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Photo by Sean Fisher

6 Things To Do Before or After You Visit The Caverns

There's much to explore in the Monteagle and Sewanee area. Our smartphones tell us to the quickest routes to take to get there, but wouldn't it be nice if there was an option to take us on the prettiest route? Ignore your urge to use your smartphone's GPS and take the time to travel from Pelham up the winding U.S. Route 41 from The Caverns up to Monteagle.

Long before Interstate 24 this section of road was a part of the "Dixie Highway" and was the main thoroughfare stretching all the way to Miami, but no need to go that far. Take in the pleasant and peaceful Pelham Valley farmland, then head up the mountain and check out some of these great things to do.

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1. Shop for Hidden Gems

Who doesn't love finding a little treasure? Check out the backroom at Mooney's Market & Emporium, you never know what you'll find, like old books, antiques, plants, and lots of vintage items. If you don't turn up what you're looking for there, on Saturdays and Sundays, visit the Monteagle Flea Market for endless antiquing.

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Photo by Sean Fisher

2. Get Outside on the Mountain Goat Trail

To explore the Mountain Goat Trail, we recommend parking at the trailhead in Sewanee in the gravel lot on Highway 41A at Hawkins Lane. Here’s a Google map that might be helpful. Take off on this beautiful reclaimed rail bed. This section of the trail leads to Monteagle and is an almost five-mile stretch great for walkers, runners, cyclists, and canine friends. If you prefer to get off the pavement, as we do, within a 1/2 mile of the trailhead look for the sign on the right for the "Lake Dimmick Trail." This 5 mile round trip hike takes you through beautiful rolling trails and ends at the serene Lake Dimmick. Great for a light hike or a trail run.

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3. Hit the Grundy Forest Day Loop Trail

Check out the Grundy Forest Day Loop Trail at South Cumberland State Park. It's only 20 minutes from The Caverns. This is one of the best hikes in the area and a great hike for almost anyone. Park at the Grundy Forest Area using 131 Fiery Gizzard Road, Tracy City, TN 37387 in your GPS. Check out the official description here, plus some other good hikes in the area.

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4. Enjoy Some Local Bites

Fill your belly after a nice hike with local bites at Mountain Goat Market or Simply Southern Cafe. You don't have to go far to find amazing food. The Mountain Goat in Monteagle is listed as one of the top 100 places to eat in the entire United States by Yelp! Don't believe us, check out the list here. If you opt for the Simply Southern Cafe located in the Pelham valley, be sure to finish your meal off with a slice of pie to die for.

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5. Learn About The Louvins

Visit the Louvin Brothers Museum at The Smoke House. This might be a small museum, but it's full of character and charm, plus it's free! Honor and learn about the great music of country legends The Louvin Brothers. This is a unique display sanctioned by the family and has items that can only be seen here. The museum is located in the middle of the Smoke House gift shop, which is its own shopping experience and worth checking out, too. The store also pays homage to the local moonshiner Hamper McBee, offers homemade fudge, and a unique collection of shopping you won't find anywhere else. For more funky shopping, check out the nearby Amish Hippie.

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6. Gear Up on Outdoor Apparel

Hit the upstairs clearance area at Mountain Outfitters in Monteagle for great deals from this local outdoor apparel store. What could be better than saving some money while supporting a local business? While you're there, look for stickers from The Caverns on their front door. Be sure to tell them we suggested you stop in.

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Contributed by Joe Lurgio, a staff member at The Caverns. When he's not at The Caverns, you might find him pickin' in a bluegrass jam or enjoying downtime with his wife and son.