Cataloochee Ranch, with its theme “Hospitality a Mile High,” is known for its rustic ranch style, mountain vistas, hiking, horseback riding, open air cookouts and lively music events. Its history is long and steeped in mountain tradition.

The ranch is a beloved gem in Haywood County’s Maggie Valley.

When Cataloochee Ranch Resort, LLC purchased the property March 30, 2020, the new owners said they intended to “preserve and enhance” the mountain retreat.

“Cataloochee Ranch is a wonderful resort destination,” said co-owner David Colquitt. “We want to enhance the experience, so it can realize its full potential — enjoyed by locals and visitors, alike.”

Vision

The ranch was expected to be closed for six to nine months, for renovations and capital improvements. Then the pandemic hit, and things went on hold.

Since renovations have resumed, David and Annie Colquitt felt it was time to brief neighbors about the plans for the extensive renovation.

The Colquitts, who also own The Swag in Waynesville, held a neighborly briefing about the ranch plans July 3 for more than 50 people living in the area adjacent and surrounding Cataloochee Ranch.

Colquitt said the briefing went well, and that neighbors seemed pleased to know the plans for the ranch.

David Colquitt said the first vision for the iconic ranch property is land preservation.

“We have a vested interest in making sure the area’s environment is maintained,” he said. “We want to make sure Hemphill Bald hiking continues and that no ownership of the ranch disrupts the flow of mountain hiking.”

The special nature of Cataloochee Ranch is front and center in ownership’s minds.

“There is no place like it,” David Colquitt said. “And the vision for the property has grown over the last year.”

The plans

Connecting the ranch’s interior to the outdoors is a guiding principle.

Ownership is maintaining the ranch’s stone and timber character, while adding a few modern touches to let in light. New steel and glass doors will feature sight lines to the mountain setting.

The interior of the main ranch house has been demolished, while keeping the stonework. The roof is being raised to put in steel and glass windows to let light flow into the large room, but the rounded timber style is being retained.

The previous kitchen will become the entry and reception area; the previous reception area will become a bar. A completely new kitchen and outdoor cooking area will be added as an addition to the ranch house.

The previous large fireplace in the great room will become a double-sided fireplace, to make it enjoyable in the new outdoor terraces, which will wrap around the ranch house. Some of the terraces will be covered so that guests can dine outdoors, even in inclement weather.

The new terraces will generate space for outdoor dining and viewing the sunset.

“The ranch house redesign is intended to preserve the historic elements, like the stone walls, while maximizing the views and natural light by adding windows,” said Annie Colquitt. “Guests come to the ranch to enjoy the outdoors, so we are creating additional outdoor patio space and porches.”

Renovations are in process for two of the cabins — Willow and Pond. Later this summer, attention will turn to the ranch house. The interior design can be described as “rustic chic.”

“The interior design will reflect the style of the Western North Carolina mountains and the treasured history of Cataloochee Ranch, with a fresh and modern design element,” Annie said.

Eventually, all the cabins will receive a refresh and the Silverbell Lodge will be renovated, with new porches and decking.

The plan is to reopen Cataloochee Ranch as a year-round destination. Given the extensive renovations, David Colquitt said reopening will be sometime in fourth quarter 2022 or first quarter 2023.

Dining and events

Among the amenities at Cataloochee Ranch, emphasis is being put on dining. Local dining will be encouraged as an important part of the ranch experience.

“We hope to have a strong, robust non-lodging contingent for dining,” David Colquitt said. “We want a lot of people to dine there. Dining guests will have the option of outdoor dining, while watching the sunset.”

One of the last renovations will be the existing barn. The downstairs will be maintained as a working horse barn for horseback riding at the ranch, but the upper hayloft and surrounding area will be converted into an event center.

“People are drawn to barns in general,” he said. “We’ll maintain the existing exposed architecture and ranch feeling of the barn, while adding steel and glass window upstairs for great views and letting in the light.”

A new catering kitchen and bathrooms will be added upstairs, and the lawn will be terraced for events. A small amphitheater will be added to enhance the barn’s event capabilities.

“The hayloft will become a great event space,” David said.

Separate entities

The new Cataloochee Ranch Resort, LLC is a separate entity from The Swag in Waynesville.

“Cataloochee Ranch and The Swag will be branded independently,” David Colquitt said.

He contrasts the two properties, saying the two are “more like cousins than brother and sister.”

“The Swag is a higher-end property and is more of a couples’ getaway than the ranch,” David said. “Cataloochee Ranch serves a wider clientele and is multi-generational. The goal is to elevate the ranch facilities and, with ease of parking and good access, to attract more weddings, corporate retreats, groups and local dining.”

Renovations on the ranch are being done by Summerour Architects of Atlanta and Schick Construction, Maggie Valley.

To keep up to date on the renovations and closure, visit www.cataloocheeranch.com. Cataloochee Ranch is at 119 Ranch Dr., Maggie Valley.

Ranch history

Cataloochee Ranch was founded by “Mr. Tom” and “Miss Judy” Alexander in 1933 and was originally located in Cataloochee Valley.

In 1938, Mr. Tom purchased a large part of the present ranch property on Fie Top Mountain from Verlin Campbell, the “Potato King” of Haywood County. There was a sturdy stone and log cattle barn, now the main Ranch house, and several cabins and sheds.

The property’s 5,000-foot elevation bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park created the ideal combination of extraordinary mountain views and cool summer temperatures.

Members of the Alexander family added more cabins and managed Cataloochee Ranch from its founding until the March 30, 2020, purchase of the ranch by Cataloochee Ranch Resort, LLC. The ranch closed immediately to visitors for the planned renovation.

Horseback riding from the ranch’s barn has continued, and through hiking is allowed. To book horseback riding, call 828-926-1401 or email info@cataloocheeranch.com.

The sale of Cataloochee Ranch did not include the Cataloochee Ski Area, which is independently owned.

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