Desoto Scout Trail
Follows the rapids of the west fork of little river
The DeSoto Scout Trail follows the west fork of the Little River as is meanders through the mountains of NorthEast Alabama. The canyon cut by the Little River through the sandstone has an average depth of 600 feet. The Civilian Conservation Corps created DeSoto State Park in the 1930s protecting the northern portion of Little River. The National Park Service created Little River Canyon National Preserve which protects the Canyon. The Trail begins on a ridge above the river, and winds down to the river itself. It then follows the river until it goes up a hill to views of the cliffs overlooking the river. The trail is 2.3 miles (4.6 miles round trip).
Length: 4.6 miles
The DeSoto Scout Trail (DST)has had a LOT of work done this summer and the entire trail on public lands is open. It is approximately 16 miles long. The 2 mile section that belongs to Comer Scout Reservation is currently closed, but part of it will be open this year, along with a new parking lot at the intersection of CR 89 and Wester Road. The trail is open from DeSoto State Park(DSP) to the new "Backcountry Trailhead" on Backcountry Road 5, in Little River Canyon National Preserve(LRCNP). At that point the trail follows backcountry road 5 to Edna Hill Church. The entire trail is marked with "DST" signs, except within DSP, where it is marked with a yellow blaze. Approximately 200 more signs are to be added before November, so it will be easier to find your way. Within DSP, from the northern border going south, the DST has a great trailbed and travels along the bluff line. It meanders around a few creeks and waterfalls that flow into the River. Past Indian Falls, the DST descends to the riverside. The footbed is sand river rocks, and some huge sunken boulders as this area is in the floodplain. A lot of the trail could be underwater if we get torrential rains. (@1.5 miles) From DSP border to DST Exit 1: The trail is still sandy and rocky and beautiful. There are several rare and beautiful plants blooming down here at any given time. There are several good swimming spots along the trail, the most notable being "Shigley's" Hole which is almost halfway around the "Little Bend" in the River. The water is 9-10 feet deep and surrounded by monolithic, stacked boulders...some bigger than my house. There is also a beach area. You can cross the river here and meet up with the "Alpine Trail", which is an unofficial trail that goes up tho the east rim of the River. It goes by several nice rock formation and then splits off to go downstream or back to DSP. After you pass the "Little Bend" travel about 100 yards and you will see a trail to the right this is "DST Exit 1" From DST Exit 1 to DST exit 2: The trail is mostly sandy here and there are less rocks than the last section. It is a pretty easy going hike with the except in of a few places where he trail travels away from the river to get above the floodplain. There are also a few nice swimming spots here too, the best being the "Sand Hole", which is a beach area with a wide pool. "The Sand Hole" is at the bottom of "DST Exit 2" Just a bit upstream from exit 2, there is a river ford which leads to the "Alpine Trail". From Exit 2, to Exit 3: **The trail has been moved from the river to the ridge due to flooding**. Resist the urge to go down stream on the river. It is a very beautiful area, but there is a lot of scrambling over rocks and dealing with Rhododendron and Mountain Laurels. Instead, go up the trail past the "Sand Hole" for 50 yards and take a left about half way up. You will see the signs and a cairn. This will take you beside a waterfall and you will cross the little creek and ascend the ridgeline. The grade is pretty nice, except the initial part where you go by the waterfall. The trail meanders around many rock formations and natural steps. The DST eventually climbs above the rocks and travels through the "Land of 1000 Dogwoods". Next you will go over a small dry creek. After this, you will see a fork in the trail. The DST descends back toward the river, while exit 3 travel at the top of the ridgeline to the right. From Exit 3 to Exit 4 "The Big Bend" This section immediately does a few small switchbacks and takes you to the Start of the "Big Bend" This is an area of the River that takes a drastic 90 degree turn to the left. This leaves a big exposed rock face with several awesome formations. As you travel on the DST, you will find yourself on a small ridge at the top of the "Rhododendron line" The trail is well packed and not very rocky at all. As you continue around the bend, It drops down by the river again into a wonderful fern paradise, with at least 7 different species of ferns. The floodplain starts to widen and you find yourself going in and out of these fern gullies and up the ridge and by rock walls. The flora is really nice. There are several large trees scattered throughout this area. As you get to the end of the bend, you will notice that the floodplain is getting wider and the trail flattens out for a bit. Exit 4 is on your right and will lead you through the "Saddle", over Straight Creek Ford and to BC Road 5 and the CCC Trailhead. From Exit 4 to Exit 5: The trail goes in and out of fern gullies and travels beside the river on a high sandy bank. The rocks have pretty much left the scene and the trailbed is fabulous. You could do a nice trail run on this section. The plants are different here as well and eventually you will find yourself on a small ridge between Little River and Straight Creek. This will eventually lead you to a 50 foot bridge over Straight Creek. It is not complete yet, but You can still cross the rudimentary cable bridge or you can ford the creek at low water. Follow along the Creek and the trail climbs away from the river again. You go through some mixed pine/oak forests with still quite a few ferns and upland flowers. At exit 5, the DST goes back toward the river and by an old river ford called McSpadden Ford. You will see the river again at your left. This area is flat and open and right beside the river. There are many large trees here. This would also be a good stretch for a run. You will encounter a few undulations in the trail where side creeks come into the river. Some have bridges, others do not. The bridges are only needed after a heavy rain anyway. You will notice that the West Fork Runs into the East Fork, forming Little River proper. The river really widens here. As you start climbing uphill you will notice exit 6 about halfway up. Exit 6 to Backcountry Trailhead. This is a short section that continues to climb the hill and then descends back toward the river to the trailhead/parking area. This is also the Canoe Put-in and Start of the Little River Canoe Trail (Class I-II)that goes another 8 miles to Hwy 35. This is also when the DST crosses Miller Branch and follows BC Road 5 to Edna Hill Church. I think that the old DST is still in the woods through here, but it was lost due to neglect, and just follows the road. The road is pretty cool, but it is NOT a trail per se... It goes by the river and diverts from the road in a few places and goes by several swimming holes including: Hartline Ford, Billy's Ford, High Rock, No-No Hole, Drag Rock, Slant Rock and The Blue Hole" Overall, this trail is superb! It traverses very varied terrain and has a great wealth of biodiversity in plant life. It is also a stellar place for bird watching. I heard the calls of Broad-wing Hawks, Green Heron and Kingfisher my entire journey with a speckling of many songbirds and hummingbirds. It is also a good spot fly fishing for red-eye and spotted bass. The scenery is Just Amazing! You can easily make this in one day, but there are so many places to stop and things to look at, you could easily spend all day on just s section of this trail. Another great thing about the DST, is with all of the exit trails and the CCC Road/Trail, you can make several loops out of the whole trail complex. You can even bike to the exits, then chain your bike and walk to the river. Exit 1-3 come out on the Old CC Road within DeSoto State Park. exit 4-5 goes to BC Road 5 in Little River Canyon National Preserve. I would give this trail 6 stars if they would keep it maintained like this! It is the longest and most scenic trail for miles around, and everyone should see this gem.