For anyone who has traveled back and forth on Interstate 24 from Chattanooga to Nashville and beyond, Monteagle is the place for lunch and bathroom breaks, but there is much more to the mountain than just as a good place for a pit stop.
Shops, restaurants, abundant natural beauty and hiking trails make it a place worthy of spending a few hours or a few days. Music fans who attend the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in nearby Manchester in June have found it a convenient place to overnight if camping at the event is not desired.
Monteagle is home to a mountain population that is a mix of descendants of early Swiss colonists and Scots-Irish settlers, as well as artists and academics from The University of the South in Sewanee just down the road.
*Biggest employer: DuBose Conference Center of the Episcopal church in Tennessee
*Driving distance from Chattanooga: 47 miles
*Landmarks: Monteagle sits 2,000 feet above sea level on Monteagle Mountain. It is the highest point between Chicago and Miami on U.S. Highway 41.
*Starting dates: John Bostick was given a land grant in 1892; first town resident John Moffat arrived in 1870; town incorporated in 1962.
*Famous residents: Mary Anderson, inventor of the windshield wiper, was a summer resident.
*Summer retreat: Monteagle is home to the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly, founded in 1882 for the purpose of advancing science, literature and Sunday school interests. The eight-week summer session was interdenominational and family oriented. The annual summer program still offers social, spiritual and cultural activities for all ages.
CHEW ON THIS
*Al Capone is said to have had a halfway house (now High Point restaurant) in Monteagle, which is halfway between Miami and Chicago. The house, believed to have been owned by his mistress Irene Mabee, seems to speak to this. There are stones in the facade that would allow for a second-story escape, and there are rumored to be trap doors in the ceiling and tunnels beneath the house. At the very least, the 1929 former home is located on the National Register of Historic Places.
*These days, you can stop by the historic-home-turned-restaurant for some high-end dining with a side of history and a dash of lore. Many of the finishings are original, and the menu boasts delicacies like oysters Rockefeller, lobster tail, duck and more. Consider having a cocktail outside: Local legend tells of Al Capone and John Dillinger having drinks and playing cards on the patio. (224 E. Main St.; 931-924-4600; highpointrestaurant.net)
SLEEP IN A TREE
*Monteagle Treehouse Hideaway was opened in 2012 by retirees Andy and Shelia Tjelmeland, who wanted a place where they and others could unwind. What could be more peaceful than a treehouse surrounded by 50-foot trees?
*Hiking trails and waterfalls are just outside your front porch, but watch your step.
*The three current treehouses — Hummingbird Hideaway, The Eagle and The Dove — boast lots of amenities, and there are plans for more. "We just opened The Dove this year," Sheila says. "It's very romantic."
*See for yourself by renting one: The Hummingbird, $115 per night weekends, $105 weekdays; The Eagle, $125 weekends, 115 weekdays per night; or The Dove, $120 per night weekends, $110 weekdays. (1945 Trussell Road; 931-625-3935)
WATERFALLS, WOODS AND WILDFLOWERS
*Surrounded by 2,500 acres of Cumberland State Park, Monteagle is a destination for hikers, outdoorsmen and wildflower-lovers. The state park's visitor center is in Monteagle at 11745 Highway 41.
*Trails and Trilliums is a three-day event held mid-April at Monteagle Sunday School Assembly. Friends of South Cumberland State Park host guided hikes, native plant sales, children's activities and guest speakers. (trailsandtrilliums.org)
*Fiery Gizzard Trail was picked by Backpacker Magazine as one of the top 25 backpacking trails. Fiery Gizzard's 12-mile route starts in the South Cumberland Recreation Area. Hikers will discover three waterfalls along the trail: the 60-foot Foster Falls, 14-foot Sycamore Falls and 30-foot Blue Hole Falls. (tnstateparks.com/parks/about/south-cumberland)