Sugar Hollow Celebrates Fives Years of Getaways

LodgeBUTLER, Tenn. – Surry Roberts had a vision. The old barn didn’t look like much but a dilapidated pile of rotting wood.

But it had a strong foundation. Roberts knew that it was the start to something wonderful.

“The Sugar Hollow tract was simply cutover woodland, totally decimated, and [people] thought I was crazy, but I could see the beauty at the outset,” he said. “We started by fixing up one of the barns for camping and soon saw that all the rehabilitation of five barns and three houses would be significant.”  

Today, a framed photo of the old barn hangs inside a 10-bedroom Lodge. Visitors may be surprised to find out that old barn and the upscale Lodge are the same place.

Sugar Hollow Retreat has been surprising visitors for five years now. It first opened in 2004 as a bed and breakfast with only the Lodge. Now four other guesthouses and a 1,200-squre-foot conference center complete the escape.

Tucked in the mountains of the Cherokee National Forest, Sugar Hollow is midway between Boone and Elizabethton.

Not everyone knows it’s there. The unassuming gravel road off Highway 321 has signs indicating the 300-acre property exists, but nothing prepares visitors for the Watauga Lake view from the overlook deck – or for the homey escape provided by the cabins.

“We get a lot of return visitors,” says Innkeeper Jim Gresch. “A lot of our traffic is from word of mouth.”

Those visitors use the space to get away for a weekend. It’s become popular for weddings, family reunions and for retreats for businesses, churches and youth groups. Each guesthouse offers a fully stocked kitchen and washer-dryer, plus TV, satellite, DVD and VCR players. Foyer in Lodge

Nine-miles of hiking trails are available on site, and nearby the overlook deck provides a gorgeous view of Watauga Lake.

“The vision is to have people enjoy a bit of natural beauty away from a routine life elsewhere,” Roberts said.

Roberts has been working to restore the forest and surrounding area for wildlife. With a multitude of whitetail deer and wild turkey, an effort from the start has been made to promote conservation without hunting. The retreat recently added a corn feeder, which permits guest to view the game almost everyday.

Sugar Hollow isn’t always in the black. But for Surry Roberts, it’s become a love of the people who love to getaway there and the beauty of the surrounding Appalachian land. 

“Sugar Hollow Retreat has a little touch of my heart,” he said. “A walk in the woods can inspire every one of God’s creatures and hopefully Sugar Hollow can enhance the chance to be inspired.”