The epic history of the Cloudland Hotel

Built atop Roan Mountain in 1885, the legendary spot drew wealthy travelers from across the globe.

Cloudland hotel on Roan Mountain

The Appalachian Trail passes by the site of the former Cloudland Hotel.

Photo via Mitchell County Historical Society

Roan Mountain, which straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina in nearby Mitchell County (~72 miles northeast of Asheville) is renowned for its hiking, limitless vistas, and legendary rhododendron blooms. And once upon a time, it was also home to the mammoth Cloudland Hotel.

The hotel was built in 1885 and named after the clouds that enshrouded Roan Mountain. It was the brainchild of John Thomas Wilder, a US Army brigadier general in the Civil War and industrialist, and began as a modest 20-room lodge. After being successfully marketed as a haven for well-to-do folks with health issues — as well as an escape from scorching summer temperatures — it drew famous clientele, including André Michaux, Asa Gray, and John Muir. The success led Wilder to replace the lodge with an enormous 166-room hotel in 1885.

Some of its biggest draws — the elevation and weather — also wound up being a factor in the hotel’s demise. Harsh weather conditions, including wind, snow, and rain took their toll and led to the hotel being abandoned in 1910. By 1915 the hotel was falling to the ground. Today, all that remains of the Cloudland Hotel is a forest service marker offering info on the historic structure.

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