Situated atop northeast Alabama’s Lookout Mountain, Desoto State Park is a 3,500-acre nature preserve and recreation destination that features vibrant forests, gushing waterfalls, and rugged mountain scenery. The park is located 8 miles northeast of Fort Payne, and approximately 75 miles east of Huntsville making it a great place camping near Atlanta. Dedicated in 1939, the park was named after Hernando de Soto, the renowned 16th century explorer. Prior to its dedication, most of the park’s roads, trails and facilities were constructed through the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a Depression-era works program that improved many of the country’s parks and forests, while providing jobs and skills to millions of struggling Americans. The park boasts many local legends, including one that suggests that the area may have been settled by Welsh explorers, centuries before Columbus’s arrival in the New World. Visitors are invited to learn more about DeSoto State Park by camping in the park.
The campground at DeSoto State Park features 94 full-hookup sites for tent and RV campers. Sites have either back-in or pull-through parking pads, and can accommodate large vehicles/trailers. Each site is equipped with picnic tables and cooking grills, and there are two comfort stations available with restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. A dump station is located onsite. The park also has a primitive tent campground that offers 16 sites with fire pits. Picnic tables, cooking grills, potable water, trash receptacles, and vault toilets are located in this campground’s central area. There are also two primitive backpacker camps with sleeping shelters and fire pits, but no water or trash service. In addition to camping, the park also offers a variety of chalets, cabins and motel rooms for those less interested in roughing it. Other amenities include picnic areas, an outdoor pool, tennis courts, and a playground. Campsite rates range from $15–$36/night, plus fees; other accommodation rates vary.
Visitors will find a variety of seasonal activities to enjoy at DeSoto State Park, from hiking and fishing to geocaching and zip-lining. Start your visit by checking out the CCC Museum and Benefield Interpretive Center to learn about the park’s history, flora and fauna. Drop into the country store and purchase a trail map for the park’s 30 miles of hiking and biking paths. Trails range in distance and difficulty, so there’s a path for everyone. There’s even a barrier-free boardwalk trail. Swimming, fishing and kayaking can be enjoyed on the West Fork Little River, which runs right through the park. The park also hosts guided hikes, campfire programs, and community events. Thrill-seekers can get a bird’s eye view over the park on the Aerial Adventure zipline course, which includes six ziplines and seven sky bridges, and golfers can tee off at the DeSoto Golf Course, just a few miles south of the park.
Staying at DeSoto State Park
This was our first time staying at Desoto after being here previously to hike. Desoto State Park Campground is a large campground with 94 full hookup sites, 16 primitive tent sites, and 2 primitive backcountry sites. All sites with hook ups also included cable hook ups. All the sites are gravel and most sites are wooded with lots of shade. The sites are a little sloped, so have leveling equipment ready. The sites vary from small and close together in the pull through area, to medium size with plenty of separation for some privacy. All style sites include a picnic table and fire ring.
Check-in is at the camp store if you arrive during store hours or at the lodge if you arrive after hours. We stayed on site 15, which had a little sun in the morning and complete shade in the afternoon. This site does have a little slope in it, which was no problem for leveling our trailer, but our friends that were with us and in a tent had to deal with setting up on a little slope.
The bathhouse is centrally located, newer, and cleaned daily. There are also laundry machines available between the men’s and women’s area..
Firewood, ice, limited grocery items, and lots of souvenirs were available at the camp store. There is a full grocery store less than 15 minutes away.
We found ok to limited cell phone service with Verizon throughout the property. The state park did have wi-fi near the camp store.
The park has lots of hiking to enjoy the outdoors, a few smaller waterfalls along some of the trails, a zipline and sky bridge course(for a fee), and a large waterfall a short 5 minute drive from the campground. The river above the large waterfall is also available for kayaking and canoeing, and a small outfitter rents boats if you need one.
The state park is located in a very outdoorsy area with various activities to take inn. We look forward to visiting here again.
I have been coming here since I was a little kid! There is a pool, a playground, DeSoto falls, and a newly installed zip line! The trails are my favorite for nature walks there is so many of them!!! The trails have colors on trees so you don't get lost I'm sure you can get a map from the general store. There is also a little museum to show you what kind of animals and plants you can find there. They have a RV campground down the road. Dogs are allowed!!! 🥰🥰🥰
Desoto State Park is one of our favorite Alabama places to visit, located in Northeastern Alabama and the southern end of Lookout Mountain. We try to camp here in the spring and fall each year when available, the closest towns are Fort Payne and Mentone. There are ample shopping areas and restaurants in Fort Payne which is about 10 miles from the campground if you need to make the trip down. The park has so much to offer and the staff there goes the extra effort to ensure your stays are pleasant and enjoyable. The hiking trails are abundant throughout the park, the Scout Trail is our favorite as it winds next to the river banks and over numerous rocks and scenic water features. This trail can be physically challenging and be sure to verify the river levels beforehand.
The campground is well maintained and the sites are level for the most part, our favorite site is 25 but we’ve stayed in several others end enjoyed those as well. The sites in the upper and lower loops are mostly back in sites with a couple of pull through and buddy sites also. The middle section is all pull through sites for the large coaches and 5th wheel RV’s. All sites at Desoto are equipped with water, electric, sewer, cable TV, table, fire ring and grills. The bath houses are some of the cleanest we’ve seen, relatively new with excellent amenities including laundry. There is also WIFI broadcast at each of the bath houses.
There is a great lodge restaurant, cabins old and new, swimming pool, tennis courts, Zip Line and a CCC museum. Put this one on your list as it’s never disappointed our family. The Little River Canyon Preserve is nearby with additional hiking and fantastic Canyon vistas you will have to go see.
We diverted to Alabama due to hurricane from east coast. DeSoto was a great choice for October. It is a very clean and well maintained park. We had plenty if options for hiking and waterfalls. Large campsite and clean bathhouse. Water/electric, too. Plenty of wildlife around.
Desoto is near Little River Canyon on top of Lookout Mountain. Lots of waterfalls and wildflowers. Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel were is bloom when we were there. Also a pool, cabins, a chalet and lodge. The campground is small. Water and electric.
Some of the most beautiful trails and waterfalls I have been to. The facilities were nice and clean. The bathroom was kind of far from our campground. Overall it was a great stay.
Large sites, some level some not so much. We stayed in site 30 which was great! No cell service, but the campground has WiFi. Visit the link for more information and lots of photos. https://imaginecamper.com/2018/11/06/desoto-state-park-al/
Took a group trip here in high school and stayed in the larger group sites separated by gender. Overall it was a wonderful weekend and a great location for a group of our size with lots of amazing activities to do in the area. We also took full advantage of the great covered picnic areas since it rained a bunch that weekend. Some of our activities included taking kayaks/canoes up the river above Desoto Falls then hiking down from the top to swim in the small lake below. We also did a bunch of trust and group team building activities in some of the many open spaces around the campground. Overall, this is a great place to come with school groups and the large campsites work perfectly for lots of people to sleep.
Love this place and the surrounding area.
Many waterfalls and hiking trails