Is Roanoke the Second City of East Coast mountain towns? Maybe.

Does Roanoke care? Probably not.

Sure, being called the Chicago of outdoor towns might be considered some serious southern shade, but for residents of the Star City, it’s darn-near a compliment.

Like Wrangler jeans, Roanoke offers a solid itinerary of outdoor goodness, without the coolness tax, which can sting visitors to a town further south.

Photo: Main Street Hub / Karin Smith

The new popularity of the Star City of the South (as Roanoke is called because of its iconic mountain ornament), inspired Diane Hailey to open the city’s 4th true bed & breakfast establishment. In Summer 2018, she cut the Grand Opening ribbon on her own inn to welcome tourists and guests to her adopted hometown. “I really strived to create the best Roanoke lodging option for outdoor adventure travelers,” says Hailey. Born in Waynesboro, Hailey is no stranger to the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway. “I’ve lived almost my entire life within 30 minutes of either the AT or the Parkway,” she says. “The Blue Ridge Mountains are my family,” she continues.

Photo: Main Street Hub / Karin Smith

Ferrum College brought her to the southern point of the Shenandoah Valley, and she never returned to Augusta County. Instead, life brought her to Roanoke and she quickly jumped in to help Roanoke’s Historic Old Southwest neighborhood wash its face. In 2012, she bought her first neglected home in Old Southwest. “Compared to Charlottesville or Asheville, I purchased the Downtown Duplex for a song. I spent two years learning how to do a lot of the work myself and turned the duplex back into a beautiful single family home, “ Hailey explains.   Hailey is quick to admit that she is a rehabilitator and not a preservationist. “I put my own stamp on my projects,” she explains. “My goal with a house is not to take it back to its original state, but to create a unique space for modern and energy-efficient living,” she explains.

Photo: Main Street Hub / Karin Smith

For Roanoke Boutique Hotel, Hailey purchased a 3,500 sq. ft home in the same historic neighborhood, and even closer to Downtown. “The house was in horrible condition and had been boarded up and ignored for five years,” says Hailey. Once she took ownership, she gutted the c.a. 1890 structure to its studs and structural brick. After 3 months of careful demolition to expose the brick and rustic charm, the home was redesigned with hikers and mountain bikers in mind. Complete with king size beds, outdoor showering facilities, locked indoor bike storage, wide walkways, and a huge kitchen, Roanoke Boutique Hotel is an oasis for outdoor enthusiasts anxious to find lodging that doesn’t turn away the tired, sore and dirty. “I’m an avid hiker and an Appalachian Trail maintainer (Hailey co-maintains a 6-mile section on Sinking Creek Mountain in Craig County); therefore, I’m well aware of how dirty hikers can get, so I created an inn that embraces dirty gear,” she explains.

Photo: Main Street Hub / Karin Smith

With easy access to the AT, Blue Ridge Parkway and Carvin’s Cove mountain biking, Roanoke has a lot to offer outdoor enthusiasts who are looking for value vs. brand name. And the innkeeper at Roanoke Boutique Hotel is more than willing to help plan a guest’s outdoor adventures. “My favorite part of running the inn is helping guests pick their hikes and plan their adventures,” says Hailey. “I make sure visitors maximize their days while they’re in town, and not waste time looking for the best fit for restaurants, breweries, and trails.” “Not everyone can hike the Triple Crown, so I size up their abilities and put them on a trail that won’t ruin their trip.” “If you hike a strenuous trail the first day and have to lay in bed for 3 days after to recuperate, you’ve taken away from the whole experience. I make sure the hike matches the hiker. “

Photo: Main Street Hub / Karin Smith

And Hailey is no stranger to strenuous hikes. In 2016, she and a friend completed the Triple Crown in one day. When a Roanoke Times reporter posted photos of the epic hike while the women were still on trail, the story quickly went viral and the two had a following of several hundred hikers before they made it from Dragon’s Tooth to Tinker Cliffs. The story quickly became one of the most-clicked photo galleries of that year, and remains a vivid memory for Hailey.

“I knew that day I wanted to make a living helping people get outdoors.”