Go Climb a Mountain…Lookout Mountain in Alabama
Go Climb a Mountain
By Patty Tucker
John Muir, American naturalist, writer, and advocate of U.S. forest conservation, once said, “keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” While probably in the far west when he offered this, he could have easily been standing on Lookout Mountain in Alabama in what would later become known as Mentone and DeSoto State Park. Here, one can easily be close to nature, stand in awe of Her, and forget about the world they left behind.
Lookout Mountain and DeSoto State Park affords respite for the weary soul and stimulates the senses for the explorer in all of us. Retreat to a cabin nestled in the forest or tucked on the precipice of a cliff overlooking the west fork of Little River, or one strategically encamped on the brow of the mountain overlooking a tranquil valley. Or, steal away to a Bed and Breakfast Inn and relax in beautiful gardens, hike near-by trails and take in the views from the mountain’s edge in the charming town of Mentone.
Lookout Mountain is replete with hiking trails, horseback riding, wildlife, wildflowers, seasonal waterfalls, streams, panoramic views and overlooks, a majestic canyon and scenic drives. It is no wonder one can spend a week here and not see and do all the mountain has to offer, not to forget the valley below stretching from Collinsville and its Saturday Trade Day, to Fort Payne, home to the Alabama Band Fan Club and Museum, to Valley Head and its laid-back eateries and historic sites like the Winston Place Bed and Breakfast. There is something for all four seasons to enjoy that will have you returning time and again.
Escape to the mountains and hike to a stream and dip your toes in the water and feel the cool refreshing balm as it bathes your feet in tranquility. Get close to Nature and never want to leave this place of peace She offers. You will be glad you did.
Places to consider when visiting the region:
The Rib Shak in Valley Head
8669 Alabama Highway 117
The smell of BBQ permeates the town and draws you in for hearty lunches of ribs, sandwiches like the Big Willie, tacos, fried green tomatoes, daily lunch specials and more. Owner, Floyd Jackson, has been in the BBQ business for 5 years, over 3 of them in his Valley Head location, and gives all the credit to God. He beams, “God is good and has been good to me!”
The Wildflower Café in Mentone
6007 Alabama Highway 117
Open for Lunch and Dinner, this restaurant offers an array of options from their famous tomato pie and quiches to salads, pasta dishes, soups, sandwiches, burgers and wraps and scrumptious homemade desserts. (Though they are not required, please consider calling ahead for reservations)
Places of Interest
Nena’s Produce and General Store in Valley Head
8272 Alabama Highway 117
Nena’s offers locally grown fruits and vegetables including watermelons, okra, tomatoes, Yukon Gold new potatoes, locally harvested honey, seasonal plants, a large welcoming covered porch with rocking chairs and so much more.
Town of Mentone
Alabama Highway 117
This mountain-top hamlet is home to many summer camps that have greeted generations of youth, introducing them to a variety of activities and, of course, the beauty of the mountain itself. The town offers a mix of restaurants and a host of accommodations, attractions like DeSoto Falls, not to mention scenic views to die for! Don’t forget to take some time to reflect in the St. Joseph’s on the Mountain Garden, adjacent to St. Joseph’s on the Mountain Episcopal Church. Be there at the top of the hour and hear the church bells chime, filling the air with a melodious tune. Seasonal festivals, live music and entertainment, farmer’s market and quaint shops make this village a must when traveling to Lookout Mountain in Alabama.
DeSoto State Park
Mentone and Fort Payne
This state park, created by the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps, in the 1930’s, offers miles of hiking trails that lead to waterfalls, the west fork of Little River, scenic landscapes and majestic overlooks. One visit to the park’s famed DeSoto Falls, and it is easy to see that the CCC wasn’t the first to say, “Let’s create a park here.”
Little River Canyon National Preserve
4322 Little River Trail NE (Alabama Highway 35)
Fort Payne, AL
The Little River Canyon National Preserve boasts an expansive gorge, waterfalls and the Little River that stretches across the mountain. Take a 21-mile drive along the rim of the canyon on Alabama Highway 176 for a roller coaster of a scenic ride with overlooks into the depths of the canyon. One can enjoy seasonal kayaking and canoeing, hiking, rappelling and rock climbing. Bring a picnic lunch and plan to spend some time appreciating this little slice of heaven.
Places to Stay
The Mentone Inn
6139 Alabama Highway 117
This Bed and Breakfast Inn, with it’s generous covered front porch, 12 guest rooms with modern amenities has been welcoming visitors to Mentone since being built in the 1920’s.
DeSoto State Park
7104 DeSoto Parkway NE
Fort Payne, AL
Accommodations here range from cabins to chalets and hotel rooms as well as a campground with all the modern amenities and primitive camping, all in a woodsy setting. When hungry, check out the Mountain Inn Restaurant, located at the park’s CCC constructed Lodge.