Len Foote Hike Inn Review: Eco-Friendly Backcountry Lodging
The eco-friendly Len Foote Hike Inn is a unique experience: good food, hot showers, and comfy beds, accessible only via a 5 mile hike from Amicalola Falls in Georgia.
Georgia’s Len Foote Hike Inn experience is a mix of backpacking and a lodge stay nestled in an exceptionally beautiful stretch of the southern Appalachian Mountains. It’s accessible via foot travel only, and rewards hikers with beautiful rustic architecture, a comfortable and welcoming spirit, and fresh, home-cooked food on a mountaintop with incredible vistas to the east.
The eco-friendly lodge is accessible to hikers via the Hike Inn Trail, a 4.9 mile outbound hike through a diverse landscape dotted with beautiful ridges, overlooks and creek valleys. The Len Foote Hike Inn is located roughly halfway between two of Georgia’s most popular hiking destinations, Amicalola Falls, Georgia’s tallest waterfall, and Springer Mountain, the southernmost blaze on the iconic, 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail.
The hike complete, the inn is suddenly visible after the trail crosses a series of wooden bridges under the dense canopy of rhodedendron in a creek-filled valley. The Len Foote Hike Inn is architecturally beautiful: windows fill the tall, soaring construction, wide eaves angle down to the earth. It’s a well-executed blend of modern and rustic that feels like a natural extension of the mountaintop landscape. The inn’s mutiple buildings scatter across the mountain summit, connected by a series of covered walkways.
Len Foote Hike Inn Review
The smell of burning firewood lingering in the air, I enter Hike Inn and check in. The inn’s friendly manager checks me in, gives a quick orientation, and hands me my bed linens and towels. I’ve got 2 hours until dinner, he explains, which is signaled by a ringing bell – and a guided tour begins in an hour.
I head for my room, one of 20 at Hike Inn, to ditch the weight of my backpack and check out the accommodations. The room is small and efficient, but exceptionally clean: a bunk bed runs the length, a heater and fan provide simple but effective climate control, and a door/screen door combo opens to a shared porch. Like tent camping, the bunkhouse room is clearly meant for sleeping, an encouragement to spend time in the common areas on the property or out on the trail.
I meet fellow guests and a cheerful, energetic guide in the lobby for a Hike Inn tour after grabbing a cup of hot, fresh coffee from the dining hall. Our group tours the Hike Inn property, soaking in a primer on its many eco-friendly features including solar power, LEED construction, composting, and a beautiful landscape crafted of local stone and native plants.
The communal restrooms are basic but modern and extremely clean. Hot showers, courtesy of solar heating, are a luxury after a day of hiking.
Hike Inn Meals
Meals are served at the ring of a bell, audible throughout the property. They’re communal, served family style in the dining hall. The food is delicious and fresh – and the chef paid me a visit to serve a vegetarian entree, a delicious potato and winter vegetable soup. Dinner was a chance to meet my fellow guests, an eclectic mix of personalities, all with incredible stories to share. The sense of community at the Hike Inn is strong: though ages and interests are diverse, everyone shares a love of travel, the outdoors, and hiking here in Georgia’s beautiful Appalachians.
Hike Inn Activities
Some linger in the dining hall following dessert, some scatter to other parts of the property. Many eventually migrate to the sunrise room, the eastern-most building at the inn’s winding maze of connected architecture. A wood-burning iron stove is the heart of this open room with soaring ceilings, game tables, and wrapping bench couches. Puzzles, games – even a guitar – sit for guests’ enjoyment – or grab a book from the lobby’s excellent collection spanning outdoor adventures to wildlife and conservation.
The vibe at the inn is chill and refreshing, friendly and unpretentious. Among the guests staying with me, we’ve traveled a combined majority of the world, yet bask in the rustic and understated surroundings of the inn. The vibe starts with the staff: knowledgeable, friendly, conscious, cheerful. I get the distinct feeling that this is so much more than a job: they’re here because they love the inn and this slice of the Appalachians.
Sunrise is a celebratory experience, summoned by faint drumming before daybreak when weather predicts an impressive show at dawn. Hike Inn’s easternmost border flanks an incredible overlook, offering sweeping views of the rising foothills of the Appalachians to the east and a fantastic vantage point for beautiful sunrises.
Breakfast follows sunrise, served community style in the dining hall – and as with dinner, the food is fresh and expertly prepared. Daytime activities range from relaxation to hiking: the Appalachian Trail’s southernmost blaze at Springer Mountain is a 8.8 mile roundtrip hike away via the AT Approach Trail, and worth the effort for some stunning views. Request a packed lunch the night before for your hike – as with all Hike Inn meals I’ve had, it’s delicious. My vegetarian lunch included a delicious hummus and fresh vegetable sandwich, hand-made trail mix, and an enormous cookie.
The food, the guests, the employees, the architecture, the views – all blend to an incredibly unique Hike Inn experience. I can’t wait to return.
Reservations are strongly suggested, via hike-inn.com.
Len Foote Hike Inn Trail: Directions & Details
$5, or included with a Georgia State Parks annual pass.
34.566933, -84.243583 // N34 34.016 W84 14.615