My Mom was from Utah, and my father was from Fort Walton Beach, FL, where we lived. To balance my mother’s need to reconnect with the mountains while living at the beach, we annually set out on a family tradition – venturing to the Smoky Mountains. My family was not a big camping family, but my Mom was adamant about us being a big hiking and outdoors family, and those trips to the Smokies as a kid sparked my love for the outdoors and desire to travel to experience more. Beyond my childhood days in the mountains, I was blessed to travel extensively with my family, and we were exposed to everything from the mom and pop motels to five star resorts, and even things like European river cruises. In college at Vanderbilt, I rekindled my connection with the outdoors, mastering backwoods camping through their wilderness skills program. This expertise led me on a transformative journey, living off the land with a Shaman in the Amazon and embarking on a year-long backpacking trip through the third world. In those remote corners, I stumbled upon the precursor to Airbnb – "guest houses." These humble abodes where people opened up their homes to us allowed me to explore places untouched by hotels, fostering meaningful connections with locals and nature.

Returning to Fort Walton Beach, I married an adventurous soul, and together, we envisioned Three Little Bears Retreat – a haven for our three children and nature enthusiasts alike. Starting with the 3 Little Bears Cabin, we aimed to infuse each property with the essence of its surroundings, drawing inspiration from the guest houses, hostels and resorts we had visited along with paying homage to the local heritage and traditions of the wildlife, settlers, and Cherokee people. One inspiring figure to us is Horace Kephart. He was an author and considered the foremost authority on outdoorsmanship of his time. He was also the key figure in establishing the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. His connection to the mountains came when he had a breakdown in his city job and set off for the mountains rejuvenate in what he called his search for "the back of beyond." We are fortunate to be located at the most serene entrance to the Park, which is ironically the route to where Horace lived and found his solace. We are committed to providing an outdoor hospitality experience that mirrors Horace's quest to create the park as an area where people can come to experience nature and reconnect with themselves. 

Our commitment extends beyond hospitality; sustainability and regeneration is at our core. From upcycling in construction to sourcing locally, we strive to minimize our ecological footprint. Every booking contributes to our tree-planting initiative, fostering wildlife habitats and promoting environmental balance. As stewards of the land, we are determined to tackle challenges, like the persistent kudzu, and enhance our eco-friendly measures as our team grows. We also support our local wildlife rehabilitators and are a release location for rehabilitated injured wildlife to be released back into the wild. Our hope is that Three Little Bears Retreat becomes not just a destination but a platform for rejuvenation, self-discovery, and environmental responsibility. Thank you for choosing our slice of Shangri-La. Enjoy your stay, reconnect with nature, and let’s collectively make the world a better place—one sustainable retreat at a time. 

Come find your back of beyond, 

Matt McGee

Founder, Three Little Bears Retreat


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google privacy policy and Terms of Service apply.