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Mentone’s Mountaintop Retreats

By Kathie Farnell
Photos by Jack Purser

The north Alabama highlands offer respite from the heat and spectacular views from little mountaintop villages. One of the most charming of these is historical Mentone, built atop Lookout Mountain around a mineral spring which was thought to have healing properties.

The big old Mentone Springs hotel welcomed Victorian travelers to escape the heat of the flatlands around Birmingham. Later, the little town became headquarters for a number of summer camps which still draw families to the area.

The scenic attractions here include the two deepest gorges east of the Mississippi River—Little River Canyon and DeSoto Falls, both minutes away from Mentone’s tiny downtown. The Little River Canyon National Preserve is a favorite destination for hikers, while DeSoto Falls, in addition to the waterfall, offers swimming in a dammed-up section of the Little River. DeSoto State Park, a few miles away, has facilities for camping as well as a modern motel, restaurant and cabins located in a spectacular setting along the bluffs of the river. Shady Grove Dude Ranch off County Road 165, offers guided trail rides. Just one-half mile from Little River Canyon, True Adventures Sports holds classes in rock climbing, kayaking and rappelling.

Outdoor recreation of another sort is the focus of the World’s Longest Yard Sale, held each August, which features literally hundreds of miles of bargains stretching all the way from Alabama to Covington, Kentucky.

Shopping in Mentone revolves around browsing the little stores—some made from converted log cabins–for crafts, antiques and the more esoteric specialties of shops like L.C. Moon Herbals or The Gourdie Shop, which features dolls made from gourds. Just over the Georgia state line in Cloudland, Mountain Mamas Crafts and Rock Shop showcases the work of more than fifty women artists including everything from pottery to fabric art.

Restaurants in Mentone tend toward the down-home; Dessie’s Kountry Kitchen, on Highway 117, serves “the world’s best catfish,” fresh vegetables and homemade pie. A couple of blocks away, the Smokehouse specializes in barbecue. Just outside town, Windwood Farms offers a more upscale version of Southern comfort food featuring fresh seafood; the chef hails from the Gulf Coast. Log Cabin Deli, in the heart of town, serves sandwiches, and the Wildflower Café, behind Hitching Post Antiques, features a romantic gourmet dinner, and brunch from Wednesday to Sunday.

Accommodations in Mentone range from the vintage—the Mentone Springs Inn and its neighbor, the Mentone Inn—through modern bed and breakfasts like the Mountain Laurel Inn, to cottages and cabins. Mentone Cabins manages cabins for rent throughout the area. Some of its more interesting are perched atop the crest of the mountain. Known collectively as Cupid’s Crest, these cabins provide a romantic escape with a back-porch view that takes in three states. Cupid’s Escape, our headquarters, is a little one-room cabin with a gas fireplace, full kitchen, and a mountainside deck that includes a swing and hot tub.

Mentone, located in DeKalb County, Alabama, is located 120 miles northwest of Atlanta, and 90 miles northeast of Birmingham and is accessible via Interstate 59 and US Highway 11.

For more information

Contact the DeKalb County Tourist Association at 1-888-805-4740 or their website at www.tourdekalb.com.

For information on Mentone Cabins, call 1-888-560-0492 or their website at www.mentonecabins.com

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