• 77°
franklin county times

Hidden gem: Spruce Pine’s Willow Oak Lodge offers abundant outdoor fun for all

FRANKLIN LIVING—

Willow Oak Lodge, nestled in the woods just off Highway 43 in Spruce Pine, might be best known as a high-fence hunting preserve offering whitetail deer, wild turkey and quail hunts – but it’s so much more.

Willow Oak Lodge offers more than a thousand acres of diverse terrain, including creeks, ponds, open fields and impressive views. Guests have access to fishing and hiking, trails for side-by-side riding, boating, spotting wildlife and generally enjoying being in the great outdoors.

Other options for relaxing include booking a massage, taking advantage of the sauna and making use of the full gym. Good food and Southern hospitality greet guests, many of whom come from out of state to get away from it all. The lodge also hosts special events, including a costumed Halloween party, New Year’s Eve party and a Valentine’s Day ball.

Husband and wife team Tim and Kim Horton are the owner-operators of Willow Oak Lodge, which opened to the public in late 2019. They also run their lure company, Profound Outdoors. A major league pro fishing angler, Tim won the 2000 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award and is an 11-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier. He is also the star of his well-known educational fishing television show, “Timmy Horton Outdoors.” Kim worked in education as a gifted and talented program teacher for 13 years.

“Franklin County has always been home,” said Tim Horton. “I’m from Spruce Pine, and Kim is from the Rockwood/Belgreen area. This is a very special place that’s really entwined in the fabric of who we are. Our goal is to get people outside and making wonderful memories together, and that’s the most important thing.”

With its expansive acreage of open fields and an abundance of creeks and ponds, Willow Oak Lodge is a popular destination for vacations, weekends for couples and families, weddings, corporate retreats, family reunions and private parties. In addition to dining and lodging, meeting space is also offered.

For the past 10 years, the property has been developed and managed for wildlife habitat, with lodging added in the past year and a half.

The lodge can host more than 30 people. Accommodation options include rooms in the lodge, private cabins or Tim’s Barn. The barn offers six bedrooms and bathrooms and includes some of the wood from a barn built on the property in 1918. A variety of themed lodging options include Valley View, the Rabbit Hole, Fox Trot, Quail Run, the Rut Room, Eagles Nest, Ole Raspy Hen and several others. There is also the option to stay in the honeymoon suite.

“We’ve had some of our most enjoyable moments on this property,” said Kim Horton, “walking in the woods, planting food and habitat for wildlife, checking trail cam photos, fishing with our kids and relaxing in the cabin. This place is very special to us, and we wanted to share it with others. That’s why we opened the lodge in the first place.”

The majority of hunters come from other states, including Mississippi, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and North Dakota, and a lot of them visit other local attractions while in the area. “We had a family with two younger kids come and stay just for lodging,” said Kim Horton. “They caught fireflies and made smores and had so much fun walking the trails and hiking and going on nature walks and skipping rocks in the ponds. After they got home, their mom sent me the sweetest note about their stay.”

Willow Oak Lodge is located at 8410 Highway 43 in Spruce Pine. For more information, call 256-460-6681, email willow.oak.lodge@gmail.com or visit their Facebook page or Instagram account.

x