In the rustic tradition of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Desoto State Park is accented by rushing waterfalls and fragrant wildflowers. The atmosphere of the CCC further enhances the lodge, restaurant, and cabin facilities. Nestled atop beautiful scenic Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama along scenic Little River, this 3,502-acre park provides Mountain Chalets, Log & Rustic Cabins, Motel Rooms, Meeting Rooms, and also has both Improved & Primitive campgrounds. Also features a picnic area with playground, Olympic-size swimming pool, nature center with interpretive programs and live animals, & over 20 miles of hiking & mountain biking trails. DeSoto State Park is located eight miles northeast of Fort Payne, Alabama.
Really really tough trail. Very scenic but dangerous. Both times we've been, April 2016 and November 2016 the trail wasn't very well maintained. We tried to clear it as we went. In November we only did a short portion of the trail to show our friends we had brought on that trip the river, which was dry sadly. But in April when it was just me and my husband we went a LONG way. It was gorgeous but it was more like rock climbing that actual hiking. The river was flowing in April and if we had not had hiking poles we probably would have went swimming. Our legs were so sore the next day! We finally came to a point in the trail that we were crawling over monstrous rocks and had to turn around for fear of injury. It was beautiful but some of the switchbacks were very very nerve racking! Not for the faint of heart. And make sure you have long pants on and hiking shoes that support your ankles!
Horrible trail. Thorns scratched legs the whole time. Became so indistinguishable I had to turn around maybe a mile and a half to two miles in rather than wander uncertainly through the tangled woods. It was okay for the first mile. I started from the southern terminus.
Todd H. on DeSoto Scout Trail
This was our favorite trail in the Vicinity of Little River Canyon National Preserve. That isn't exactly saying a lot however, because the trails in the area are mostly short out and back jaunts to lookouts or waterfalls. We hiked this in early November, and saw no others on the trail, and there was scant evidence of recent human activity. The trail follows the Little River for the most part. There are several places that require crawling over boulders and such, so it is not a good hike for small or frail dogs. Our Vizsla did pretty well, but got a few cuts and bruises from thorny vines and boulder crawls. Beware there are a lot of ticks, we found them on ourselves and our dog. The river was not running due to severe drought, but on this section it is large clear pool after large clear pool and juvenile trout could be seen in the larger pools. It is a very pretty hike. The only steep climbs were into and out of the canyon, and should be manageable by anyone that is reasonably fit. There are a lot of swimming holes, and even in the drought conditions the water was clear and probably ok for swimming.
Edit: I gave the hike four stars, not sure why it is only showing two.
The backcountry camping at LRC has been closed since Oct 2014 - and, it does clearly state that. Other than that, there has always been NO camping in the canyon...
Drove into the upper section of DST - signs lead thru residential area, onto a gravel road (bear to the right) - 1st option is DST x4. I drove down quite a ways further just to explore - many do not offer parking options. And, the road was pretty rutted and went thru some BIG puddles - keep that in mind if you do not have a high clearance vehicle - had not had a significant rainfall in days prior to my visit.
In the past, I just entered trail at Desoto State Park and hiked up or down river. Had some nice encounters with some deer, and saved a toad from being eaten by a rat snake (who then went towards me).
Robert B. on DeSoto Scout Trail
Good, did a short section from the park motel. Lots of mountain laurel in bloom but rhododendron mostly faded.
I just hiked all 14 miles this past weekend and I wish I had known a few things before going.
First- there is NO backcountry camping in Little River Canyon National Preserve. No matter what their website says to the contrary when we got there we were told in no uncertain terms that we could not camp (even though the map they gave us had marked campsites...) there were signs at the trailheads and at the former campsites reiterating that camping was not allowed. They said they did not know when/if backcountry camping would resume. This is particularly sad because we saw evidence on the trail that people are going back there and not respecting the environment and meanwhile people who would enjoy and take care of the area aren't allowed to pitch a tent.
Second, without camping the southern part of the trail is pretty much not worth doing. For most of it you are simply walking along backcountry road 5. There were some pretty parts but nothing compared to the northern section and there are other trails in Desoto State Park that are nicer than the lower section of the Scout trail.
Other than that the trail is beautiful but it either needs to be maintained and truly revitalized or it needs to not be billed as 16 miles (the northmost 2 miles are on private property, so now it is really 14 miles which the signs concurred). I am suspect even of the 14 miles because our GPS and energy was quite different from the posted mileage signs.
I'm giving it only three stars because the southern portion was poor. The northern section I would give five stars. Desoto State Park also has two backcountry sites that are VERY easy to get to (I think less than a mile in to each) which means if you want to camp away from others it's easy to do and you can still go on lots of fun day hikes with a lighter pack. The Never Never Land shelter is the nicer of the two sites alongside a seasonal spring.
Robin M. on DeSoto Scout Trail
There really are 2 DST trails hiked them both. The south section is really not revitalized and winds around a road bed with some primitive camping.
The north side is revitalized and is a great hike. Some nice ascents it follows the river. Beautiful scenery some swimming holes all round great hike. We followed the signs off the highway and cut into where the north section abs south section begin and end. He north section is by far the best hike.
Not sure why this trail is rated difficult... it's been reblazed with "DST" signs. The trail section within desoto state park is not well-blazed, but easy enough to figure out.
There are numerous swimming holes - one with rope to climb up huge boulder to jump in.
My blog has detailed reviews, trail pics, gpx files marking swim spots.