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12 DeSoto National Forest Boondocking Locations

Free Boondocking In The Desoto National Forest

Today we are going out for a little DeSoto National Forest Boondocking. The DeSoto National Forest Camping is all free except the last two sites on our list and they are only $3.50 per night with a Passport card.

Desoto National Park History and Topography

The 518,587 acres (810 sq mi) of pine forests in southern Mississippi that bear the name of the 16th-century Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto are known as the De Soto National Forest. It is one of the most significant protected places for the Gulf Coast ecoregion of North America’s ecological richness.

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Between Hattiesburg and Gulfport, the De Soto National Forest is easily reachable through U.S. Highways 49 and 98. It is located in 10 counties overall. They are Perry, Wayne, Harrison, Forrest, Stone, Greene, Jones, Jackson, George, and Pearl River counties, listed in decreasing order of land area.

All About De Soto National Forest Camping

The De Soto National Forest boondocking area is known for its gently rolling landscape, southern pine ridges, and hardwood bottoms, all of which are crisscrossed by clear, tea-colored streams. Opportunities for year-round recreation abound for hikers, cyclists, campers, canoers, ATV riders, horse lovers, hunters, and anglers. There are 7 day time restrictions for stays in the camping locations.

One of the two DeSoto National Forest camping wilderness areas in the state, either Black Creek or Leaf, both of which are situated on the De Soto, will be able to accommodate visitors looking for isolation. The district is also home to Black Creek, the only designated National Scenic River in the state of Mississippi, which is renowned for its expansive white sandbars and leisurely drifting pace.

Over 60 miles of National Recreation Trails, including the Black Creek and Tuxachanie, are available for hikers to explore the pine forests. Bethel and Rattlesnake Bay ATV routes, Big Foot Horse Trail, Leaf Hiking Trail, and Bethel Bicycle Trail were among the more frequented trails in the area.

The De Soto is home to a variety of ecosystems, from the high upland hardwood forests of Ragland Hills to the huge pitcher plant savanna at Buttercup Flats. These ecosystems range from dry, sandy longleaf pine/scrub oak ridges to often flooded tupelo/bald cypress swamps.

5 Places to Visit on Your De Soto National Forest Camping Trip

 

1. Windsor Ruins

1 Windsor ruins

The location of a stately mansion destroyed by time and fire is marked by a haunting and stunning collection of columns.

The Home of Windsor was built on a 2,600-acre plantation that belonged to a  owner by the odd name of Smith Coffee Daniell II. Massive columns with iron Corinthian capitals, elaborate wrought-iron balustrades, and a rooftop cupola were all features of the four-story palace. Over two years and $175,000 later, the construction was finished.

Daniell unfortunately passed away just a few weeks after the building was finished in 1861, therefore ownership went to his heirs. Following the 1863 Battle of Port Gibson, the home operated as a Union hospital. Both Confederate and Union troops utilized the cupola as an observation post during the Civil War.

Mark Twain utilized the cupola to see the neighboring Mississippi River after the war, and his account of Windsor is included in his autobiography Life on the Mississippi.

2. Elvis Presley Birthplace

2 Elvis Presley Birthplace

This two-room shotgun shack in Tupelo is the birthplace of a King.

Vernon Presley erected a two-room shotgun cabin for himself, Gladys, and the infant Elvis. Midway through the 1930s, both the Presleys and nearly everyone else in Tupelo, Mississippi, were experiencing hard circumstances. When the bank intervened and reclaimed the residence, the boy was just two years old. The tiny white house with the porch swing is his original residence, having been updated to its original condition on January 8, 1935, the day Elvis Presley was born.

The grounds of this Mississippi Historic Site include more than just the house; they also include a modest museum, an events space, and the Assembly of God Church, where the Presley family often attended services. Although the church was relocated from its original location, it was in this facility that a young Elvis first heard gospel music, which would go on to influence and mold his entire career.

3. Simmons-Wright Company Store

3 Simmons-Wright Company Store

This historic general store still operates much as it did in the late 1800s.

While customers can no longer pay their pay their bill in cotton, the Simmons-Wright Company Store has changed very little over its more than hundreds of years in business selling farm goods and consignment items from its small highway storefront.

Like traveling back in time, entering the Simmons-Wright Company Store is an experience. Exposed hanging lights in the murky interior provide illumination for the crowded assortment of odd equipment, trinkets, and meals. In order to serve travelers on the Old Dixie Highway, which once passed through Mississippi, the first store was constructed there in 1885. Back then, the store ran a saw and a wheat mill for the benefit of the nearby cotton farmers, who had the option of paying off any debt they accrued with the cotton from their fields. The merchandise was arranged by general use and displayed throughout the spacious one-room store.

4. Mississippi Petrified Forest

4 Mississippi Petrified Forest

A little-known fact about Mississippi is that it is the only Southeast state to include a petrified forest, one of just a few in the entire country. Petrified wood really even serves as Mississippi’s state rock.

The Mississippi Petrified Forest, which is located 30 minutes north of Jackson, is where you may visit this natural phenomena. There, a nature trail meanders through a prehistoric forest of maple, fir, palm, and other tree species that, many millions of years ago, turned to stone.

When they were alive, these trees, which grew to be at least a thousand years old and more than a hundred feet tall, were considered to be ancient giants. The enormous trees were knocked over by a river that flowed through the region, creating the ravine and depositing the enormous logs there, where they still exist today. The driftwood became stone fossils as a result of the organic material slowly decomposing over time and being replaced by sediment and minerals.

