- April Hunt For the AJC
The path to unplugging from Atlanta this winter lies at the top of Amicalola Falls.
There, a five-mile trail wends its way to the Len Foote Hike Inn, Georgia's only backcountry lodge. Accessible only by foot, the Hike Inn welcomes hikers with rustic and comfortable rooms, fresh meals and views of the southern Appalachian Mountains.
TripAdvisor awarded the Hike Inn with a 2013 Certificate of Excellence for a reason. The solar-powered oasis includes 20 rooms, each with a bunk bed and bedding that cuts down on your pack, and bathhouse stocked with soap, shampoo and even hair dryers.
Beyond the radiant heat panels, the lodge also has three wood stoves – in the dining area, commons and lobby – that are especially gratifying in the winter chill. An overnight stay includes a home-cooked dinner and breakfast, made by an on-site crew.
Inn Executive Director Eric Graves said after moving to the lodge from the South Carolina coast, he was pleasantly surprised to find that even in winter the Hike Inn is a treat.
"The heat provided by the wood stoves brings everyone together, and I have always enjoyed the conversations with guests around the stoves, Graves said.
The trail is its own draw, named one of Backpacker magazine's "Best American Hikes" for its easy-to-moderate switchback route through oaks in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
There are only two rules for a stay to delight your senses: 1.) Hikers must check in at the Amicalola Falls State Park Visitor Center by 2 p.m. to ensure a leisurely 3-hour hike to the Hike Inn's front porch before nightfall.
2.) And – in keeping with the unplugged theme – no cell phones or electronic gadgets are allowed. Instead, the lodge rewards its guests the chance to meet and connect in the stocked game room.
Staff members provide a tour of the lodge every afternoon, explaining the conservation efforts that include composting toilets and worms gorging on meal scraps. The tour also includes a stop at Star Base, the celestial calendar that channels the sun through a block of granite.
The getaway ends with either a hike back down to Amicalola Falls, or the adventure can continue on the approach to the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain.
Rooms start at $117 per person or $170 per room (double occupancy). Guests must also pay a $5 state park entrance fee.
Reservations are required. To check on rooms and availability, call 1-800-581-8032 or visit www.hike-inn.com.