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  1. #1
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    Default Interested in Starting Hostel in NC/TN

    Hi, I just relocated back to the East Coast after ten glorious years in San Diego, Ca. I am putting out some feelers in the hiking community about the interest of a hostel in the NC/Tn area. I was thinking either in the Cherokee, NC, Gatlinburg, or Pigeon Forge areas. I would offer a shuttle to/from the Clingman Dome AT crossing or to whatever area would be closest.

    I see in this thread much debate about hostels being a For Profit Business. I of course have to have my bills paid, but I also have a deep need to fill my curiosity. I love learning about different people and their cultures. I backpacked Europe alone in 1999 and had a blast. I know the American Dollar is weak now and there is more of a need to travel with a budget.

    If you could design your ideal hostel that is hiker friendly, what would it be like? What are some absolute have to haves? What are some no nos? Which area of the above would you think is the best? So many questions so little time.

  2. #2
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    Check out the FreeState Hiker Hostel in Maryland (Wolfsville Road, just outside Smithsburg.) It's the nicest hostel I've seen on the AT; it's run by a 2006 thru-hiker. Here's a link. Ken and Janelle are great folks.

  3. #3

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    check out the Hiker Hostel that Josh & Leigh run between Dahloneaga & Woody Gap. that is an awesome hostel!
    Trillium

  4. #4
    Springer - Front Royal Lilred's Avatar
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    If I could design my own hostel it would have the following. HOT shower with a rain water showerhead. (hey, it's my design) Laundry facilities, short term resupply, Internet, sheets on the beds with pillows. No alcohol permitted and dogs outside. I would like it to include a breakfast fit for a king and free shuttle back to the trail. I would gladly pay $35 for all of that. The Gatlinburg area could use a good hostel, imho. Or, check out Townsend Tn, Wears Valley area.
    "It was on the first of May, in the year 1769, that I resigned my domestic happiness for a time, and left my family and peaceable habitation on the Yadkin River, in North Carolina, to wander through the wilderness of America." - Daniel Boone

  5. #5
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    Lilred's dream hostel sounds great, but many people don't want to pay $35.00.

    And some folks don't realize how much work goes into planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning up for a big meal (and if we're talking Tenn/NC, then we're talking 15-20 people per day). So I wouldn't worry about the breakfast thing. I'd let people take care of their own meals; this would keep the daily workload down for the hostel owner, and would able the hikers to stay there for less money, which might encourage more folks to stay.

    And I think the Gatlinburg area is fine, but then again, we're talking about a place where there are all sorts of inexpensive motels.

    Best of luck with your plans.

  6. #6
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    the only way to do it is for-profit otherwise hikers will run all over you and take advantage of your kindness

  7. #7

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    Cherokee is a little visited but interesting trail town. I'd look at that before the towns on the other side of the divide. Hikers would be able to see Elk when they return to the trail in the AM, and see a part of the park that they usually miss. I suggest you consider keeping your place alcohol free. That'll keep the problems down. A higher price will allow you to be more selective about your clientele.

    Good luck.

  8. #8
    El Sordo
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    You might want to get in touch with the folks at the Hike Inn near Fontana. They're not actively seeking a buyer as far as I know, but there's always the possibility.

  9. #9
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    While a higher price may permit you to be more "selective" about your clientele, it will also guarantee you a much smaller one, too.

    And Cherokee is a good bit further from the Trail than Gatlinburg; if memory serves, it's almost twice as far. With the price of gas being what it is, this is a consideration, as you'd presumably be offering a shuttle ride back to Newfound Gap, either included with your overnight or for a fee. If the cost for this was included with an overnight stay, you'd have to charge your guests more; if there was an additional fee involved, it'll also raise the cost of a visit to your establishment. There comes a point where people will do the math and say "I can get a motel for around the same price" and with local motel rooms available for around forty dollars, you can't be charging too much money for a hostel stay.

    Unless of course, you want to be so "selective" with your guests that you don't have any.

