From the outside, the Cranmore Mountain Lodge looks less like a guesthouse and more like the family farm that it probably was at some point. Less than five minutes from tourist-driven North Conway, with its green meadow, barn, and frog pond you can almost forget that you're anywhere near a Wal-Mart and bumper to bumper traffic.
In theory, the Lodge is a backpacker's dream come true. The main lodge has the average prices for a regular B&B in the area while the bunkhouse -- the "hostel" part -- is about a quarter of the price of the B&B. The good news is that even the bunkhouse patrons have access to the same amenities as the Lodge patrons do. You can access the outdoor swimming pool, the hot tub, and still have a free breakfast with the other guests in the main building's cozy eating area. The catch is, of course, that while those amenities are good you're still ultimately staying in a hostel -- one that probably hasn't been updated in about ten years.
The bad news -- starting with the bedrooms. There are three dorm rooms with about ten beds per room. The beds are the basic metal structures with paper-thin mattresses and the obligatory hard hostel pillow. For once, it is actually encouraged that you bring your own sleeping bag, or else you can rent bedding from the hostel. However, there were blankets on all of the beds in view. Sheets were nowhere to be found, but if you really wanted, the blankets were there to be used (at your own risk, as it appeared that the hostel part wasn't cleaned on a regular basis). A good thing was that it seemed like each bed had access to an electrical outlet, which made it easier to recharge your cell phone, for instance.
The common area is of fairly good size, but really outdated and could use a good scrubbing. The furniture is old and a fine layer of dust seems to cover everything. If money were going to be spent updating anything, however, it should go into the bathrooms first. For starters, despite the fact that there is room for about thirty guests, there are only two bathrooms. The nozzles on the shower are incredibly tiny and don't give off much of a spray. It seems like it would be difficult to get really good and clean after a long day of trekking around Mt. Washington -- or even trekking around the Outlet Mall.
The good news -- starting with the bedrooms. Because the bunkhouse sets partly underground like a basement it is incredibly quiet. There are lodge rooms above the hostel so quiet hour starts a little earlier than in most hostels, but it seems to be a natural absorber of noise anyway. At night you can't even hear the traffic up on the main road. That makes for a really good night's sleep. In the common room there is a color TV with a VCR. The TV has cable and gets an abundance of channels. After a long day of hiking, it's kind of nice to kick back and unwind that way. There's also a fireplace in the common room that looks like it has been in use recently.
At this hostel, you are pretty much getting what you are paying for. You're certainly not going to find anything cheaper, unless you camp out, and if you don't mind something on the rougher side it's not bad. In its own outdated way it is rather charming and you do have access to the pool and hot tub. The management pretty much leaves you alone and after a general explanation as to where the room was we never saw them again. (There are no keys as the door doesn't lock.)
A word of warning, however. At night when you're coming back in, if you start hearing really strange noises and tiny splashes, it's just the frogs jumping into the pond. There must be hundreds. It wouldn't hurt to watch where you step, either. They were all lined up outside, waiting to get in the hostel door. Now, you don't get that at most hostels.