Tucked away off of I-24 between Chattanooga and Murfreesboro lies a small dot on the Tennessee map. Monteagle, Tennessee, perches on the Cumberland Plateau, a beautiful stretch of elevated land at the base of the Appalachian Mountains. Dubbed “Monteagle Mountain,” the small town is a popular pass-through for truckers and travelers. However, before busy highways, Monteagle was a history-making hub. For example, The Highlander Folk School, an alternative leadership training school heavily involved in Civil Rights in the 1930s, was located in the town for 30 years; Rosa Parks was one of its students! Additionally, rumor has it that famous gangster Al Capone frequented Monteagle, but more on that later …
While Monteagle has had several historical moments, the town has slowly grown into the charming place it is today. Monteagle now welcomes small businesses and restaurants and offers beautiful sight-seeing available to tourists and locals alike. So, buckle your seat belts, queue up Johnny Cash’s “Monteagle Mountain,” and enjoy the quaint and charming mountaintop town of Monteagle, Tennessee.
Where to Stay
In and around Monteagle, you can find an abundance of mountain homes for rent. Additionally, there are a handful of notable lodgings to look into as well.
If you love eating at Cracker Barrel, you’ll love staying at this mountaintop lodge. The Smokehouse offers cabin-style motel rooms connected to the main building. If you prefer a more rustic experience, opt to rent out one of their private cabins. The 25-acre property offers privacy while maintaining walking distance to The Smokehouse’s amenities and the nearest grocery store.
Staying at The Smokehouse is a well-rounded experience, to say the least. In addition to offering lodging, the establishment serves up classic comfort food at their restaurant. Moreover, the general store sells local food and gifts, including The Smokehouse’s own jam, BBQ sauce, and spice rubs. To top off your stay, free live music is offered every Friday and Saturday.
The Edgeworth Inn
The Edgeworth Inn dubs itself “a haven from the concerns from the modern world,” and a haven it is. The inn is located on the grounds of The Monteagle Sunday School Assembly, now nicknamed “The Assembly,” a former retreat center for Sunday school teachers. The school was founded in 1882 as a place for teachers to expand their knowledge in language, music, and more during the summer months. Now, The Assembly gives visitors the choice to rent cottages, sight-see, participate in summer activities, or stay in their quaint bed and breakfast, The Edgeworth Inn.
The Edgeworth Inn is a nostalgic time capsule of an 1800s-era sanctuary. Characterizing features include quilt blankets, a wrap-around porch, and an abundance of antique photographs and memorabilia. In addition, the highway seems miles away with the trees and greenery encapsulating the grounds. Not surprisingly, special events such as weddings and retreats frequently take place at The Edgeworth Inn. For people in need of a break, this inn offers a sweet escape.
Another bed and breakfast option is the Monteagle Inn and Retreat Center. If you are unfamiliar with the area, the rooms are fittingly named after area landmarks. The themed rooms include the Foster Falls room, the Roark’s Cove room, and the Grundy Lakes room. The 13-room inn offers a variety of accommodations, including rooms with one or two beds ranging from twin size to king.
The Monteagle Inn has a variety of rotating menus for many occasions, including New Year’s Eve, wine dinners, and (most importantly) brunch. Additionally, similar to the other accommodations in Monteagle, this bed and breakfast is a host to many events. Reunions, weddings, and corporate or church retreats are among the different groups that pass through.
Where to Eat
One way to learn about a place is through its food. Luckily, Monteagle has a handful of hidden gems that are both modern and historic. Take a break from sightseeing to eat at these stops.
Mountain Goat Market
Recently included in Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. 2019, Mountain Goat Market is a yummy place to eat, plus so much more. As soon as you walk into the market, your senses are instantly hit with the smell of buttered bread, cheese, and lively banter. The blackboard menu includes a variety of unique sandwiches, salads, and pizzas, in addition to an abundance of milkshakes and other desserts.
Both the interior and exterior are covered in bright murals depicting their white mountain goat mascot, making it not only an easy place to spot from the road, but also a fun photo-op. Inside, in addition to whipping up delicious munchies, Mountain Goat Market serves as a gift store and mini food market. Browse through the cards, socks, and local home goods as you wait for your food. The open floor plan and bright decorations make this market a vibrant place to mingle, shop, and enjoy a delicious meal.
Pearl’s Fine Dining
A minute up the road from downtown Monteagle is a small white house that serves up modern, Southern-style food. Founded in 1993, Pearl’s Fine Dining is a popular restaurant and venue space. The restaurant serves as a midpoint between Monteagle and Sewanee: The University of the South, a small liberal arts college in the neighboring town of Sewanee, Tennessee. The small, intimate setting comes with a bonus: their BYOB policy lets you bring your own wine with just a small cork fee attached.
You can bring your own booze, but let them take care of the food. Pearl’s puts a twist on classic Southern dishes, and they alter their menu depending on the season. For instance, while they offer shrimp and polenta in the winter, they have BBQ shrimp and grits in the summer. Pearl’s also has a handful of dishes that stay the same all year round, which comes in handy in the event you fall in love with their filet mignon or French onion soup.
