapoco Lodge stay, we joined Tina two different nights around a campfire for s’mores. Not only can you hang out with a TV celeb but she will serve you s’mores. Life is good at Tapoco Lodge!

Tapoco Lodge s'mores with Tina Wesson from Survivor
Tapoco Lodge s’mores from Tina Wesson

Tina says her favorite Tapoco Lodge activity is the full moon hike. I am so tempted to specifically check the lunar schedule and return during a full moon.

Tina lives nearby and has a wealth of information about the area. See the section below for some off-property things Tina recommends.

Tapoco Lodge Resort activities schedule
Tapoco Lodge activities board

But there are so many other Tapoco Lodge activities to enjoy—with Tina, with other Tapoco staff, with Tapoco guests, or alone.

Among the 22 miles of Tapoco Lodge trails, we enjoyed the Bear Creek Falls trail. It is a 2.5 mile loop and requires some sure footing in parts. Bring a partner.

creek bridge hike Tapoco Lodge
Tapoco Lodge hiking trail bridge

Find activity areas uphill from the Historic Tapoco Lodge. Find the horseshoe pit and axe throwing area (behind the Tin Can Theater), tennis courts (with a pickleball area), and basketball court.

Between the horseshoe area and the lodge, look for the hammock area on one side of the road and fire pit garden on the other. The fire pit garden has three fire pit areas.

Catch a movie in the Tin Can Theater on many nights. Ask the front desk staff about movie titles during your stay.

Cheoah River releases occur several times a year and creates one of the most magnificent adventures in the Southeast US. The class IV+ rapids are steepest right in front of Tapoca Lodge so arrive early to claim your spot at Tapoco Tavern.

Yoga sessions are available onsite on Saturdays at 9:30am and Sundays at 8:30am.

Church on Sunday in the Tin Can Theater is streamed from Charlotte.

See also the below section for activities and attractions near Tapoco Lodge.

Tapoco Lodge Property Features

In addition to the Historic Tapoco Lodge lodging, cabins, and dining areas, here are some Tapoco Lodge property features to explore and enjoy:

  • Spa. The Mountain Spa at Tapoca Lodge opened in summer 2023 and offers integrated massage services—including hot stones, scrub/body therapy, and hydrotherapy. Take a break from all that hiking and driving funness and treat yourself!
  • Old Filling Station. Right now the historic Tapoco Lodge filling station (on the left after the entrance gate) is just a photo spot. But there are plans to open a coffee stand and sno cone shoppe inside this building.
  • Garage Parking Bays. The covered bay areas serve as a car wash spot during the day and parking spots for exotic vehicles at any time.
  • Daily Car Show. Car and motorcycle enthusiasts will be astonished and entertained by the continual and ever-changing inventory of performance vehicles in the Tapoco Lodge parking lots.
  • Electric car chargers. There are four EV chargers on the Tapoco Lodge property.
  • Fire Pit Garden. The garden just up hill from the Tapoco Lodge has three large fire pit areas with built in seats. Wood and starter kindling is provided but bring your own s’mores supplies (or buy them in the gift shop).
  • Riverside Fire Pit. Another fire pit is located along the river.
  • Tapoco Lodge Gift Shop. Find s’mores kits (for the fire pit activity with Tina), other snacks, logo clothing, local crafts, and much more. I bought two Tapoco Lodge beer glasses as a reminder of my wonderful stay here.

Also explore the Historic Tapoco Lodge building and find the old mailboxes, cozy library area, classic old bar, and a small business center. The upper deck overlooking the Tapoco Tavern area is gorgeous during late afternoon and even for breakfast.

Tapoco Lodge historic filling station
Tapoco Lodge historic filling station

Historic Tapoco Lodge FAQ

Are there ADA rooms at Tapoco Lodge?

Yes, there is one ADA accessible suite at Tapoco Lodge.

Are dogs allowed at Tapoco Lodge

Yes, dogs are allowed at Tapoco Lodge. But only in two Tapoco Lodge cabins (with five rentable cabin rooms).

Does Historic Tapoco Lodge offer discounted rates?

Check the Tapoco Lodge website for specials and promotions. Contact Tapoco Lodge for group and event special rates.

McCool Travel tip: The Tapoco Lodge booking website has a nice feature. Clicking the Base Rate link shows rates for several available dates (before and/or after your selected dates). This feature is helpful for flexible travelers. For instance, if the following night(s) cost less then you can change dates to save money.

Is there a restaurant at Tapoco Lodge?

Tapoco Lodge has two restaurants. Cheoha Room serves breakfast from 8am-11am. Tapoco Tavern serves lunch and dinner from 11am-8pm. See the above Tapoco Lodge Dining section for our suggestions and tips.

Does Tapoco Lodge have wifi?

Yes, Tapoco Lodge has wifi and it is free and works very well throughout the property.

Is there a guest laundry area at Tapoco Lodge?

Yes, Tapoco Lodge has a guest laundry area.

Is smoking allowed in Tapoco Lodge rooms?

No, smoking is prohibited in the Tapoco Lodge rooms, cabins, and dining areas. There are two designated smoking areas on property.

For more information about Historic Tapoco Lodge, visit their official website.

Tapoco Lodge setting on river with mountain background
Historic Tapoco Lodge on the Cheoah River

Things to Do Near Tapoco Lodge

The most popular activity near Tapoco Lodge is driving the Tail of the Dragon. The eleven mile road features over 300 twists and turns. The Tail of the Dragon drive is popular with performance car drivers, motorcyclists, and vehicle enthusiasts from around the world.

It is quite common to see car clubs and motorcycle groups along the Tail of the Dragon route or in the Tapoco Lodge parking lot. Probably several, especially during the autumn and spring. You can even rent a Slingshot or motorcycle to drive Tail of the Dragon.

Continue through Tail of the Dragon along the western edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Foothills Parkway or drive through Maryville to Knoxville.

Two significant dams served as major motion picture settings and are well worth a visit.

Cheoah Dam is less than a mile from Tapoca Lodge. You will recognize it from the iconic scene in The Fugitive with Harrison Ford.

Fontana Dam is about 15 miles from Tapoco Lodge, on a curvy road (but not nearly as curvy as Tail of the Dragon). Film buffs may recognize this as the dam Robert Redford and Nick Nolte walked across in A Walk in the Woods.

To learn about the many other movies filmed in the area, visit the Tail of the Dragon gift shop. Inside the shop they have photos of various filming locations, including the dams.

Cherohala Skyway is another popular scenic drive for road trips fans. We love the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest with some of the oldest trees in the eastern US. Tina Wesson recommended the Huckleberry Bald trail on Cherohala Skyway and it was an excellent hike with fascinating history.

Tina also suggested the Nantahala Gorge for kayaking and the scenic train from Bryson City. We will do these in the future.

For groceries, snacks, beer/wine, or pharmacy items, drive 15 miles south from Tapoco Lodge to Ingles or Walgreens in Robbinsville.

Have you driven the Tail of the Dragon? Here are some other Unique US road trips.

Have you stayed at Tapoco Lodge? Check here for best Tapoco Lodge prices.

Heading to the Great Smoky Mountains? Visit our favorite Gatlinburg hotel.

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