Desoto State Park Revisited

Camping at Desoto State Park has so much to offer both inside the park and in the surrounding areas!

I have sold myself short on more than one camping trip over the years.  Part of my shortfall is due to a lack of planning before we take off.  Desoto State Park near Fort Payne, Alabama is one of those locations for us.  We went there 3 years ago at Easter.  We recently returned, and I am so glad that we did!  If you are planning a trip to this state park or would like to return to this spot, here are some things that will help you to map out your itinerary and make the most of your time!

Desoto State Park has beautiful hiking opportunities.

Desoto State Park is located in the North-East corner of Alabama.  It is beautiful and somewhat remote.  Cell service is minimal at best, and I actually love it.  I can really unplug there!  Being able to just tap out and enjoy the surroundings is part of the charm for me.  But what else is there to offer?  Desoto State Park has enough to offer that you won't miss your social media stream and constant notifications!

The campsites at Desoto State Park are spacious and well maintained.

I love the rustic fire pits at the campsite there!

Park Features

We have visited quite a few state parks, and Desoto State Park stands out from all of the others.  There are multiple reasons that we love this state park.  First, the staff is excellent and responsive.  From answering questions about hiking trails and surrounding area options to help with campsite problems, the staff is so helpful!

The camping sites are spacious and clean.  Each site comes equipped with a picnic table, rustic fire ring, and grill.  We had plenty of space to spread out and enjoy our campsite without feeling like our neighbors were right on top of us.  We recently stayed on site 33.  I liked that we could sit at our fire pit with a view of our picnic table where our son was playing with his Legos.  Everything was conveniently located right from our front door.  Site 29 also has a nice flat yard area for outdoor games and play.  

Another feature that may or may not interest some campers is cable.  We don't watch a lot of television while camping, but we do watch some at night when getting ready for bed.  With the lack of cell service, we don't have the access to the streaming services we normally use.  Having available cable service is a plus and rare at state parks!

If you are tent camping or in a pop-up camper, the bathhouses are super clean and well maintained.  These are some of the cleanest and nicest bathhouses of any campground we have ever stayed in.  

Hiking Trails

If you want to hike, there is no shortage of trails for you to explore.  The camp store offers some hiking suggestions and hiking maps to help you plan out your trip.  Be sure to stop by and ask for suggestions and advice in planning your time there.  We did a couple of hikes that I think would be excellent places to start.  The trail suggestions and maps will tell you that the trails are not really easy because of the terrain.  But, our 8-year old managed just fine, and there were lots of families with children on the trails.  Slow down and don't rush little feet as you go so that everyone enjoys the journey.

Laurel Falls is located just off of the main orange trail.  Make you listen for the water to help guide you!

Lost Falls is a second waterfall on this trail and has beautiful views right up close and above.

Laurel and Lost Falls Hike

This is about a 3-mile hike that will take you to 2 different waterfall locations - Laurel Falls and Lost Falls.  The trails are well marked and fun to do.  The suggested hike directions give you two alternative routes to return back to your starting location.  Take your time.  Enjoy a snack and listen to the sounds of the waterfalls or just take in the scenery along the way.  I liked the variety of geography throughout.  There were hills, woodland paths, and rocky spots and make for interesting things to see and explore.  

Indian Falls is at the start of this hike.

Hiking along the yellow trail provides nice views of the river as you go along, but be prepared for lots of rocky terrain as you go.

Indian Falls/Yellow DeSoto Scout Trail

This is a more strenuous hike that takes you along the West Fork of the Little River.  If you start at Indian Falls, you can hike along the yellow trail going down along the river and hook back into the green trail and work back toward Indian Falls.  Or you could take the yellow trail up and back down.  If you did the entire yellow trail, it is about 6 miles.  But you could do as much or little of it as you like.

