Natural beauty attracts LGBT buyers to Hidden Lake at Lookout Mountain

Add this share


When Beth Sledge drives through the gates, she leaves behind the stress and worries of her job and life in metro Atlanta.

She can easily lose track of the hours spent rocking in her chair on the porch, simply enjoying the calming sounds of nature all around her weekend retreat. That was her intention when she built a log cabin home nestled inside Hidden Lake at Lookout Mountain.

“It is sort of something I’ve always dreamed of, something I’ve wanted to do,” Sledge says. “When I heard about Hidden Lake, I knew I was going to build here. When I bought the property, I knew it was going to be a log cabin or a log home.”

Sledge, a lesbian who grew up in Clayton County and maintains her primary residence there, was attracted by the mission of the development – to provide a serene and diverse community of homes, weekend retreats, vacation hideaways and develop-ready sites to grow an LGBT neighborhood on its 80 acres.

“To be part of the community, some place where I could come up and be more comfortable and meet like-minded people was definitely a selling point. It’s a chance to meet more gay and lesbian individuals and meet more people that are accepting,” Sledge says.

imageNestled atop Lookout Mountain in Alabama, about a two-hour drive from Atlanta and Birmingham and less than an hour from Chattanooga and Rome, Ga., Hidden Lake offers both the beauty of unspoiled nature and the privacy of a gated community. Some of the 61 home sites wrap around a 14-acre lake, while the overall development sits adjacent to the Little River Canyon National Park and its 45-foot waterfall. The Alabama Park System also adjoins the community.

The nearby waterfalls and natural beauty helped convince Jim and Tina McDonald to purchase the property in 2005 with the idea of developing it into an LGBT community and a family business. One of their four daughters is a lesbian and their son, who died in 1988, was gay.

“Even though we had supported our two children as gay, we know the hardships that gays and lesbians are up against,” says Tina McDonald. “We just felt that we wanted to do something comforting and nice for them and create a place where they could feel good about who they are and have a beautiful place to feel secure and safe and happy.”

The couple even built a 1,200-square-foot cottage with a lake view at Hidden Lake to provide prospective home builders a first-hand feel for the area. It was a friend in Homestead, Fla., where the couple lives, that eventually prodded them into visiting what later became Hidden Lake at Lookout Mountain.

“He just wouldn’t quit bugging me until we went up and looked at it,” says Jim McDonald. “We did and just fell in love with the area. The waterfalls around there just absolutely amaze me.”

Fewer than 30 home sites are available, with most of the sites ranging from $44,900 to $69,900 with a lake lot at $89,000 and a larger lake lot at $105,000. Faced with working through a recession, Hidden Lake offers custom financing solutions for buyers.

Four homes already sit in the community; five owners purchased two home sites. Designs range from Sledge’s log cabin home to the McDonald’s mountain cottage, a two-story contemporary with beautiful lake views and another that goes French Country and has a 14,000-acre national park as its backyard.

“There are no limitations for building time. You can build your home whenever you like,” Jim McDonald says.

imageProperty owners are from Atlanta and several states, including Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, California, Maryland, Texas and Illinois. They either drive to their sites or fly into large airports in Atlanta, Chattanooga or Birmingham, or smaller ones in Fort Payne, Ala., and Rome, Ga. Many of the owners are within a few years to a decade of retiring and spend weekends at the development.

The 14-acre lake comes stocked with canoes, paddleboats, geese and fish. There’s a walking path around it and an island in the lake with a gazebo. But even with its mountain locale, Hidden Lake is a short drive from Mentone, Ala., a cozy historic town, and a drive of 10 to 12 minutes from retail centers and restaurants.

“You get the beauty of the mountains and nature without giving up the amenities of city living. You have a feeling of serenity when you go through the front gate that is awesome. We can talk about all of the nice things, but that feeling of security and calmness and safety are really paramount in almost everyone’s minds,” Tina McDonald says.

“It really is rejuvenating. It is a place for healing, a place for love, a place for nature. The thing our property owners like the most is that they are out in God’s country with nature around them, but they are minutes away from all of the amenities they could ask for or ever need,” she adds.

Sledge says she overcame initial reservations about whether an LGBT community would be welcomed in northern Alabama by visiting the area.

“When you think of Alabama and your perception of Alabama, think the complete opposite. That is the whole area up here. It really is the complete opposite. The country up here is beautiful, the people are exceptionally nice and I’ve never had any problems. I’ve just had the most wonderful experience up here,” Sledge says.

(Experience Hidden Lake at Lookout Mountain and learn about special financing options during a Summer Cookout at Hidden Lake on June 20. It’s a free day of food, music and fun where you can meet property owners and experience the community. A bus is even available to drive from Atlanta to Hidden Lake. Read more about the event.)


Project Q Atlanta goes on hiatus after 14 years

On Sept. 1, 2008, Project Q Atlanta promised a hyper-local “queer media diet” for Atlanta. The site set out to bring LGBTQ news, in-depth...

Photos catch Purple Dress Run invading Midtown

After three years of pandemic-inflicted limitations, Atlanta’s gay rugby squad let loose on one of its most popular events. The Atlanta Bucks Purple Dress...

Ooo Bearracuda: Photos from Bear Pride’s Main Event

The seventh annual Atlanta Bear Pride hit the ground running on Friday with packed houses at Woofs, Heretic and Future. Turned out, they hadn’t...

Atlanta Bear Pride set to go hard and long all weekend

That low, growing growl you hear is a nation of gay bears headed for Atlanta Bear Pride this weekend. By the time they arrive,...

PHOTOS: Armorettes bring back Easter Drag Race magic

Gay Atlanta’s queens of do-good drag brought the sunshine to a cloudy afternoon on Saturday when Heretic hosted the triumphant return of Armorettes Easter...