Hostels: Why They’re Awesome and Where to Stay in the White Mountains

Signpost at D Acres Hostel in Dorchester, NH featuring arrows pointing toward the direction of locations on the property, nearby mountains, and notable places like New York City and Montreal.
Signpost at D Acres Hostel in Dorchester, NH.

Here at the Notch, we’re proud to be part of the hostel community, and we’re enthusiastic about our travelers, their journeys, and the plethora of adventures that await our guests in the White Mountains.

However, hostels are not everyone’s first pick. Despite being a common phenomenon in Europe, many Americans haven’t even heard of hostels, let alone stayed at one. Rather, budget travelers in the U.S. tend to search for cheap motels or last minute deals to save money.

Hostels can have a negative connotation attached to their name, and, in America, are subject to some misunderstandings, misconceptions, and false assumptions. Cheap, but dirty. Loud and party-like. Unsafe and prime for theft. Just take a look at the horror movie Hostel.

The reality? Those off-putting images are uncommon, especially here in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Hostels originated as a cheap accommodation for young travelers. Some of the duties involved, such as laundry and cleaning, ran on a communal basis from the temporary residents. As hostels evolved, guest ages and backgrounds became more diverse.

Still retaining affordability, hostels nowadays have staff to do the main cleaning and chores. Guests share the communal space, including bedrooms, bathroom facilities, and living/kitchen amenities, and they are expected to “leave no trace” by cleaning up after themselves. Check out What is a Hostel? by Tim Westwig, owner of the White Mountains Hostel, for more info.

Here at the Notch, we strive to make our environment comfortable for every guest, including setting up quiet hours during the night, providing lockers and locks to store valuables, and addressing guests’ questions, needs, and concerns.

Outdoor fire pit at The Notch Hostel
Outdoor fire pit at The Notch Hostel.

Here are five reasons to stay at a hostel on your next trip:

1. YOU’LL SAVE MONEY

While traveling or vacationing, budgeting money is important. Hostel bunk prices generally beat even the cheapest motels in town, making them by far one of the least expensive ways for individuals to travel. In the White Mountains, a bunk in a shared room ranges from $30 to $35  per night, and at a minimum includes a bed, linens, showers, and coffee.

The Notch Hostel guest kitchen
The Notch Hostel guest kitchen.

Save more money by utilizing the guest kitchen. Most hostels have a kitchen that allow guests the opportunity to cook and store food rather than eating out every meal. Feel free to bring prepared meals and groceries, or help support the local economy by shopping for groceries once you arrive.

Even campers might want to think twice before heading out into the wilderness. Staying at a hostel allows you to charge electronic devices, upload your awesome adventure pictures, enjoy hot showers and real beds, and ditch the overnight gear—while still providing you with easy access to the outdoors.

2. YOU’RE IN A PRIME LOCATION

View of the Rattle River (White Mountains) Lodge and Hostel in Gorham, NH.
View of the Rattle River (White Mountains) Lodge and Hostel in Gorham, NH.

Hostels can be found almost anywhere that tourists or travelers visit, including major cities, natural and recreational attractions, and historical places. They are an ideal choice for those of us who want to stay “near the action” but don’t want to spend $1,000 a week on a downtown hotel or vacation rental.

Hostel staff members tend to be well-versed in the local transportation options for travelers on foot, and some even offer shuttles to and from nearby airports or points of interest. It’s a good idea to reserve ahead of time if you plan on visiting during peak season; our new guests are often surprised to learn that we book up almost as fast as the hotels in town on popular weekends!

3. YOU’LL GET MORE THAN JUST A BED

Private room at The White Mountains Hostel in Conway, NH
Private room at The White Mountains Hostel in Conway, NH.

Hostels generally provide clean sheets, blankets, a pillow, a towel, and showers, and allow guests access to common areas. Extra amenities often provided include Wi-Fi, coffee, breakfast items, a guest computer, grill, fire pit, laundry machines, and a library. Guest kitchens are stocked with dishes and silverware, cookware, and basic spices and condiments (usually items that other guests have left behind on their travels).

Hostels are a great choice for White Mountains visitors. You can dry out gear, do laundry, make sandwiches for tomorrow, and review trip plans over dinner on the porch. The next morning, it’s only a few minutes drive to start your adventure!

4. YOU’LL MAKE FRIENDS AND GAIN INSTANT COMMUNITY

Guests of the Rattle River (White Mountains) Lodge and Hostel gathering for a feast.
Guests of the Rattle River (White Mountains) Lodge and Hostel gathering for a feast.

Unlike hotels, motels, and even cabins, the social atmosphere is part of the hostel experience. We attract guests of all ages–not just young travelers and students, but people twice or three times their age—and each has their own story to share with others.

The communal kitchen fosters community within the hostel too. Some of our favorite memories at the Notch are from impromptu group meals with guests. Travelers around the world have prepared authentic dishes from their native countries right in our kitchen!

That being said, socializing is certainly not a requirement or expectation for hostel guests. Plenty of folks curl up in their bed for a nap upon arrival, read a book in the hammock all afternoon, or head into town for a night out. Plus, you can usually book a private room if you prefer (but better do it in advance as these book up fast).