Legend has it that Al Capone and John Dillinger shared a cocktail or two on the front porch of this Monteagle establishment. Whether the local lore is true or not, High Point Restaurant is intriguing nonetheless. The 1920s mansion, built by the Maybee family, has authentic wood flooring and lighting, making it a unique and charming place to dine. The dim lighting lends an enchanting mood to the space — with each slow sip from your wine glass, it almost feels like you’re in an old film.
The fancy atmosphere doesn’t stop at the decorations. The menu is an extensive list of high-end steak, seafood, and pasta. Additionally, the appetizers are nothing short of grandiose (Oysters Rockefeller, we’re looking at you!). You can find High Point packed any time of year, so it’s smart to make a reservation. SB TIP: During the summer months, sit outside and enjoy the frogs musically crooning in the background. The outside is closed during the cold mountain winter!
Where to Shop
In addition to historic bed and breakfasts and restaurants, there are a few other noteworthy stops to check out. Be sure to stop by these places to shop and sight-see.
Mooney’s Market Emporium
On the side of Highway 41A (aka the Sewanee Highway) you’ll find a local market heavily stocked with health food, gifts, and more. Mooney’s Market Emporium sells food products, garden supplies, crafts, and antiques under one roof. Additionally, a vegan food truck, the Crescent Cafe, is tucked on the side with outdoor seating. The shop truly has something for everyone, from socks and plants to vitamins and kombucha.
Mooney’s supports many local businesses, too. Most of the crafts and cash register trinkets are from artisans located in and around Monteagle. As a result, the market has established itself as a staple for locals in the area. Look among the wall decorations, and you’ll spot old newspaper articles and posters that offer a glimpse into the area’s history and local happenings. If you’ve worked up an appetite while browsing, step out to the back and order a smoothie, wrap, or salad from the Crescent Cafe. The charming outdoor seating makes it a scenic spot to put up your feet and enjoy your food.
Mountain Outfitters is a locally owned, go-to place for anything related to trekking and adventuring. This store couldn’t be located in a better area — an abundance of waterfalls, bike trails, overlooks, climbing spots, and more are close by. Even if you aren’t the next marathon runner or Class 4 rapids expert, Mountain Outfitters has the gear for everyday life. The staff will help fit you with the right shoe, jacket, or shirt to “help you climb your own Everest.”
The store sells a variety of outdoor gear and apparel from trusted brands like Patagonia, Barbour, Columbia, The Frye Company, and Chaco. Walk up the steps, and you’ll find a whole floor dedicated to sale items and mark-downs. Additionally, seasonal sales on the bottom floor occur often throughout the year. It’s hard not to browse every inch of this colorful and welcoming outdoor store.
For handcrafted pottery, candles, and a contribution to the local community, Hallelujah Pottery is a place you must stop into. The local gift store features work from master potters, in addition to selling sculptures, earrings, and candles. The pottery is oven-, microwave-, and dishwasher-safe. Enjoy your next morning cup of coffee in one of Hallelujah Pottery’s mugs.
Debbie Blinder, the creator of Full Circle Candles, helps run this gift store. While she produces and sells her candles out of the shop, Debbie also stocks the shelves of Whole Foods and Earthfare. Full Circle Candles was inspired by the hardworking local farmers and crafters in Debbie’s area. As a result, it is no surprise that many of her candles give to a good cause. For example, 20% of the sales from “The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee” candle go towards the charity of the same name.
Where to Hike
Monteagle is located on the South Cumberland Plateau, a beautiful expanse of land at the base of the Appalachian Mountains. Therefore, hiking trails and natural land formations are in abundance. Here are some trails and waterfalls to add to your list of things to do!
Located within the South Cumberland Recreation Area, Natural Bridge is quite simply a natural bridge formation. On your way to the formation, drive through the beautiful campus of Sewanee. Once you pass through the university’s campus, Natural Bridge is just down the road. Standing tall at 25 feet, visitors are welcome to walk across the bridge, or explore the trails surrounding the area. According to the Department of Environment and Conservation, the bridge is apparently a giant sinkhole. A spring located behind Natural Bridge likely contributed to its formation.
Mountain Goat Trail
Originally functioning as a railroad in the 1800s, Mountain Goat Trail is a reclaimed path that stretches between Grundy and Franklin County. While the original track is much longer, pedestrian-accessible sections are in Tracy City and Sewanee. Visitors and locals alike can bike, walk, or run on a paved path surrounded by trees. Looking forward, the Mountain Goat Trail Alliance is working to clear five more miles of trail around Tracy City. Throughout the year, the trail is host to a variety of events, such as the Mountain Goat Trail Run & Walk, which raises money towards trail development and maintenance.
South Cumberland State Park
This 31,000-acre park is peppered with an incredible amount of outdoor recreation spots. Hiking trails, waterfalls, caves, and more construct a playground for the outdoor-curious. Since the area is so large, visitors can use a park map to navigate to the outdoor sites. For example, the Buggy Top Trail, a four-mile loop that leads to Lost Cove Cave, is a popular hiking spot. According to Tennessee State Parks, Lost Cove is one of the largest cave openings in Tennessee. Additionally, the Fiery Gizzard area is host to several hikes, including 2-, 3-, and 10-mile hiking routes. Sycamore Falls, pictured at the beginning of the article, is a popular lagoon in the Fiery Gizzard area.
These highlights of Monteagle, Tennessee, will give you a taste of what this town has to offer, including rich history, fine dining, and the great outdoors!
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