Nantahala Mountain Lodge
It's mile marker 124.1. You've probably been walking for nearly two weeks. You smell terrible, your clothes need washing, you can't even remember what it feels like to sleep on a level surface, let alone a luxurious bed. You are already starting to get bored of porridge oats, and that's only if you ignored the ever-present ultra-lighters and brought a stove.
Enter Nantahala Mountain Lodge. A beautiful and bespoke experience that exists in a separate category too much of the other hiker accommodation available on the 2109 miles of the Appalachian Trail. With various options available, from shared rooms to luxurious private accommodation with sink-in sofas, and even a pool table, we were lucky enough to stay in a shared room with just three beds alongside the lodges comfy social area.
Upon arrival, we were whisked into the Nantahala Mountain Lodge's mud room to get rid of our packs, boots, and any other pieces of smelly, hiker-infested gear. Initially, this did feel a little like admittance into a prison, but co-owner and fellow Brit, Maggie, quickly allayed our concerns by explaining that it was to help protect the clean environment within the lodge and prevent it from descending to the same lack of cleanliness often found in other hiker hostels.
As soon as we were shown through the spacious frontage and into the gorgeous woodclad porch, we quickly understood the routine that all guests go through as part of their stay at Nantahala Mountain Lodge. Directly in front of us as we walked in, we could see through a glass-panelled door into the private suite. A high-ceilinged room with leather sofas, pool table and kitchen facilities.
To get down to the 'hostel' area. You navigate a spiral staircase that is truly a piece of architectural art, down a small brightly lit passage way and into the communal/social area. Again, wood was the material of choice with light-radiating white clad walls, a large brown leather sofa, large kitchen area and, perhaps most importantly, a little black router providing unusually good wifi (download AND upload) for a commercial outfit.
Our room was neat, functional, and like the rest of the lodge, extremely clean. We were supplied with some loaner clothes while the rest of our clothes were laundered (for a five dollar fee). The ensuite bathroom contained everything you could need, and we were encouraged to shower straight away to preserve the cleanliness and spa-like feel of the lodge. Maggie was extremely efficient and helpful, ensuring that any question we could possibly have was answered before we asked.
The lodge even has a small resupply area with hiker staples such as Moutain House, tuna packets, poptarts and pasta sides, all very reasonably priced. You will also find a fridge stocked with ice-cold Coke, Sprite and a range of craft-beers from Magic Hat Brewing Company in Vermont. The Blind Faith IPA was my personal favourite with Charlie opting towards the Single Chair Golden Ale.
After we had the chance to settle in, abuse the wifi and enjoy being warm and cosy. We met Steve Bennett; owner, builder, thru-hiker and quintessential Brit. He treated us to a tour of the facilities, telling us about the history of the building, as well as advice for our Thru-Hike and beyond, supplemented by his own experience thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, British flag and all! It's fair to say that he was the utter British gentlemen, and the hosting left nothing to be desired from both Maggie and Steve.
Overall, Charlie and I were extremely pleased with our decision to stay at Nantahala Mountain Lodge. With its pleasant mix of cosiness, cleanliness and all the facilities you could require, it felt like hitting a huge reset button during our hike and left us feeling like the next 2000 miles will be nothing to worry about. The only disappointing thing for us was knowing that we would have to leave, get walking, and put our tent up once again on the Appalachian Trail.
Still, with experiences like this, and people like Steve and Maggie, I feel like we're in safe hands!
If you want to see our interview with Steve, you can watch it here.
*Disclaimer - This is a sponsored review, but has been written honestly*