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Hike Inn, Hike Out

After climbing hundreds of stairs, passing a giant waterfall, and hiking the first six-and-a-half miles of the Appalachian Trail in the mountains of North Georgia, you might be surprised at what you find. I know I was.

Photo by Pexels

After following a nearly hidden sign at a crossroads in the trail, I stumbled upon it on a chilly Saturday afternoon in early March. Almost out of nowhere, the building appears, virtually overrun with beautiful green foliage. It would become one of my favorite places—Hike Inn.

The Len Foote Hike Inn—or, as the locals call it, Hike Inn—is situated in the breathtaking Chattahoochee National Forest near Amicalola Falls State Park, which serves as the southern starting point for the Appalachian Trail.

After trekking through the winding green trails, you’ll find an eco-friendly backcountry lodge that provides a unique and rustic experience for hikers. Completely surrounded by nature, the inn is framed by beautiful scenery and invites hikers to come in, rest their feet, and stay awhile.

Whether you’re just passing through Hike Inn or you plan to stay a few nights, the inn offers home-cooked meals, indoor and outdoor seating, and an entire room filled with board games. Hikers looking for a day trip often pack a lunch and spend the afternoon exploring the inn before hiking back down to their cars.

If you plan to extend your stay, Hike Inn offers basic amenities such as bunk-style sleeping quarters, communal meals, and educational programs about the environment. It’s a popular destination for those looking for a peaceful nature retreat. Reservations are required, and spots book up fast!

One of the biggest draws for hikers is Hike Inn’s commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly living. As a zero-waste establishment, the inn does a few things that may leave visitors with a greater appreciation for living minimally:

  1. Off-the-Grid Facilities: The inn operates off the grid, utilizing solar power for electricity and water heating, reducing the environmental impact associated with traditional energy sources. 
  2. Rainwater Harvesting: By collecting and utilizing rainwater for flushing toilets and watering plants, the inn conserves local water resources. 
  3. Composting Toilets: Composting toilets reduce water usage and eliminate the need for traditional sewage systems. 
  4. Waste Reduction: Hike Inn encourages guests to minimize waste by expecting all guests to pack out whatever they bring in. 
  5. Sustainable Building Practices: The construction and maintenance of the inn use eco-friendly materials and a design that blends with the natural environment, which minimizes its impact on the surrounding ecosystem. 
  6. Education and Outreach: Hike Inn emphasizes environmental education, providing guests with information about the local ecosystem, conservation efforts, and responsible outdoor practices. 
  7. Limited Access: The remote location and the requirement for visitors and suppliers to hike to the inn help control the number of guests, reducing the overall impact on the area. 

Hike Inn is one of the most memorable places I’ve visited while hiking around the United States. Aside from the experiences of using a compostable toilet for the first time or spending time playing board games with friends while we ate lunch, for me, my time at the inn represented how to enjoy nature without compromising it.

It’s encouraging—outdoor recreation can coexist with nature. Wherever you are on your journey to live more sustainably, you can still have fun doing it!

The next time you’re on the Appalachian Trail, be sure to give Hike Inn a visit—and don’t forget, whatever you hike into the inn, you’ve got to hike back out with you.