Located atop Lookout Mountain in Alabama, the Mentone area is a quick getaway from Chattanooga that offers plenty of options for outdoor adventure. While it's home to multiple summer camps, Mentone is also a winter destination for hiking, paddling and even skiing.
— Skiing: Cloudmont Ski Resort — unsurprisingly Alabama's only ski resort -- offers two 1,000-foot slopes served by pony lifts at an elevation of 1,800 feet. Best suited to beginner and intermediate skiers, the resort is open Dec. 15 through March 15, weather permitting. The resort also includes Shady Grove Dude Ranch, which offers horseback rides to DeSoto Falls in the warmer months.
— Hiking: DeSoto State Park is home to DeSoto Falls, the second highest waterfall in the state. Instead of taking the shorter, paved trail to the top of the falls, take the 2-mile out-and-back trail to the base. The moderately challenging hike takes less than an hour to complete, but it's fairly steep and rocky at points and a bit of a workout. Stop to enjoy the bluff views and Ice Box cave along the way.
— Kayaking: Little River Canyon National Preserve is popular with whitewater paddlers from November through April, when the rain-fed Little River is navigable. Members of the U.S. Olympic kayak team have trained on the Little River, which boasts Class IV and V runs appropriate only for advanced kayakers, as well as Class II and III runs that are suitable for beginner to intermediate paddlers. Remember to always check the water level at americanwhitewater.org before making the drive.
— Place to eat: Wildflower Cafe is known for its eclectic atmosphere, which includes local art and a charming country store, as well as its famous tomato pie. The restaurant uses mainly local, organic ingredients for its homestyle meals and offers several vegan options. Reservations are recommended on the weekends, and if you want to drink wine with your meal, you'll need to bring your own.
— Place to drink: While the sale of alcohol is prohibited in much of DeKalb County, it has several "wet" cities including Mentone and Fort Payne. Mentone Market offers beer on tap, and the restaurant offers quick bites such as pizza, nachos and sandwiches. Typically open at lunchtime, the restaurant has takeout and grab-n-go options at other times of the day. Mentone Market is also a good place to pick up necessities for your cabin or campsite as well as locally made goods and souvenirs.
— Place to sleep: Sand Rock in Leesburg is great for car camping, with sites located on the cliffs with views of Guntersville Lake and rock formations. You'll need to purchase a camping permit, and climbers will find plenty of trad and sport routes as well. If you prefer to sleep indoors, you can rent one of the adorable chalets at Cloudmont Ski Resort or choose from a variety of cabins on Airbnb.