If you’re unfamiliar with the Len Foote Hike Inn, it’s time to get familiar! Georgia’s unique lodge getaway in the North Georgia Mountains is located five miles up the Appalachian Trail approach that leads to Springer Mountain, the official starting point of the AT.
Are you putting the puzzle together? That’s right, the only access for visitors is by hiking five miles to the lodge. So yes, you’ll have to haul yourself a long way in but once you’re there you’ll be treated to warm fires and hearty meals in a rustic lodge that’s perfect for unplugging from the modern world. The lodge provides your linens, meals, and even some basic toiletries… you just have to get there.
The lodge is named for noted naturalist, Len Foote, a conservation pioneer. The lodge itself is remarkably eco-friendly with the likes of solar panels, vermiculture, and composting toilets just for starters. Even in it’s construction there was minimal waste. Rather than fit lumber cuts to the design, the design was made to fit standard lumber cuts, resulting in the maximun use of every inch of lumber. It’s stilts also provide maximum seepage area for precipitation, resulting in the bare minimum of runoff. As a former geomorphologist, that fact alone makes me giddy.
All of these construction considerations were taken into account before the now-popular LEED certification process came along in 2000. And guess what? Even without LEED guidelines during construction, the lodge qualified for Gold certification in 2004.
The lodge consists of four buildings: a bunkhouse, a bath-house, a dining hall, and the sunrise room that are connected by covered walkways. The lobby and bunkhouse are the first to greet you when you arrive. It’s there that you’ll check in and grab your linens before you head off to your two-bed bunkroom. Once you’re settled, you’re free to explore the Inn, grab a snack and a drink in the dining hall, and take in the lodge tour before dinner.
The bathhouse is where you’ll find the intriguing composting toilets. Most people automatically wrinkle their noses at the prospect but once you’ve learned how they work during the tour, you’ll change your tune. They’re so well designed, you’ll find that your fear of smell is unwarranted.
The dining hall is your key to comfort at the Hike Inn. The dining hall is open 24 hours and lemonade and coffee are available well into the night. You’ll be asked to label your mug or glass for reuse during your stay… another eco-friendly, resource-saving measure in place at the Inn. As for dinner and breakfast, the food is served family style so you’ll get to know your lodge-mates as you pass around the always-yummy dishes. At the Hike Inn, minimal food waste is a high priority and in order to help us all be aware of it, they weigh the waste at the end of the meal… and everyone likes to have a happy face on the board for their stay!
And then there’s the Sunrise Room. It’s an all-purpose place to chill. It’s filled with games, puzzles, and new friends. The view spans three sides of the building with lounge chairs all around the deck so you can relax and let your cares drift away. And just outside of the Sunrise Room you’ll find horseshoe pits, more chairs from where you can gaze over the mountains, and the uber-cool Star Center… but you’ll have to take the tour to find out more about that unique feature.
And because the good folks at the Hike Inn don’t want you to miss anything amazing, they’ll gently play a drum around the bunkhouse if there will be a nice sunrise. Those of you motivated enough can get up to take it in and the rest can roll over and go back to sleep.
Know before you go…
So with that introduction to the Hike Inn, here’s some last tidbits you should know for your visit:
- The Hike Inn is a place to unplug so you won’t find outlets in the bunkrooms. What you will find are friendly signs reminding you that the inn is a cell-phone fee zone.
- Pay attention to the weather both on your way in and out. The weather along the trail can change quickly; you just want to be prepared.
- Breakfast and dinner are both included in the price of your stay. You may also buy lunches for the trail though. I highly recommend the hummus sandwich… it’s far from ordinary and oh so yummy!
- Remember, this is a rustic lodge, not a luxury resort. The beds are thin as are the room walls. Earplugs will be your friend.
- Give your feet a break from your hot hiking boots by bringing a pair of sandals (or the like) to roam around the lodge in during your stay.
- The showers are stocked with basic hair and skin cleansers so no need to pack those in if you’re not picky and don’t have special requirements.
- The Hike Inn is a popular weekend getaway and is booked well in advance. If you can sneak away during the week, that may be your best bet for getting a reservation sooner.
- Kids are very capable of doing this hike. I’ve seen all ages who were up to the task in my visits to the Inn. Just be sure to know your child’s abilities and be prepared to take a little longer for the journey if they’re particularly young or new hikers.
- You must check in at the Amicalola Falls Visitor Center by 2 pm in order to proceed to the lodge.
To book your reservation, call the Hike Inn reservation line at 1-800-581-8032.
Also take note of the Georgia Conservancy’s service weekend at the Inn coming up in June… there’s still some spaces left. For a report on last year’s event, click here. You can also find photos of that event on the Georgia Conservancy’s Facebook page or more photos of the Hike Inn on my Flickr page.