DeSoto State Park is not only rated one of the top parks in the State of Alabama, it is also one of the top-rated parks in the entire country.
Named after the historic Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, this natural wonder sets on the ridge of Lookout Mountain in the northeastern part of the state.
It is located about eight miles northeast of Fort Payne in DeKalb County, and at one time was the home of the Cherokee Indian tribe.
The history of DeSoto State Park really lies with the Cherokee Indian tribe, as this was believed to be their homeland until they were removed from the state in the early 1830’s.
Then, about 30 years later, the Union cavalry troops camped near the now famous DeSoto Falls located in the park, in the year 1863, on their march to the famous battle of Chickamauga.
Most of the building’s located in this historic state park date back to the early 1930’s, when the CCC, also known as the Civilian Conservation Corps, started building structures.
The CCC was a government made work program during the Great Depression, a time where the country faced great suffering and jobs were scarce, as was money and food.
It was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which was designed to bring relief to millions of unemployed Americans.
During and after its development, DeSoto State Park was known as State Park # 5, by the CCC.
These structures included a lodge as well as visitor dwellings, many of which are still standing to this day.
The stone that was used in this construction was mined from a quarry located on the property of the park, and there is still evidence of some of this early mining that can be found.
Along some of the hiking trails located in this historic park, visitors can still see marks on some of the stones that are used along these hiking trails.
In fact, the quarry itself can still be reached from the White Trail that is next to the General Store in the visitors parking lot.
The beauty of DeSoto State Park all begins with its 3,500 plus acres of gorgeous, forested terrain that allows its visitors to views mountain streams, unusual rock formations, as well as numerous types of wildflowers.
However, there are also numerous types of birds, mammals, as well as reptiles located in this natural setting.
This natural beauty actually consists of what is referred to as “two non-contiguous sites.
The first is DeSoto Falls, the tallest waterfall in the state of Alabama at 104 feet high, and it located on a separate parcel of land six miles north of the main park near Mentone, Alabama.
This natural beauty was voted one of the Country’s top 10 state parks by the readers of “Camping Life” magazine in the year 2006.
As a result of this accomplishment, it has been inducted into the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame for winning the Certificate of Excellence Award a whopping five years in a row.
It is located near the Little River Canyon National Preserve, established to protect the Little River and it’s surrounding canyon, it is often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East”.
The attractions at the DeSoto State Park are numerous, and the amenities include 30 miles of hiking trails, a campground with 94 full hook-up sites, and several individual and backcountry camping sites.
There is also a picnic area, a playground, tennis courts, as well as a swimming pool, but there are five attractions that really stand out.
The Five Top Attractions
Here are the five top attractions at the DeSoto State Park.
The Historic Lodge
First on this list of top attractions the DeSoto State Park, is the Historic Lodge, built by the CCC during the mid-1930’s.
When it was first built it was used as both a group hall as well as a dance hall, and during the 1970’s, new additions were built around the main lodge and a motel was constructed next to it.
When visitors go into the main lobby, they can still see the front center store with the word “Lodge” carved into it.
The original part of the building was turned into the Mountain Inn Restaurant, which is still in operation today.
The additional accommodations that can be found at the Historic Lodge include mountain chalets, log cabins, as well as rustic CCC Cabins.
The Interpretive Center
Next on the list of five major attractions at the DeSoto State Park is the Interpretive Center, also referred to as the “Nature Center”.
It is located next to the Country Store and Information Desk, and is a small natural center that provides visitors the opportunity to experience and study the natural world found at the park.
It features both mounted as well as live animals, and highlights the different types of mammals, birds, reptiles, and the amphibians that live at the top of Lookout Mountain.
It also highlights the nature diversity that can be found in the park.
Legends On the Lookout
The Legends on the Lookout is the next major attraction, where visitors can learn about the history of both DeSoto State Park as well as the areas surrounding Lookout Mountain.
It is a collection of stories about the numerous interesting places found there, as well as the people that have made it home.
It teaches visitors about the story of the namesake of the park, the legend of the Welsh Caves, as well as how the A.A. Miller Dam at DeSoto Falls was built.
The Civilian Conservation Corps Museum
The Civilian Conservation Corps Museum lets visitors enjoy a very unique experience about how this famous park was built.
It will take them back in time to learn about all of the challenges that faced the country during the Depression -era, and what the Civilian Conservation Corps had to endure not only to build DeSoto State Park, but parks all over the country during these troubled times.
The Mountain Biking Trails
The final major attraction for a must see is the Mountain Biking Trails, that have added to the DeSoto State Park mystic.
The Park not only has 30 miles of regular hiking trails, it also has 11+ miles of mountain biking trails that range from very easy to extremely strenuous.
However, there are four trails that really stand out.
The first is the “Family Bike Loop”, a 2.5-mile trail, that is rated easy to moderate. It is accessed by the Lost Falls Trailhead.
The second is the “Never-Never Land Loop”, a 3.8-mile loop, that is rated moderate to mildly strenuous, and can be accessed by the same trailhead.
The third of the Mountain biking trails is the “CCC Quarry Bike Loop”, which is the longest at about 5 miles in length.
It is rated moderate to strenuous due to its inclines, and can be accessed next to the park’s County Store.
The final trail is the “Gillam Bike Loop”, which is a 3.5-mile loop, is rated moderate, and can be accessed by the Gillam Loop Trailhead.
If you and your family have never visited DeSoto State Park, you are missing out on one of the top parks in the country, and one of the most beautiful in the historic state of Alabama.
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