DeSoto Falls, Alabama

DeSoto Falls edit

DeSoto Falls in December 2009

I visited DeSoto Falls almost ten years ago, and now am just coming to write about the most impressive falls in DeSoto State Park. (I’ve written about the four smaller waterfalls in the park many years ago, comically enough.) So I’m now getting to the namesake falls.

DeSoto Falls is a really beautiful waterfall in northeastern Alabama. At 104′, it is one of the taller waterfalls in the state. Since it’s been so long since I visited, I don’t remember all of the specifics, but I do remember it being an easy waterfall to visit. There was a short hike from the parking lot to the falls. You’re then rewarded with a big drop surrounded by beautiful geological features. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely one of the waterfalls you should be visiting.

Directions:

  1. From I-59, take exit 231.
  2. Head southeast on AL-40 toward Hammondville/Valley Head.
  3. Turn right onto US-11 for a short ways.
  4. Turn left onto AL-117 south and drive for 3 miles through Valley Head. You will turn sharply right onto an apparently unnamed road. If you end up in Mentone, you’ve gone too far.
  5. Turn left toward County Road 613 and then continue on that road. You should end up at the DeSoto Falls Picnic Area.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 104′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip

Where in the World is DeSoto Falls?

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Little River Falls, Alabama

When I was looking for waterfalls to visit in Alabama during a trip this past weekend, I was surprised to find out that there were a number of waterfalls in the Little River Canyon National Preserve. Just over six years ago, I had visited DeSoto Falls State Park, which has a number of waterfalls (DeSoto Falls Indian Falls, Laurel Falls, Lost Falls, and the Azalea Cascades, and maybe a one or two others). I had no clue that just a few miles away was the Little River Canyon with even more waterfalls. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure that I would have driven the additional distance to see these other falls.

But when you miss waterfalls one time, it’s the perfect excuse to go back and visit! And so I did. The Little River Canyon is a fascinating place to visit. It is a surprisingly beautiful canyon. There is an enjoyable but winding drive that takes you along the canyon rim, and they have done a very good job of placing overlooks at the right places. But, comically enough, to see Little River Falls, you don’t have to drive along the Canyon Rim Drive (though you still should). Little River Falls is found right at the intersection of two roads before you start your journey (assuming you approach the falls from the same direction as I did).

Once you find the parking area for the falls (which isn’t particularly difficult), the “hike” to the falls isn’t particularly difficult either. There was a very nice ranger/volunteer handing out maps, and he referenced the stairs down as the “hard” path and the wheelchair accessible ramp as the “easy” way back. I thought this funny, as it seemed like there may have been only 20 or so stairs to the falls. (There were probably a few more, but there aren’t any heart warnings involved with going down these stairs, at least compared to other places I’ve been.) I actually found the ramp back up more tedious because it took me way out of the way to get back to my car! (There really aren’t any additional views to be had by taking the long way.) The views to be had at the designated areas, though, are definitely worth it. (And while you’re at this area, realize there’s a hike to another smaller waterfall, Martha’s Falls, that’s enjoyable.)

Directions:

  1. If driving along I-59, you could either take exit 218 or 222 to get to the falls. I think I took exit 222 as I was heading south, and turned left onto US-11.
  2. Drive along US-11 to the intersection of US-11 and AL-35. Turn left onto AL-35, and then turn left after a few blocks to stay on AL-35.
  3. Once on this route, it’s a pretty easy drive to the falls. The parking area for the falls is found on AL-35 just after the intersection with AL-176 (which is the scenic drive). The signage for the falls makes it relatively difficult to miss.
  4. At the parking area, it’s a short walk to the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, there is a wheelchair-accessible ramp)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round trip
Height: 45′

Little River Falls in January 2016

Where in the World is Little River Falls?

Lost Falls, Alabama

Lost Falls in late December 2009

Lost Falls isn’t truly “lost”. Obviously somebody has found it. As you’re hiking to the falls, though, you may feel that you could get lost finding it. Not that the hike is all that difficult, but the trail meanders. You’ll walk through mini-cascades (you won’t get wet). You’ll pass by a number of points that will make you THINK you’re near a waterfall, but you’re probably not…at least not a significant waterfall.

The trail leading to the falls is marked with red/orange markers. (You may also be able to find these falls on the blue trail.) This definitely does help, but you’ll need to pay attention. It’s so easy to get caught up in the beautiful forest around you, only to find out that you’re not where you thought you were. The two falls along the trail, Laurel Falls and Lost Falls, are both marked with painted rocks…an interesting little touch. At least there’s something indicating you’re on the right path. I’ve been to some waterfalls where I’ve gotten much more lost.

