“A little bit of everything De Soto has to offer.”
— Zack Butler
Alabama's De Soto State Park offers about 15 miles of mountain bike trails. This ride is named for Hernando de Soto, one of the Spanish conquistadors who explored Lookout Mountain and Sand Mountain in search of gold in the summery of 1540. Although he never found gold on Lookout Mountain, he found "a way over rough and lofty ridges." Now you, too, can explore the trails of De Soto State Park!
This route exposes the rider to most of the purpose-built mountain bike trails in the park, with the exception of the Gilliam Loop
. The route begins at the newly built CCC Museum on Desoto Pkwy, just below the primitive campground. It begins with the Knotty Pine Trail
, followed by the Never Never Land Loop
, the Vizzney Land Trail
back to the Never Never Land Loop
, across DeSoto Pkwy at the Lost Falls Trailhead to the Family Trail
, and then down DeSoto Pkwy to the CCC Museum. The Vizzney Land Trail
is the newest addition to the park's mountain bike trail system and is quite flowy.
This ride can also be done in reverse, which will give the rider subterfuge to take advantage of the downhill flow of the Vizzney Land Trail
and the Knotty Pine Trail
Need to Know
Restroom facilities are located at the Lost Falls Trailhead and at the Primitive Campground. There are several creek crossings on the Never Never Land Loop
At the CCC Museum, take the Knotty Pine Trail
(which begins just behind the museum) up the hill to the Never Never Land Loop
. The Knotty Pine Trail
is mostly an uphill climb from the CCC Museum, with switchbacks galore. It is not terribly technical in spite of a few rocky spots here and there.
The Never Never Land Loop
has a little bit of everything: downhill, uphill, rocks, stream crossings, drops, roots, narrow spots, wider spots... you get the picture. The Vizzney Land Trail
is considerably easier than the Never Never Land Loop
, but you have to be able to ride the Never Never Land Loop
to get to it. Along the Never Never Land Loop
, you'll pass the Never Never Land Bypass / Shortcut - Cuts about 1.4 miles out of Never Never Land Loop
, where you'll want to keep right to stay on the Never Never Land Loop
A little further up the trail, you'll see the Vizzney Land Trail
on the right. Take that right turn and enjoy one of the few machine-cut trails in the park. It flows well, and most of the climbing is easy. Toward the end of the Vizzney Land Trail
, there will be a relatively short technical climb that may require some "hike-a-bike". It may occur to you at this point that you are going the wrong way (you're not alone). Anyway, once you get past that, you'll be back at the Never Never Land Loop
in just a few hundred yards.
The remaining portion of the Never Never Land Loop
is probably the most difficult portion of it. This is where most of "little bit of everything" happens to be. There are some unique geological features along this section, as well. After a few creek crossings, you'll come out on DeSoto Pkwy just across from the Lost Falls Trailhead. Go ahead and cross the road here(after making sure no traffic is coming, obviously). If "nature calls", this is just about as good a place as any to take care of it.
Behind the trailhead, you'll see the Family Trail
. It is directional, depending on the day of the week. Some of the trail is being re-routed as of May 2014, but it is relatively easy compared to the rest of the trails in the park. It intersects with the CCC Quarry Trail
near the primitive campground; keep to the left at both intersections. The Family Trail
then descends back toward DeSoto Pkwy and the Lost Falls Trailhead.
Return to the CCC Museum via DeSoto Pkwy, watching for traffic. The descent will cool you off.
History & Background
State Park #5-DeSoto State Park
DeSoto State Park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid 1930s to early 1940s, and was known as State Park #5. In November 1933 a CCC camp was built in the town of Fort Payne and in early 1934 work was started above Fort Payne on Lookout Mountain. The CCC boys then built roads, trails, culverts, a 9-hole golf course, and stone and wood structures such as picnic pavilions, barbeque pits, cabins, and a group lodge.
DeSotos CCC Museum was made possible with a $10,000 state tourism grant in late 2011 and was dedicated on April 19, 2013. The museum is located in the Contact Station located at the original entrance to DeSoto State Park on Country Road 618. (2 miles from DeSotos Country Store).