DeSoto Scout Trail is a 3.1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Fort Payne, Alabama that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
The DeSoto Scout Trail (DST) has had a LOT of work done this summer and the entire trail on public lands is open. It is approximately 16 miles long. The 2 mile section that belongs to Comer Scout Reservation is currently closed, but part of it will be open this year, along with a new parking lot at the intersection of CR 89 and Wester Road. The trail is open from DeSoto State Park(DSP) to the new "Backcountry Trailhead" on Backcountry Road 5, in Little River Canyon National Preserve(LRCNP). At that point the trail follows backcountry road 5 to Edna Hill Church. The entire trail is marked with "DST" signs, except within DSP, where it is marked with a yellow blaze. Approximately 300 more signs are to be added before November, so it will be easier to find your way. Within DSP, from the northern border going south, the DST has a great trailbed and travels along the bluff line. It meanders around a few creeks and waterfalls that flow into the River. Past Indian Falls, the DST descends to the riverside. The footbed is sand river rocks, and some huge sunken boulders as this area is in the floodplain. A lot of the trail could be underwater if we get torrential rains. T(@1.5 miles) From DSP border to DST Exit 1: The trail is still sandy and rocky and beautiful. There are several rare and beautiful plants blooming down here at any given time. There are several good swimming spots along the trail, the most notable being "Shigley's" Hole which is almost halfway around the "Little Bend" in the River. The water is 9-10 feet deep and surrounded by monolithic, stacked boulders...some bigger than my house. There is also a beach area. You can cross the river here and meet up with the "Alpine Trail", which is an unofficial trail that goes up tho the east rim of the River. It goes by several nice rock formation and then splits off to go downstream or back to DSP. After you pass the "Little Bend" travel about 100 yards and you will see a trail to the right this is "DST Exit 1" From DST Exit 1 to DST exit 2: The trail is mostly sandy here and there are less rocks than the last section. It is a pretty easy going hike with the except in of a few places where he trail travels away from the river to get above the floodplain. There are also a few nice swimming spots here too, the best being the "Sand Hole", which is a beach area with a wide pool. "The Sand Hole" is at the bottom of "DST Exit 2" Just a bit upstream from exit 2, there is a river ford which leads to the "Alpine Trail". From Exit 2, to Exit 3: **The trail has been moved from the river to the ridge due to flooding**. Resist the urge to go down stream on the river. It is a very beautiful area, but there is a lot of scrambling over rocks and dealing with Rhododendron and Mountain Laurels. Instead, go up the trail past the "Sand Hole" for 50 yards and take a left about half way up. You will see the signs and a cairn. This will take you beside a waterfall and you will cross the little creek and ascend the ridgeline. The grade is pretty nice, except the initial part where you go by the waterfall. The trail meanders around many rock formations and natural steps. The DST eventually climbs above the rocks and travels through the "Land of 1000 Dogwoods". Next you will go over a small dry creek. After this, you will see a fork in the trail. The DST descends back toward the river, while exit 3 travel at the top of the ridgeline to the right. From Exit 3 to Exit 4 "The Big Bend" This section immediately does a few small switchbacks and takes you to the Start of the "Big Bend" This is an area of the River that takes a drastic 90 degree turn to the left. This leaves a big exposed rock face with several awesome formations. As you travel on the DST, you will find yourself on a small ridge at the top of the "Rhododendron line" The trail is well packed and not very rocky at all. As you continue around the bend, It drops down by the river again into a wonderful fern paradise, with at least 7 different species of ferns. The floodplain starts to widen and you find yourself going in and out of these fern gullies and up the ridge and by rock walls. The flora is really nice. There are several large trees scattered throughout this area. As you get to the end of the bend, you will notice that the floodplain is getting wider and the trail flattens out for a bit. Exit 4 is on your right and will lead you through the "Saddle", over Straight Creek Ford and to BC Road 5 and the CCC Trailhead.
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.
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 trailhead isn't located where the app says it is
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).
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.
Desoto State park is a beautiful place to hike all of the trails were wonderful.
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.
Saw no parking. Private homes and a gated entrance.
Nice trail! But keep in mind a lot of slippery rocks to walk over, not for small children or beginners.
Great trail for being in the south. Waterfall and river are pretty with multiple areas to take your clothes off and jump in. Numerous half day and day hikes in desoto state park as well.
here's my rate.
This is a great trail to break in your new boots with the roots, rocks, and other opsticles to go around for a good 6. something miles it's not a bad trail at all! experienced hikers? We saw a family go down the trail and a whole Scout Troop.
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.