Where can you take a 30 hour vacation to help recharge your life? Simple; the Len Foote Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls, that’s where! What, you may ask, is the Hike Inn? It’s a lodge way back in the woods of north Georgia accessible only by foot on a five mile hiking trail. That’s right; no cars, trucks, snowmobiles, go carts, golf carts or pack mules….just your own two feet.
My wife Margaret thought a good mid-winter break from the city doldrums was due so we asked some hiking buddies if they’d like to spend the night at Len Foote. We’d all been there in the past…in fact this same group (excluding me) went on the coldest day recorded last year. It was quite the adventure considering the temperatures, attesting to the fact that the usually filled lodge had only two other visitors. Regardless they loved it and most returned this year.
To get to the lodge you drive to Amicalola Falls (about an hour and a half north of Atlanta), check in at the visitors center and then drive to the top of the falls, parking in a lot at the trail head. The most direct trail is just under five miles of moderate difficulty. Even those not in great hiking shape should be able to tackle the hike in about 3 – 3 1/2 hours. There’s another trail (the approach trail to the Appalachian Trail, or AT) that is just over five miles and is a bit more challenging as you are either climbing or descending. We hiked the easier trail to the lodge and the more difficult on the return.
Once you reach the lodge, which seems to appear out of nowhere, you are greeted by the friendly staff who checks you in and gives you the rundown on how things work. The lodge itself is comprised of “four sustainably designed buildings” that are kept super clean; the guestrooms, bathhouse, dining hall and Sunrise Room. Although on the rustic side the guestrooms are fine for a night or two. They sport bunk beds for two in the small, very cozy rooms. If with your significant other this is all you need, although you won’t be sleeping in the same bed; flip a coin to see who gets the top bunk. There is an ambient ceiling heater that adds plenty of warmth on cold nights. The lodge provides linens, pillows, blankets and towels.
The bathhouse has men’s and women’s shower rooms (fairly private) and plenty of separate bathrooms with the sweetest smelling composting toilets you will ever experience (really!). The dining hall has long tables for family dining as both a hardy and delicious dinner and breakfast is included in the lodging price. Pack lunches are also provided for an extra charge if ordered at dinner the previous night. Coffee is on at 6:00am to tide you over until breakfast starts at 8:00am. The Sunrise Room has a great eastern view of the North Georgia Mountains affording an outstanding viewing area for the sunrise, plus a pot bellied stove to keep you warm, a small lending library, many puzzles to assemble and board games galore (we played a rousing game of Scrabble after dinner).
As their website states “Everyone who makes the five-mile trek through the mountains to the Hike Inn in the Chattahoochee National Forest does so for a different reason. Some come to get away from their everyday lives. Some come to spend quality time with their family. Others come for the Appalachian Trail. But no matter the reason, the result is the same: Everyone leaves with a sense of belonging”. So whether you’re an avid hiker or just enjoy a walk in the woods give it a go…you’ll come back refreshed and ready to take on the rigors of everyday life.