Sewanee, Tennessee

Photo: The Sewanee Inn
Photo: The Sewanee Inn

College towns make great vacation destinations. They usually attract intellectuals, art lovers, and foodies. Nearby sporting events, museums, and microbreweries are always packed. While old buildings and green lawns fill the campuses. Right now, the undergrads are home for the summer. It’s time for you to take over the university.

The University of the South, better known as Sewanee, is located along the southern border of Middle Tennessee. It sits on the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau—part of the Appalachian Mountains—near the Alabama and Georgia lines. The university dominates the little town. It has sandstone buildings and the All Saints’ Chapel, with a gorgeous rose window. A golf course, thick forests, and lots of small lakes surround Sewanee. Plus rock formations, waterfalls, and caves are hidden among miles of hiking trails.

Those hiking trails are your first focus when you arrive in Sewanee. Start on an easy trail, a two-mile loop to Cedar Hollow Lake. The wide path, a fire lane, is easy to walk. It’s surrounded by tall pines that block the already hot sun. Many call it Fairyland due to its magical feeling. You understand why when you reach the quiet little lake. A chirping bird in the distance is the only sound you hear until an excited black lab comes barreling toward the water. He’s enchanted, as well.

Photo: The Sewanee Inn
Photo: The Sewanee Inn

The trail to Thumping Dick Hollow isn’t quite as smooth as the first trail. Follow an unused road, cross a rickety wooden bridge, and keep an eye out for a hard-to-see path on another two-mile loop. The little path leads you down a steep slope and around an old-growth forest. But the caves are worth it. The first one, the Columned Entrance Cave, is easy to explore with just a flashlight. While Solomon’s Temple Cave, about 50 yards away, is for more experienced cavers.

After avoiding the midday heat on a covered trail and in caves, it’s finally cool enough to hike to Bridal Veil Falls late in the afternoon. Some parts of the trail are easy and flat, while others have steep inclines. They’re worth it to see the water falling over two sets of limestone cliffs, before dropping into a sinkhole. Then follow the nearby trail from Morgan’s Steep to the Cross. From the rocky edge, you’re rewarded with views of Sewanee, the valley, and a starting-to-set sun. It’s breathtaking.

The only thing you need now is a great hotel. The Sewanee Inn sits in between campus and a nine-hole golf course. The massive lobby features a soaring ceiling with wooden beams, a stone fireplace, and leather chairs. Large windows and terraces overlook the green. Plus eighteen58, the elegant dining room, serves an impressive Sunday brunch. You’re already dreaming of poached eggs with crawfish étouffée, peach cobbler, and the Bloody Mary bar as you fall into a deep sleep. College is even better the second time around.

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