What really impresses us about the mountain lodge in Unicoi State Park in Helen is the way families take advantage of its facilities. Having been enjoyed by generations, this lodge often hosts weddings and family reunions.
The rooms are clean, neat and perfectly comfortable with their pine and painted wood furnishings. Our room overlooks a meadow and mountains.
Reasonably priced buffet meals tempt everyone from toddlers to grandparents. At dinner, don’t miss the signature fried whole mountain trout.
The lodge also offers programs to keep everyone interested and entertained. After dinner on our visit, a trio of musicians plays Celtic music. The next day local crafts people demonstrate their skills and let anyone who wants to help dip candles, use a hand saw or make cider.
But things may change. The lodge is slated to close Jan. 1 for extensive renovations including the addition of a bar and grill. It is scheduled to reopen in Oct. 2013. We just hope that the upgrade doesn’t cost Unicoi its charm.
You enter the Lodge at Amicalola Falls State Park on the second story and your first impression is of sweeping mountain views through soaring windows. The lodge was built in 1991 and has been popular with families ever since. In fact, the lodge seems to be filled with rambunctious children.
In our room, we find well-used décor. It puts us off at first but given the mountain views, we come to appreciate the clean rooms with their hot showers and comfortable beds.
We are lucky enough to eat dinner in The Maple Restaurant as the sun falls behind the clouds and mountains and thunderstorms give way to pink skies and plumes of mist rising from the valley floor.
Meals are buffet style and choices are limited. One evening the only entrée selections are fried chicken, fried fish and ribs. But there are also soup and salad makings.
When you just want to relax, find an Adirondack chair on the ground level. You’ll enjoy soaring views of circling hawks and rolling mountains. You may even see deer in the woods.
When you want exercise, take a walk to the crashing Amicolola Falls, the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River.
The Len Foote Hike Inn in the Chattahoochee National Forest is as close to camping as I want to get. On state land but run independent of the parks system, it’s the only backcountry lodge in Georgia. And it’s well worth a visit if you can manage the five-mile hike that is the only way to reach the inn.
Check in at the Visitor’s Center at Amicolola Falls State Park, then head for the popular hiking trail lined with oak, red maple and black gum hickory. The path roams along the side of mountains and over creeks, past wildflowers, rhododendron, dogwood, mountain laurel, ferns and a wide assortment of mushrooms.
It takes the average person three hours to reach the inn. The trip has been enjoyed by children as young as 5 and seniors in their late 80s. Remember: You have to carry your overnight things. But when you emerge from the trees and see the welcoming wood lodge, you will be glad you came.
Check in to one of the 20 “rooms” that resemble pine boxes. You’ll find bunk beds and bedding, a fixed ladder, a heating panel, an electric light in a metal cage, an electric fan, a mirror, shelf, stool and a place to hang clothes.