A close-knit hippie enclave perched atop Lookout Mountain, Mentone offers art, opportunities to unplug, and—of course—easy access to one of Alabama’s best-loved waterfalls.
The Falls: At 104 feet top to bottom, DeSoto Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the state. The eponymous state park bursts with wildflowers—mountain laurel and rhododendron—this time of year, says park naturalist Brittney Hughes. Divided in two, DeSoto State Park is made up of a larger section closer to Fort Payne that’s home to several smaller cascades along with a zip-line course, swimming holes, and fly-fishing. Seven miles north, DeSoto Falls crashes to earth just off Lookout Mountain Parkway. At the top, a historic dam from the mid-1920s wows visitors in an accessible picnic area. “You’d be surprised how many people never get out of their car because they think the dam is the waterfall,” Hughes says. Follow a path down about 50 steps to watch the water drop another 90 feet into a picturesque rocky gorge.
Stay: Mentone started as a mountain getaway for wealthy Birminghamians, so the vacation cabin tradition here goes way back. Tucked away along wooded lanes, these well-appointed accommodations give visitors a chance to truly switch off. (Spotty reception helps.) “Mentone is a place where people come to do nothing,” says property manager Ron Waits. “They just relax.” He runs Mentone Mountain Getaways, a collection of 18 vacation properties throughout the area, many with hot tubs and stunning views.
Shop: Among a population of about 500, Mentone boasts 300 artists and the newly opened Chuck Sennett Center for the Arts, offering galleries, classes, and artists’ workshops. With a concentration like that, the shopping is bound to be great. Start at the Log Cabin Shops, a village of historic cabins dating back to the 1800s that now house local makers, artisans, and snackeries. Along Highway 117, which straddles Mentone’s main drag, shoppers will find everything from Alabama-made goods at AJ Trading Post to crystals and garden sculptures at Earthly Elements. Just remember, shops are generally open weekends only.