  10. #10
    Registered User Frolicking Dinosaurs's Avatar
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    The place most in need of a hostel in the TN / NC area IMO is the Gatlinburg / Cherokee / NewFound Gap (Highway 441) crossing on the AT. While most currently hitch to Gatlinburg for lodging and resupply, I would suggest Cherokee, NC, for the location of your hostel because the land in the Gatlinburg area is way overpriced and Gatlinburg is a tourist mecca.

    As for amenities -
    a shuttle to and from the trail (could have a specific time each day when people would be picked up from the trailhead (s) and a time when the shuttle would leave the hostel to deliver people to the trailhead(s) during the hiking season)
    a shuttle to a good long-term resupply grocer if a location within easy walking distance cannot be found
    a location within walking distance of food and beverage establishments
    Hot showers with shampoo, liquid bath soap & towels / wash clothes supplied
    laundry facilities with laundry soap provided
    a clothes line suitable for hosing off and drying muddy tents, ground clothes, etc.
    A microwave, stove and fridge for residents to use

    Since dogs are not allowed in the GSMNP, if you like dogs and would want to provide kennel services, you could become a kennel for hikers who are hiking with dogs. Doing this would involve also providing daily shuttle and pick up / delivery of dogs to Fontana and Davenport Gap -- Doing that daily loop on a schedule during the hiking season would also make your services very attractive to section hikers who could leave their cars at your hostel, get a ride to Fontana, Davenport Gap or Newfound Gap and hike all or half of the Smokies - currently this is hard to arrange because only the Hike Inn (Fontana) and Standing Bear (Davenport Gap) are available and if they are already booked, you are SOL

  11. #11
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    Running a boarding kennel is a great deal of work. And you better REALLY like dogs; really like the sound of barking 24 hours a day; you'd need additional insurance; and you better not have any neighbors within half a mile. Other than dog owners, I'm not sure many folks would want to stay at a place that was also a kennel. But other than all this, great idea.

    Another consideration: Gatlinburg has one of the better backpacking outfitter shops on the Trail, The Happy Hiker. Does Cherokee have a comparable facility? I know there are several outdoor shops on or near Rt 74, but I had thought they were geared more towards rafting.

  12. #12
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    no hostel is needed in this area

  13. #13

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    Jack provided a very comprehensive list of the ideal hostel services on page #2 of this Whiteblaze thread: http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/show...=hostel&page=2

  14. #14
    Survivor Dave's Trail Shuttles-www.atsurvivordave.com
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    Cloud 9 Hostel in Hiawassee Ga. is still for sale I think. If you are interested, call Fran and Laura. Last year they served almost 600 hikers from Jan. to May 1. A really cool place with an outdoor hot tub, trout pond, and other stuff hikers might like.

    Jack is correct as far as the kennel thing. Hiker midnight is 9PM. Dog barking is annoying even if you like dogs!

    Here's a link. There are good pics in some of the tabs as well.
    http://www.upperhightowertrout.com/cloud9.htm

    SD
    Georgia Shuttling Website www.atsurvivordave.com

  15. #15

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    Cloud 9 is an awesome place IMO and in the perfect location less than 2 miles from the trail. It is also on a place on the trail where hikers very possibly could be ready to take their first zero.

  16. #16
    Registered User Frolicking Dinosaurs's Avatar
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    SD, excellent observation re: dogs and barking. Perhaps a hostel could arrange for boarding the dogs with a local kennel or vet and still provide the doggie transports to hikers?

  17. #17
    Registered User Lyle's Avatar
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    I guess, my opinion would be to keep it simple. The less work for you, the less chance of becoming burned out. Guess my list of must-haves (or should I say REALLY great to haves):

    In order of importance to me.
    1) Clean, dry place to sleep and tend to gear.
    2) Access to re-suply. Either near-by or shuttle.
    3) Access to meals - Home cooked great, but doesn't fit in with keeping it simple unless you really love to cook.
    4) Showers
    5) Access to laundry.
    6) Shuttle back to trail. Not required, but kinda expected.