5. YOU’LL HAVE ACCESS TO LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

Want another reason to stay at a hostel? You have access to us, the staff, and our wealth of local knowledge. We love to help guests with trip planning, so never hesitate to ask us about directions or what to do in the area.

Other guests can also provide travel information and tips, as well as places to go and things to see. At the Notch, many of our guests are regular visitors who are deeply involved in hiking, climbing, or other outdoor activities, and have their own insights and recommendations to share.

Bunk rooms at The White Mountains Hostel in Conway (left) and The Rattle River Hostel in Gorham (right).
Bunk rooms at The White Mountains Hostel in Conway (left) and The Rattle River Hostel in Gorham (right).

Best Hostels to Stay at in the White Mountains

The grassroots movement away from impersonal hotels and towards unique, budget accommodations such as hostels has arrived in the mountains. The White Mountains Region alone boasts three popular hostels located in three corners of the region — Conway, Gorham, and North Woodstock — each about an hour’s drive from the other. A new, smaller hostel recently opened in Twin Mountain, about a half hour north of us.

Just outside of the Whites is D Acres, a hostel/farm near the world-class rock climbing destination in Rumney, NH. A hikers-only hostel called Hikers Welcome Hostel is located along the Appalachian Trail on the south side of Mount Moosilauke, the southern-most peak in the Whites.

Below are four excellent hostels to check out in the White Mountains this summer.  As of this printing, all four will be open for both the summer and winter season.

The Notch Hostel (us!), North Woodstock, NH

Staff at The Notch Hostel. From left to right, Justin Walsh (owner), Stephanie Robinson (staff) Serena Walsh (owner) and Delilah (mascot), Shannon Grossman (staff).
From left to right: Justin Walsh (owner), Stephanie Robinson (staff) Serena Walsh (owner) and Delilah (mascot), Shannon Grossman (staff).

Located in North Woodstock, New Hampshire, The Notch Hostel is an 1890 farmhouse that Justin and Serena Walsh, a young couple from Massachusetts, purchased and converted into a 30-guest hostel in 2015. We have four shared rooms and two private rooms, as well as guest kitchens and hang-out areas. We are located along the Appalachian Trail (AT) and provide shuttle, laundry, and other special services for guests who are hiking the AT. We’re open year-round, except for a few weeks during April and November.

We prioritize staff face time with guests and providing an immaculate yet comfy place for people to spend time. The fire pit is a nightly event in the summer, and the winter crowd gathers around the (inside) fireplace to share stories from the day. We were honored to be voted #7 on Hiker’s Choice for favorite AT hostels in 2016, our first full year open. PS: We love dogs, so bring your furry friend when you stay (check out our dog rates)!

The Rattle River Hostel, Gorham, NH

Erik Barstow, the new owner of the Rattle River Hostel, after completing the Appalachian Trail in 2016.
Erik Barstow, the new owner of the Rattle River Hostel, after completing the Appalachian Trail in 2016.

Currently called the White Mountains Lodge and Hostel; this hostel recently changed ownership and will be renamed the Rattle River Hostel this fall.

Voted # 4 on the same Hiker’s Choice list, this Colonial, homelike hostel is located right on the Appalachian Trail in Gorham, New Hampshire. Just last week, the owner Marni Bumstead sold it to her long-time manager, Erik Barstow, who is excited to re-open this June and remain open year-round from now on. (It was previously only open summers.)

Specializing in catering to Appalachian Trail hikers, they know what hikers crave and need. Their extensive knowledge of the White Mountains trail system makes them a full-service hostel for slackpacking, shuttles and planning your time on the trails. New this year will be a 500-square foot two-level bunkhouse, complete with a kitchenette and bathroom. They offer a variety of ice cream treats, frozen pizzas, and sodas. Before you leave, don’t forget to fuel up on their hot home-cooked breakfast!

The White Mountains Hostel, Conway, NH

Tim and Samara from the White Mountain Hostel in Conway, NH
Tim and Samara from the White Mountain Hostel in Conway, NH

Right by Mt. Washington in Conway, New Hampshire, this hostel is another perfect basecamp for outdoor adventurers year-round. Tim and Samara have been running the hostel for three years and enjoy hosting people from around the world.

They welcome groups and individuals to their hostel, and to share their large communal kitchen space. They can sleep up to 49 guests in their four bunk and eight private rooms, and they’ve been renovating and redecorating the hostel to create a cozier atmosphere.

D Acres, Dorchester, NH

Entrance to the hostel at D Acres Hostel in Dorchester, NH.
Entrance to the hostel at D Acres Hostel in Dorchester, NH.

Just south of the White Mountains, in Dorchester, New Hampshire, is a hostel and permaculture farm owned by Josh Trought, and is located minutes from the famous crags at Rumney, a major rock climbing destination. D Acres, open year-round, offers a variety of sleeping arrangements, ranging from indoor private bedrooms to tree-houses. They host donation-based community breakfasts and pizza nights (open to the public) every month, all with farm-fresh food. Check out their website, Facebook and YouTube channels to get more info!

Every hostel is different, so be sure to visit them all! These hostels offer much more than a place to sleep. They help make travelers’ adventures both affordable AND memorable. We strive to create authentic, interesting, and unique imprints on individuals’ travels and memories.

How have hostels impacted your travels? Share your travel experiences with us!