The Appalachian Trail drops right down into Hot Springs.
The first structure you see is Laughing Heart Hostel.
Slippy and Mouse Trap were already there. Forest Fire decided to try a short cut via a blue blaze trail and it didn’t work so well for him.
Blue blazes, as apposed to the primary AT white blazes, are side trails off the AT. Often leading to water sources.
Hot Springs is an extremely hiker friendly small town. Smaller than I expected, but nonetheless quaint and charming and more than suitable for your needs. The path is marked straight through town, down the main drag.
I don’t really recommend the Laughing Heart. There’s one washer and drier in high demand and you can’t do wash after 8pm, for starters. You also have to walk back up hill from every trip into town, and there’s good stuff going on down there. Move down into town. There’s a lot of camp grounds (pay sites and free) as well as other hostels and a shit hole laundry mat.
The Dollar General was a fantastic resupply, including a cheap intertube raft for the French Broad river below. There’s a good outfitter there and rafting services if you can splurge. But first things first, the Smokey Mountain Diner.
Eggs, bacon, pancakes, bacon, orange juice, bacon, tea, pancakes, biscuits and gravy and biscuits and bacon baby ya! Way to good to take time for a damn picture.
We stayed in Hot Springs two days to clean up, resupply and enjoy the river, food, live music, patios, pool tables and beers. I’m missing playing pool with my boys 😉
There’s another place called the Mosaic Gourmet, next to Spring Creek Tavern, and they have the absolute best chicken and waffles I’ve ever had the pleasure to drool and groan over.
For like 90 seconds. Seriously, look at those plates!
Now here are two great GoPro tips for Hot Springs.
WiFi – go inside the public library during hours, get the WiFi password. Enjoy the fastest free WiFi in town from the bench out front 24/7. Amazingly you still won’t have data here, Verizon is very spotty and ATT is nonexistent.
Second tip, outside of the city limits along the AT you are able to camp where you want again. The city line ends at the far edge of the French Broad river. The AT follows the river for about a mile.
If you walk the AT half a mile past town, camping is free again, literally on the waters edge. On the town side of the river, you’ll pay around $30, but have showers. On the other side it’s free and you have a river… There’s a dozen good camping spots along this AT stretch, before it switchbacks up a sheer cliff side again.
Have some coffee in a hammock before jumping in the drink with your cheap Dollar General raft for a refreshing alternative to grinding up mountains.
A couple rounds of back and forth on the river leaves us wanting more. We’ve been walking by this outfit for 2 days. The short 5 mile trip with class 2/3 rapids advertised out front is too alluring.
Slippy, Mouse Trap and I grab a few lucky last minute slots on a late afternoon river trip. Their guides are really great, check it out.