Boots Off Hostel and Campground
It’s conveniently located within a five-minute drive of Watauga Lake and just a five minute walk off the Appalachian Trail. That makes Boots Off campground in Carter County just outside of Hampton, Tennessee ideal as both a jumping-off point and landing zone for prime Northeast Tennessee recreation.
This woodsy lodging retreat, resupply stop and all-around good time gathering post is planted in the thick of Aappalachian outdoor action. From Boots Off you can launch out on just about any kind of mountain activity or adventure sport endeavor you can think up -- and then make your way back to a hospitable basecamp at the end of the day.
Boots Off is welcoming to anyone who’s looking for a laid-back atmosphere and affable vibe.
“We get travelers from all walks of life here,” said owner Jim Gregory.
He and manager Luke Weidner pride themselves on making a comfortable enclave both for people who want to keep to themselves -- or for solitude-saturated long-sloggers seeking a little friendly interaction after days of doing nothing but minding their own business out on trail.
Working With the Land, Not Against It
A leisurely stroll around the grounds makes it apparent that much custom-tailored creative attention has been focused into planning and developing the facilities and amenities at Boots Off. The formerly overgrown and rundown homestead has blossomed into an enchanting refuge for repose since Gregory bought it and opened for business in 2016 -- and without losing touch with the forest’s embrace.
The infrastructure has been built mindfully and imaginatively into the landscape. The layout at Boots Off aspires to cooperate rather than conquer the uneven natural terrain and shade-bearing woodland surroundings.
“This is a very unique property that has a very unique look about it,” said Gregory. “That uniqueness, plus the location next to the Appalachian Trail and Watauga Lake, was definitely something I knew I could work with.”
Much of the cheer and charm that Boots Off radiates probably comes from the fact that visitors and Gregory’s circle of outdoor enthusiast friends are often happily donating inspiration, enthusiasm, labor and know-how on property improvement undertakings. You could say Boots off was built by hikers, for hikers -- and it proudly remains a work in progress.
“People have been pitching in nonstop,” Gregory said.
In his construction-project collaborations with friends and volunteers -- and in the property's evolution as a whole -- spontaneity tends to play a central role, he added.
“A lot of times we just throw around crazy ideas, and then try to rein them in to something manageable and workable," Gregory said. "And then we make it happen."
At Boots Off you can choose among three overnight slumber-spot options -- private tiny cabins, bunkhouse sharing and walk-in primitive camping.
Tiny cabins are cozy "glamping-style" sleeping units for up to three people. With air-conditioning and heat, they’re built for all-weather comfort and shelter. Each features a full-sized bed and a twin bunk. Clean linens and pillows are provided, as is a mini-fridge and coffee maker with supplies. Cost is $60 per night for one person plus $10 for each additional occupant.
The Bunkhouse offers a semi-private sleeping area arranged in a train sleeper-car inspired style. Rent one individually for $25 per night or reserve the entire 8-bed bunkhouse for $200.
Twenty-one flat, rubber-padded tent-camping sites are situated along a tranquil wooded loop that rings the lower perimeter of the Boots Off property. Cost of camping is $12 per person, free for kids under 12.
Need a Ride? Need to Rent?
The staff at Boots Off not only like putting people in better headspaces than before they arrived -- but they’ll also take your body where you want it to go next as well. Boots Off provides shuttle services to and from nearby towns and AT trailheads as far south as Clingmans Dome in the Smokies to as far north as Angel's Rest Hiker Haven in Pearisburg, Virginia. “Whether you're doing a short or long section hike, a thru hike, or day hike, we have shuttles available to get you to some awesome parts of the AT and beyond,” they promise.
And if you feel like dipping a toe in the area’s paddlesport options, Boots Off can set you up with a boat or a ride or both. They offer kayak and paddleboard rentals and free transportation to and from a prime Watauga Lake launch point -- and with drop-offs and pick-ups at other locations available upon request.
Tiny Cabins: Cost is $60 per night for one person plus $10 for each additional occupant.
Bunkhouse: Individuals pay $25 per night. Reserve the entire 8-bed bunkhouse for $200 per night.
Tent camping sites: $12 per person -- kids under 12 free.
Single Kayaks & Stand Up Paddle Boards: Half-day $30/boat + tax; Full-day (up to eight hours): $50/boat + tax
Tandem Kayaks & Canoes: Half-day (up to four hours): $50/boat + tax; Full-day (up to eight hours): $80/boat + tax
Short-term & Long-term Parking ($5/day $25/week)
- Locally or Family-Owned Business
Free continental breakfast for guests
Short-term Resupply/Hiker Store
AT Aqua Blaze Packages
Commercial-grade boot dryer
Free Wi-Fi access
Full-service Laundry ($5)
Unique outdoor shower experience
Exceptionally clean restroom facilities
Communal hiker kitchen
Large communal fire area, smaller fire areas in the campground
Dog-friendly (please call in advance -- dogs must be supervised and leashed at all times)
Excellent phone reception
AT Passport stamp location
Swimming available nearby
Boots Off takes pride in their ability to take in dirty hikers and send them packing clean again.
“We are not the kind of campground that runs out of hot water," says manager Luke Weidner. “We’ve got the most beastly hot water heater of any campground I've ever seen. And a hot shower is definitely always something people are looking for -- especially when it gets cooler. When you get out of the woods and you haven't bathed for a week or so, there’s nothing worse than a shower that starts off lukewarm and then goes cold five minutes in. That doesn't happen here.”