Imagine yourself waking on a late spring morning, embers still crackling in the wood-burning stove and the sound of birds seeping through the open window. You throw on your hiking shorts and fleece pullover then step onto your patio, where you take a seat at the rocking chair and you think to yourself “which trail am I going to wander down today?”
There are three amazing lodges, only accessible by foot, that Team Green Adventures frequents for our spring and fall hiking getaways. This week’s blog gives you a taste of each!
Nestled at the third-highest peak of the half-million acre Smoky Mountain National Forest, LeConte Lodge offers complete seclusion from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. When the movement to establish a National Park in the Smokies was in full sway, a tent camp was erected to entertain the visiting dignitaries from Washington, DC. This is where LeConte Lodge now stands. Although LeConte Lodge is now under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, it predates the establishment of the park in 1934.
The shortest hiking trail is 5 strenuous miles along Alum Cave Trail, but you can also access the lodge via any of the other 4 trails, including the 6.5-mile Trillium Gap Trail, which the llamas travel each week with food and supplies! Single, double and three room group cabins include large bunkbed-style accommodations with wood-burning stoves and kerosene lamps. In the mornings you can enjoy a hearty home-cooked country-style breakfast, then come back for meat- and-three style dinner with bottomless glass of wine! What’s our favorite feature? In the evenings you can walk a short distance to the bluff line and watch the sunset OVER the clouds. This establishment is the true definition of rustic, however, so don’t plan on any running hot water!
Reservations for LeConte Lodge cabins open up on October 1st, and you better be prepared to sit at your phone with redial ready! Nearly every weekend for the following year gets booked up in that single day. However, if you want to visit mid-week, or during the winter months, you’ll have better luck getting reservations after October 1st. Or, if you aren’t able to get reservations, there is a campsite near the lodge. Campers can’t enjoy the home-cooked meals, but they can stop in for a cup of coffee or hot cocoa and visit the sites. Check out their blog to learn more!
Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls State Park, near Chattahoochee National Forest, is one of the most unique of Georgia’s state park facilities. Best of all, it’s sustainably built! The entire structure was built with minimal impact to its natural surroundings using stilt-structure support, ventilated composting toilets, and a solar powered water heating system. Much like LeConte Lodge, home-cooked meals are included in the price. At the end of each meal, tables with family-style seating compete to have the least amount of food waste. The food scraps left on each person’s plate is weighed, and the table with the fewest wasted scraps receives a gold star! Those food scraps are then added to their vermicomposting bin where the worms break down the scraps into fresh fertilizer for the herb garden! How about those composting toilets? They feed the robust flower gardens surrounding the lodge.
Hike Inn features 20 rooms, with an overnight capacity of 40 guests. Most evenings include a scheduled class or presentation, often highlighting thru-hiker stories from along the Appalachian Trail. After all, the Southern Terminus of the AT is only 8-9 miles away! If you need a break from hiking, you can relax in the sunroom with walls upon walls of books and board games, and a spectacular view of the sunrise (which the staff will wake you up for if you request it!). Accommodations here also include bunkbeds, but they’re built into the wall and only sleep 2 per room. If you’re coming with your family, you can request a suite. Unlike LeConte Lodge, and Charit Creek (which you’ll read about below), you won’t find wood-burning stoves and kerosene lamps here. All four buildings at Hike Inn have electricity… and very hot showers in the bathhouse!
Reservations for Hike Inn aren’t nearly as difficult to get as LeConte Lodge, but reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance, so if you’re looking to spend a popular 3-day weekend here, you need to plan ahead!
Charit Creek Lodge
Charit Creek Lodge is one of Team Green’s favorite lodges, mostly because it’s so close and still considered a “hidden treasure.” Located along the border of Big South Fork National Forest, Charit Creek Lodge can be accessed by foot or horseback! Unlike both LeConte and Hike Inn, which require a minimum 5-mile hike, guests only need to hike one mile to reach their accommodations, then can explore the trails after dropping off their gear.
There’s also more flexibility with meal planning. Guests can choose between the home-cooked prepared meal or hostel-style cooking, in which you cook your own meals after the other guests have been served. Charit Creek Lodge offers two group cabins and one main building with single rooms (double occupancy). In the evenings, stand around a roaring fire in the open field and gaze at the massive sky full of stars! Much like LeConte Lodge, all cabins at Charit Creek include large bunkbed-style sleeping arrangements, wood burning stoves, and kerosene lamps.
If you’ve already been to Charit Creek Lodge, it’s going to be a completely new experience this time around. Charit Creek has been newly renovated, and now has heated showers!
Team Green Adventures was not able to get reservations for LeConte Lodge or Hike Inn in 2015, but we do have reservations at Charit Creek Lodge the weekend of May 30-31st. We hope you’ll join us for an unforgettable spring weekend!
-Keeley (Team Green’s Director)