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Hotels We Like

The West Point Inn

Here's an interesting concept for a hotel – a cooperative inn. You'd expect staff at most inns to be cooperative, but that's not what we're talking about. The West Point Inn in Mill Valley, northern California, is a historic inn restored and maintained by volunteers – and open to the public for totally unique overnight stays.

Nestled among the trees on Mt Tamalpais, with sweeping views of San Francisco and the Bay Area, the Inn was built in 1904 as a stopover for passengers on the
Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railway (aka the 'Crookedest Railroad in the World'). When the railway was removed in 1930, the Inn became a haven for hikers, but it was abandoned during World War II and nearly demolished. In 1943, hikers and other locals stepped in to save the Inn, forming the West Point Inn Club.

In 1977, the Club undertook major renovations, which continue to this day. Thirty years later, the Inn is kept going by about 340 members of the club, who take turns to volunteer, as well as by sales of refreshments and overnight use fees. You can stay there by making advance reservations, but strict rules have to be adhered to – bring flash lights (there's no electricity and candles are a fire hazard), bring your own linens, clean up your own mess, don't bring your pooch, and don't smoke. If you can cope with all of that, it's a steal at $35 per person per night. And if you're interested in joining, start by attending a work party, then you can start the application process. RM

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