Monterey is a small town near Cookeville, Tennessee that was established in 1893. It began as a settlement around the Standing Stone that marked the path of Avery’s Trace, which connected Knoxville to Nashville in the 1700s and 1800s.
Legends say the 12-ft tall monolith mysteriously appeared on the Indian Trail dividing two tribal territories; naturally shaped or perhaps carved to look like a dog. Weather, war, and vandalism have made it an unrecognizable fragment of what it once was. If you have the time, drive 30 miles north through the lush Standing Stone State Forest and explore the Standing Stone State Park.
You can also visit the Standing Stone Monument in Whitaker Park, pictured below.
Today, Monterey is known as the place “Where the Hilltops Kiss the Sky” and for that reason, my song for this blog is “Kiss the Sky” by Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra:
Bee Rock Overlook is the primary tourist attraction to Monterey. We saw a billboard on the way to Cummins Falls State Park and decided to check it out. It’s not far from the interstate and only a half mile hike to the overlook.
At the end of Bee Rock Road, there are two options. One is to turn left onto a big loop driveway for a B&B, but don’t do that.
Option 2 is to drive straight ahead into a parking lot in front of an A-frame shed. There are private property signs, but visitors can park there for free and until 5 pm. I have heard that people often take different trails by mistake, so just make sure you take the gravel trail that starts at the parking lot. It will lead you past the A-frame and continue behind it in the same direction you were driving when you arrived.
The short half mile hike has lots of branches and can be a little slippery, with some steep rock steps that gain elevation.
There are no guardrails here so watch your step, keep your balance, travel carefully, and take caution regarding how close to the ledge you venture out. We sat for a while on the flat parts of the overlook and birdwatched. A few tents were staked out further past the overlook but I am not sure how far the trail goes.
Bee Rock Overlook was once a sacred place for Native Americans, and I always try to pay respect to the people and their history that now make it possible to visit such gorgeous natural places for leisure. More recently, this land was the private property of a resident who passed ownership and maintenance responsibility on to the City of Monterey.
Monterey’s downtown district has some interesting places to check out. The painted remnants of Old Town Jail and the Rocky Top General Store can be viewed from the backside where they face the Farmers Market shelter.
The Monterey Farmers Market is open most days from May through October. Vendors must register but can set up and sell without paying fees. The market also hosts music, rummage sales, and other events during its opening hours.
Several businesses are open in the historical downtown strip but many of the buildings are empty and in great need of repair.
Lovely Brew is part coffee shop, part boutique, part community hangout space. We picked up some locally made accessories and iced coffees for the next part of our trip.
Laurel Mountain Bakery is the garden cottage-style storefront for Laurel Mountain Farms. Their main offerings are freshly baked sourdough bread and handmade soap.
We bought original, rosemary thyme, and jalapeño cheddar sourdough loaves. All three were delicious.
Monterey Depot Museum is well worth a half-hour or even a three-hour visit. Monterey is part of the Upper Cumberland Mountains and this museum shares the history of the Native Americans, the area’s first settlers, prehistoric animal species found nearby, the railway/coal/timber industries, and their collective impact on Monterey’s development.
Imperial Hotel was built in 1909 to serve the influx of the railroad industry workers, turned luxury resort during a tourist boom, and now sits empty after multiple attempts to reinvent it as a B&B have sadly been thwarted by town planners and neighbouring developments.
This hotel has 30 guest rooms and was known for having a pretty bangin’ menu back in the day. I would love to see it come alive again to hosts visitors and clear some of the dust off this little town.
In the area for a while? Follow me to Cummins Falls State Park, Cookeville, Crossville, and Cummins Falls!
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