Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hike to Len Foote Hike Inn

Gene and I have had several conversations trying to decide if we were really ready to tackle a 10 mile mountain hike.  After the Blood Mountain hike we felt pretty good and decided we’d go for it, so this morning we were off before daylight to Amicalola Falls State Park to hike the 5-mile trail to Len Foote Hike Inn.

Amicalola Falls is about 40 miles from Vogel State Park, but in the dark over these curvy mountain roads it took a little over an hour to get there.  We knew 10 miles was going to take some time so we got an early start.

Our first stop was at the Visitor Center to get a permit to hike the Hike Inn Trail.  The permit is free, but it took some time to get signed up.  Amicaloa Falls State Park is the home of the Approach Trail which leads up to the top of Springer Mountain and the start of the Appalachian Trail.  March 15th is one of the big start dates and the Visitor Center was swarming with hikers.  As we waited to get our permit, we watched as the 341st hiker this year registered to thru-hike the trail.  He was pretty excited.

When it was our turn to sign up for a permit we learned that you can make a loop hike connecting the Hike Inn Trail with the Approach Trail.  From the map we had and the map online, we could not tell for sure if that was possible.  We were glad to know we could hike a loop, however, it was 11 miles instead of 10.  What’s one more mile, we could do that.  Piece of cake.

After we got our permit, we drove up to the large parking lot at the top of Amicaloa Falls.    This is where our hike started.  There are better views of the falls from down below, but this is a pretty cool view from the trail right at the top of the falls.

From this parking lot The Hike Inn Trail and the Approach trail are the same for about a quarter mile.  Then they split and the Hike Inn Trail veers off to the right.  This trail was a real dream with wide, hard packed dirt treadway over moderate ups and downs.  There were mile posts so we knew how far along we were and at every mile there was a nice resting bench for breaks.  We stopped at every bench.  There were about 4 creek crossings.  Some had foot bridges, some didn’t, but they we easy rock hops.  No wet feet today.

The Len Foote Hike Inn is similar to other inns, cabins, and lodges which require their guests to hike to the facility.  This hike was much easier than any of the trails leading to Mt LeConte in the Smokies which can’t even compare to the trails to Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon.  The Len Foote Hike Inn has about 20 guests rooms, a bath house (with hot showers), and a dining hall which serves family style meals.  The rates are about $150 (double occupancy) per night which includes dinner and breakfast.  On our hike up this morning, we saw 11 of last nights’ guests as they were coming down the mountain.
At the Inn we wandered all around seeing what we could see, then went into the dining room to eat our lunch.  They do not serve food except to guests, but there is always coffee, tea, and lemonade for the day hikers who stop in.  We helped ourselves to a beverage to go with our sandwich.  They also had some bread pudding left over from the breakfast meal.  They offered us some of that, so we were very contented hikers. Best trail lunch I’ve had in a long time.

The Hike Inn Trail continues on up the mountain from the Inn for another mile where it intersects with the Approach Trail.  By the time we got to the Approach Trail, we could hear thunder in the distance and the sky to the west was getting dark.

Blood Root
The Approach Trail is not continuously uphill, although it may feel like it to the heavily burdened thru-hiker.  This trail has its ups and downs and is much steeper than the Hike Inn Trail.  Our feet were screaming by the time we got back to the car.  Even though this portion of our hike was hard, it was very enjoyable.  We saw many, maybe 20, thru-hikers on their first day of their journey to Maine.  I can’t imagine what they must feel.

I'm using the sign to prop myself up.
Eleven miles was plenty for today, especially when the rain caught up to us.  We hiked for about a mile in rain gear. Needless to say, we were happy to see the car.

Tomorrow will be a driving day for us as we head for Nashville.  For now, it’s off to bed.

Thanks for tagging along.

P.S. Chick-fil-A has great chocolate shakes.


  1. sleep well..sounds like you deserve a good night's sleep!

  2. What a great day. Congrats on the hike, job well done and great pictures.

    I can't imagine hiking all the way to Maine from there, wow!