Directions:

  1. From I-59, head toward DeSoto State Park. There are multiple ways to get there, and the way I took did not pass through Fort Payne. Other directions go through Fort Payne.
  2. Follow the signs to DeSoto State Park, as they’re pretty clearly placed along major intersections.
  3. You’re heading toward DeKalb County Road 89. You’ll drive for a ways on this road until you enter the state park.
  4. From the direction I entered, I saw the gift shop first. I kept heading down County Road 89, and if I had kept going, I would have gone to Fort Payne.
  5. Locate the parking are for the Azalea Cascades Boardwalk and park here.
  6. Head down the boardwalk past the Azalea Cascades.
  7. To your right, there should be a trail heading uphill that is has red/orange diamonds posted on the trees. Follow this trail. (As mentioned, you may be able to follow the blue trail as well, and there is a Lost Falls Trail Head on the opposite side of this blue trail.)
  8. Pass the sign for the campground, continuing on the red/orange trail.
  9. After a ways (1/2 of a mile?), you’ll pass a rock on the ground painted with the name Laurel Falls. Keep going.
  10. After another 1/2 mile (?), you’ll end up at another rock for Lost Falls. Take that side-trail, which is rather short, down to the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (in December, there were a number of large trees blocking parts of the trail)
Height: 10′
Length of Hike: ~2.5 miles round-trip from Azalea Boardwalk

Where in the World is Lost Falls?

Azalea Cascades, Alabama

The beginning of the Azalea Cascades

The Azalea Cascades might be the most unassuming of the waterfalls in DeSoto State Park in Alabama. They are not as tall or as wide as the other falls in the park, but they have a gentle beauty nonetheless. The Azalea Cascades are also very easy to access, and the hike along the boardwalk is very enjoyable, even in late December. The cascades continue for a distance down the creek, though they are difficult to photograph, as rocks block the view along the way.

Directions:

  1. From I-59, head toward DeSoto State Park. There are multiple ways to get there, and the way I took did not pass through Fort Payne. Other directions go through Fort Payne.
  2. Follow the signs to DeSoto State Park, as they’re pretty clearly placed along major intersections.
  3. You’re heading toward DeKalb County Road 89. You’ll drive for a ways on this road until you enter the state park.
  4. From the direction I entered, I saw the gift shop first. I kept heading down County Road 89, and if I had kept going, I would have gone to Fort Payne.
  5. Locate the parking are for the Azalea Cascades Boardwalk (Blue Trail) and park here.
  6. Head down the boardwalk to the Azalea Cascades.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 6′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Azalea Cascades?

Valley Head Falls, Alabama

This is a smaller set of cascades that I believe is near the town of Valley Head in Alabama. I could be wrong about that considering that I wasn’t exactly sure where I was at that moment. I was heading toward toward I-59 after visiting DeSoto State Park. I was heading east, and had earlier noticed that there was a smaller group of waterfalls just off the road. There is a park right near these falls that have parking, so I pulled off and took a few pictures. It was getting later, so there wasn’t much light to take a picture. Even so, it was still a pretty area.

Directions:

  1. I believe this waterfall can be found off of AL-117 just west of the intersection with US-11. There should be a park in that general vicinity. If you’re heading toward DeSoto State Park from US-59, you may end up passing by the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 6′
Length of Hike: roadside

Waterfall/cascade in Valley Head

Where in the World is Unnamed Falls?

Indian Falls, Alabama

Indian Falls

There are multiple waterfalls to be found in DeSoto State Park, with DeSoto Falls the largest and most widely known of the waterfalls. Indian Falls is the second largest of the falls in the area and one that should not be missed when visiting the area.

As with DeSoto Falls, Indian Falls is very easy to view. From the parking area, it’s just a short walk to the the falls. To get a better view, you will have to maneuver down the side of a hill, though it is not that bad.

Directions:

  1. From I-59, head toward DeSoto State Park. There are multiple ways to get there, and the way I took did not pass through Fort Payne. Other directions go through Fort Payne.
  2. Follow the signs to DeSoto State Park, as they’re pretty clearly placed along major intersections.
  3. You’re heading toward DeKalb County Road 89. You’ll drive for a ways on this road until you enter the state park.
  4. From the direction I entered, I saw the gift shop first. I kept heading down County Road 89, and if I had kept going, I would have gone to Fort Payne.
  5. Locate the parking are for the Azalea Cascades Boardwalk (Blue Trail) and park here.
  6. Instead of heading toward the boardwalk, turn 180 degrees and look for the fenced in sewage treatment plant. You’ll see a sign indicating Indian Falls.
  7. Cross the road, and follow the arrows, which lead you directly to the waterfall. It’s pretty hard to miss.
  8. You’ll have to cross the creek, where you’ll then have to maneuver down the hill to get the best view of the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Indian Falls?