From Frogtown Creek, water cascades down staggering granite outcrops and makes for stunning waterfalls within close hiking distance to campsites at DeSoto Falls Recreation Area in Northern Georgia. Situated on the edge of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, DeSoto Falls places primitive campers close to I-29 for easy access to nearby civilization, while also secluding them in the privacy of the hardwood forest.
Whether you’re camping at the site or taking a day trip to trace a trail among the waterfalls, the preserved forest around the DeSoto Falls Recreation Area creates a leafy ceiling for shady and cool adventures, making it an ideal environment for family campers. You can also make these falls a stop on your tubing tour of the nearby Chattahoochee River.
Pick Your Primitive Paradise at DeSoto Falls
Campers can choose from 24 primitive sites in the DeSoto Falls Recreation Area, each situated either at the upper or lower loop of the DeSoto Falls Trail. But DeSoto Falls proves that primitive camping doesn’t always mean prehistoric measures: the site offers a warm water outdoor shower located in the lower loop and four chemical flush facilities in the upper loop.
Other amenities include access to a grill, picnic table, lantern post, and drinking water from two centrally located faucets on the grounds. However, there are no water or electric hookups on the site, and campers should prepare for their stay accordingly.
If you camp during the summer at DeSoto Falls, rates will run $12 per night. Savvy campers can catch a deal at $6 per night in the winter. Be sure to come prepared though, as the drinkable water source is not provided during the off season.
“This area of Georgia is chock full of great places to hike and explore… the entire time spent there in Desoto Falls area was priceless!” — The Dyrt camper Dave V.
5 Things Campers Should Know About DeSoto Falls Primitive Camping
Georgia is abundant with awe-inspiring camping options, and DeSoto Falls is sure to be your new favorite in the Peach State.
1. You Can Go Chasing Waterfalls
Cascading waterfalls are in great supply at DeSoto Falls, and they’re also easy to get to. The upper falls are just a 0.75-mile hike from the recreation area, and the lower falls are even closer at 0.25 miles from the same point. The upper falls offer a more dramatic mountain stream drop at 80 feet, and the best viewing times will be in the spring after heavy rains.
At one point in time, a third waterfall located at the top of the trail made the DeSoto Falls a triple-cascading waterway. But due to havoc caused from natural storms, hikers don’t have access to this upper part of the trail while it restores growth.
Campers and visitors can also switch onto the Byron Herbert Reach Trail, which is a connector to the Appalachian Trail, or visit Vogel State Park trail system.
2. There’s a Treasure Trove of Trout Fishing
Frogtown Creek, which is next to the DeSoto Falls campground, is a popular fishing area rife by trout. Even though some of these waters run small, they can house big fish in secluded areas that are less traveled by fishermen.
The creek is partially stocked, so anglers might catch hatchery-raised rainbow trout or wild trout. However, the farther you move away from I-29, the more likely a wild trout will snag your line.
3. You Might Stumble on 15th-Century History
The DeSoto Falls Recreation Area is named after Hernando deSoto. The 15th century explorer traveled these parts of the Southeastern U.S. on an expedition for gold. According to local legend, an armored chest plate was found at the base of DeSoto Falls in the 1880s.
It’s tempting to start snooping around for historical artifacts. But the Forest Service makes clear that campers should stick to the trail. Every year, some who go off-trail have fallen to their deaths from the slippery heights.
4. Visit the Historic Mountain Crossings Store
Missing a sleeping bag, water-proof creek-hopping socks, or a flashlight? Don’t panic. If you realize you’ve forgotten that essential piece of camping gear, there’s an excellent camping store near DeSoto Falls. The famous Mountain Crossings camp gear store is only 3.8 miles away.
The original 1937 stone edifice, named the Walasi-yi Interpretive Center, still holds up Mountain Crossings Store, which was completed the same year as the Appalachian Trail. The staff assists many thru hikers on their way to Maine by way of the Appalachian Trail. But they’re also more than competent in helping day hikers and weekend campers.
The history of this building and the surrounding area goes farther back than its construction, however. Historically, the land the structure currently sits on was a Cherokee village named Walasi-yi, until the inhabitants were forcibly removed in the mid-19th century. After the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the building, it was named the Walasi-yi Interpretive Center and used as an inn, a restaurant, an artist studio and currently as an outdoor retailer. The center received registration on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
5. Watch Your Step – Waterfalls Can Be Fatal
Recently, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests issued a cautionary waterfall alert to spread awareness about the dangers of waterfalls. “While beautiful to see, waterfalls often pose risks to unprepared visitors. Each year, there are serious injuries and fatalities at Georgia waterfall,” the alert reads.
The most recent accident at a Cattahoochee National Forest waterfall occurred in summer 2017, when a father and son died while playing in Dicks Creek Falls. This waterfall is located around two miles from DeSoto Falls.
When hiking near waterfalls, it’s imperative to wear nonslip hiking gear, stay on the path, and never swim in restricted areas. The undertow strength in a waterfall pool, and the depth of the water are often deceptive.