I really loved this trail because of the scenery and sounds of water moving and we worked our way down the trail.  There is a lot of climbing up and over rocks.  It became difficult at times for our corgi to get through.  And we didn't do as much of it as I would have liked, but it is worth the effort to take this route.  Take your time and stop along the way to enjoy both the sights and sounds.  This hike was my favorite because of the sounds of the river and the challenge of the rocky trail as we went deeper into the trail.  I like a good challenge!  This is also a good trail to enjoy a picnic lunch or a snack to enjoy the sights and sounds as you go!

The pottery from Miracle Pottery was a treat for me!  I love the berry bowl, dip bowl, sponge stand, and little vase and spoon rest.

Take a Trip Into Mentone

If you want to get outside of the park, take a little detour into Mentone.  It is a nearby town that has a few unique spots.  First, check out Miracle Pottery.  They are located just outside of Mentone.  They make lots of functional pottery that is beautiful and useful.  I picked up several pieces that I love.  This spot alone is worth the drive over to Mentone.

The Wildflower Cafe was a fun spot for lunch!

We enjoyed everything from the eclectic decor to the wonderful service and food!

You can also enjoy a meal at the Wildflower Cafe.  This was a fun spot for lunch.  The atmosphere is eclectic and inviting.  The food was delicious, and the service was great.  Make a reservation for indoor dining or you can grab a table and eat outdoors based on availability when you arrive.

While in Mentone, make a stop at the Mentone Arts Center.  Their Facebook Page advertises classes and workshops.  Their social media page also features up-to-date artist work that is being featured at the center.  They have beautiful pieces from pottery to paintings and more.  

The Mentone Market also has food you can order as well as grab-and-go items for a picnic.  You can also find local foods and small-batch treats from meats, cheeses, specialty crackers, and more. They sell Dayspring Dairy Truffle Fresca Cheese that is amazing, and you should most definitely pick up some while you are there!  You can also find gifts and souvenirs as well.   

If you decide not to camp or stay at Desoto State Park, you could always rent a cabin near or in Mentone.  This is a popular destination for vacation rentals.  Miracle Pottery has Treehouse Cottages for rent.  

Mentone has made it easy for you to park right across the street from the Mentone Market.  You can walk to the market across the street.  If you wanted to eat there, you certainly could or pick up a picnic lunch to eat at the park in town.  Walk down to the Art Center or even the Wildflower Cafe.  We enjoyed strolling around and taking our time while we were there!

Desoto Falls is worth the drive.  It is beautiful, and there is a well-maintained boardwalk that leads down to the falls.

Little River Canyon is another beautiful location to explore in this area!

Desoto Falls and Litter River Canyon

There are several waterfalls on Lookout Mountain surrounding and inside of Desoto State Park.  Desoto Falls may be the best known of these waterfall spots.  You can drive there from Desoto State Park.  It is about 7 miles away.  The walkway down to the falls is a well-maintained boardwalk that provides easy access to a view of the falls.  Be sure to explore some of the other waterfalls while you are there.

Little River Canyon is part of the National Park Service.  We have driven to a lookout point but never explored this area fully.  However, there are hiking trails, swimming holes, and picnic spots to enjoy within the area.  

You can check out everything from zip-lining to horseback riding.

Other Park Amenities

If you still haven't discovered enough things to do or are looking for another activity to explore, Desoto State Park offers a variety of activities for nearly any traveler!  These opportunities include:

One of the appeals of this area and state park is the variety of activities either in or near the park.  We have been twice to this state park, and we are already planning another trip because I would like to try Yoga on the Mountain.  And, our family would like to go on a kayaking trip down the Little River.  

Desoto State Park offers more activities and opportunities than you can do in just one trip.  It is a place you can visit multiple times to continue exploring all this area has to offer.  Plus, there are some things that you might want to enjoy more than once!  I'm glad we took the time to return to this state park.  And, I'm also glad I took the time to plan a few things that allowed us to really tap into what makes this area so special.  Map out a few things in advance to really lean into the whole experience and leave the rest up to chance.  

Until next time...

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