    Beyond that, I consider anything else gravey. Nice to have, but not required at a paid hostle.
    My one final suggestion, offer your services year round, or al least all hiking season. Several times on my recent section hike in May, some of the very popular hostels had shut down. There were still many thru-hikers and long distance hikers who needed services, but these hostels only operated during PEAK thru-hiker season. This was very disappointing, and inconvenient, and is why I say to keep it simple, maybe cut back services in off-peak times, but please don't eliminate them. Also, I would not be opposed to having the hikers do some chores before they leave in the AM. Sweep, mop, tidy the bathroom, etc.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Tarlin View Post
    Running a boarding kennel is a great deal of work. And you better REALLY like dogs; really like the sound of barking 24 hours a day; you'd need additional insurance; and you better not have any neighbors within half a mile. Other than dog owners, I'm not sure many folks would want to stay at a place that was also a kennel. But other than all this, great idea.

    Another consideration: Gatlinburg has one of the better backpacking outfitter shops on the Trail, The Happy Hiker. Does Cherokee have a comparable facility? I know there are several outdoor shops on or near Rt 74, but I had thought they were geared more towards rafting.
    Cherokee is the same distance from Newfound as Gatlinburg. There is an outfitters store there but I don't remember the name and I didn't go in so I don't know anything about it. Your right- offering a kennel service would be a lot of extra work, but it would also be an excellent business model. Extra work = extra $. Think about all those dog hikers that would love to see their pooch at the halfway point. You'd make a fortune in shuttling. Example- hiker and dog get shuttle from Fontana to Cherokee and stay a day (or 2). Hiker gets shuttle to Newfound and hikes south to Fontana. Another shuttle to Cherokee. Hiker spends another night at hostel. Hiker shuttles to Newfound again and hikes to Davenport. Dog gets shuttled to Davenport. OR any number of variations of this.
    The trick would be to find a way that the kennel is far enough away from the bunkhouse that the noise and smell wouldn't be a prob.


  19. #19
    mountain squid's Avatar
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    to WB, Kimee129.

    Before diving into this endeavor whole-heartedly, I suggest volunteering as a caretaker at an already established hostel for a season or two. You won’t make any money, but you will gain valuable experience. You’ll see everything, not just the obvious stuff, first hand without having to fully commit yourself. (Example: hiker leaves your place and forgets something. Three days later you get a call from said hiker expecting you to mail him his missing gear to next town, etc.)

    It is quite a bit different operating a hostel than it is being a hiker staying at one. Hikers can be very demanding when they get into town. As a hiker, it is all about yourself (I need to take a shower; I need to do my laundry; I need something to eat; I need to resupply; I need to get this funny rash looked at; I need this and I need that, etc, etc, etc...) And then, once all your chores are completed, you have the opportunity to relax.

    As a hostel operator, all those needs of a hiker are directed at you. Instead of taking, you will be giving. Multiplied by 10 – 15 hikers per day during busy season. Hiker chores aren’t the only chores to do either. (If you think your kitchen/living room/bathroom is dirty now...) And, frequently, once you think everyone’s chores have been completed, someone will arrive late at night (just when you thought you might be able to relax), and if nothing else, will need a place to sleep. Basically, you will need to be available 24 hours a day (unless you have a caretaker who can help).

    During your season as a caretaker, carefully consider the services that you would like to provide (if you do decide to open a hostel): shuttles to town, shuttles for slacking, preparing/serving meals, operating a small resupply store, television, internet, etc. Not all hostels provide all services. Of course, location might dictate what you provide. The areas you listed will require a lot of shuttling. A shuttle to Clingman’s Dome or even Newfound Gap would probably take 1-2 hours round trip (give or take a few minutes).

    Good Luck with your plans.

    See you on the trail,
    mt squid

  20. #20
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    My guess that after a few years of running one, you would end up with a much lower opinion of thru-hikers. Reading post here they want a lot and are willing to pay little for it.

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