Location: Fort Payne, Alabama
Website: Alabama State Park
Description: Desoto State Park is a 3,502 acre park created in the late 1930’s by the CCC. The sandstone shelters and railings are still in perfect condition. Located at the top of Lookout Mountain, Desoto State Park offers many miles of hiking and biking trails taking visitors through upland pines, mountain coves, and along mountain streams. Multiple cascades and waterfalls will delight along with wild flowers during the spring season and the fall colors are a spectacular sight. Along with a modern lodge/restaurant, the Park includes cabins and camping facilities with full hookups and modern bathroom facilities. Desoto State Park is also part of a joint management plan with the National Park System that administers adjacent Little River Canyon National Preserve.
1) We found the campsites to be the best we have stayed in. They come with full hookups and plenty of room between sites. The campgrounds also has a section of pull-through sites for the largest of RVs. The bathroom facilities are centrally located which means they can be a bit of walk from some of the campsites, especially in the rain in the middle of the night. However, they are modern with heat and plenty of hot water.
2) We were too early in the spring to see much in the way of wildflowers and the trees were just beginning to bud.
The pine pollen from the mountain longleaf was covering every surface by the time we left.
3) However, spring is the best time to view the waterfalls in the park. The most spectacular is Desoto Falls that is a few miles outside the Park boundaries in Mentone, Alabama.
While not as impressive we also enjoyed the sights at Laurel Falls, Indian Falls, Lodge Falls, and Azaelia Cascades.
4) The CCC quarry where they found an outcropping of sandstone underneath a limestone layer was very interesting. You can still see the boring holes for their dynamite in the limestone that was not removed and the square edges of the limestone that was blasted apart is still very evident. The many CCC shelters and buildings were also impressive to see how well they have stood the test of time.
5) The best stand of mature mountain longleaf was actually on the Family Bike Loop, which is a relatively level 2.5 mile loop that winds back and forth. During the middle of the week we did not run into any bikers, which was good since the trail is very narrow with thick underbrush in a lot of locations. I expect during the weekends and summer months the path can be busy, especially since they alternate the direction you are suppose to ride around the loop. For more adventurous riders there is also the Never-Never Land Loop wichi is 3.8 miles over more challenging terrain.
6) There is also a small CCC museum at the west entrance to the Park in a small sandstone building constructed by the CCC. We did not get to visit it since it is only opened from 12-3 on Saturdays.