A preserved stretch of ancient fossilized trees with an impressive gem collection to boot.

5. Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island

Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island 2

Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island along the Mississippi Coast. Built after the War of 1812, the fort was still under construction when Mississippi seceded from the union.

The fort has endured decades of hurricane with minimal, it is now a popular tourist destination. The 85-acre Ship Island, 11 miles south of Gulfport, Mississippi, was divided in half by Hurricane Camille in September 1969. Its perimeter is really lovely to walk around. The island is home to a variety of sea creatures, including dolphins, stingrays, pelicans, crabs, and others.

Built following the War of 1812, this fort has withstood hurricanes for centuries.

 

12 De Soto National Forest Boondocking Locations

1. Forest Service Road 435, DeSoto NF

Address
Perkinston, Mississippi
GPS: 30.691256, -89.072397
Elevation: 197′

Management: National Forest Service

DeSoto National Forest boondocking-> No Reservations. This DeSoto National Forest camping location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking.

Best Review:

Very secluded. No amenities. Pack in, pack out. Approximately one mile of dirt road with small Creek to traverse, dead end road. A couple pulloffs on road in. End has room for 2 or 3 rigs. Recommended by DeSoto NF ranger office while Airey Lake closed. 4 bars of Verizon. Quiet!!! On Tuxachanie Trail about a mile south of Airey Lake.

Best Trail:

Tuxachanie Trail

1 Tuxachanie Trail and De Soto National Forest Boondocking Location

Great for getting a steady run in, with a few birds chirping in the background. If you’re looking for stunning natural beauty, the first 1.5 miles in from 49, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’ve never been any further in, though.

Length: 12.6 mi
Elevation gain: 449 ft
Route type
Point to point: Kid friendly

Hiking, Walking, Dog friendly, Forest, Lake, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife

2. Airey Lake

Address
Saucier, Mississippi
GPS: 30.688574, -89.060417
Elevation: 177′

Management: National Forest Service

The road into this DeSoto National Forest boondocking location is Gravel. There are 30 or more DeSoto National Forest camping sites at this location. This location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking.

Amenities:
Drinking Water
Near Water
Picnic Tables
Restrooms

Best Review:

Free water, restrooms, trash. This DeSoto National Forest camping is mostly set up for tent camping, but there’s room for three or four RVs around the circle. Some fairly level spots if you park in the right place, though not much clear view of the sun through the trees if you need solar. Where we parked we had direct sun almost half the day, but that’s about the most you can hope for.

Best Trail:

C.L. Dees Nature Trail

2 C.L. Dees Nature Trail DeSoto National Forest Boondocking

I love to stop by this trail while driving to visit family. It’s right off the interstate and a great place to stretch your legs on a long drive. I’ve only glimpsed the cranes once but the trail is reliably birdy and the plant life is gorgeous.

Length: 0.8 mi
Elevation gain: 9 ft
Route type: Loop

Kid friendly, Walking, Bird watching, Forest, Wildflowers, Wildlife

3. POW Camp

Address
Forest Road No 420-E
Saucier, Mississippi
GPS: 30.637538, -89.004734
Elevation: 108′

Management: National Forest Service

DeSoto National Forest boondocking at the POW Camp is open all year. This DeSoto National Forest camping location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking. This location is at low elevation.

Best Review:

Very nice DeSoto National Forest boondocking spot! It’s easily reachable and not far from a paved road. There’s plenty of space below the trees. There weren’t a lot of people. You are besides a lake, which was full of plants at the time we went there, so no swimming. There’s also no port-a-potty, but for us this was no concern. I’m not sure about cell phone reception, but I think there was some.

Best Trail:

Black Creek Hiking Trail

3 Black Creek Hiking Trail

Well-maintained trail with pleasant rolling terrain and views of flowing creek. Saw pack of 10 wild hogs that gave us a jolt. They run fast and had 2 alphas in charge who grunted loudly.

Length: 37.8 mi
Elevation gain: 1,748 ft
Route type: Point to point

Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Dog friendly, Forest, River, Views

4. Bethel South Motorcycle and Mountain Bike Trails

Address
De Soto National Park
30.60165, -88.94530

Management: National Forest Service

Nonnumbered DeSoto National Forest boondocking sites are located at the trailhead. Stay limit: 7 days. No alcoholic beverages allowed. This DeSoto National Forest camping location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking. This location is at low elevation.

Best Review:

There are three trails here that offer DeSoto National Forest camping on each one. They are are relatively flat and fast single tracks through pine forest with some wet spots, small climbs, a few log hoops and descents. 1. Bethel: 4.6 miles of non-technical trail. 2. Rattlesnake: 3.8 miles of minimal technical trail. 3. Lost: 6 to 8 miles of partially technical trail

Best Trail:

Bethel Mountain Bike Trail

4 Bethel Mountain Bike - DeSoto National Forest Boondocking

I liked this. Or, rather, I didn’t not like it. The pathways are kept clear and are pretty well marked, which are both pluses. It’s a nice ride through pine forest. There’s little variation though which is why I am only giving it three stars. It’s quite a pleasant but not terribly memorable hike.

Length: 9.2 mi
Elevation gain: 259 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Mountain biking, Dog friendly, Forest, River

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5. Big Creek Landing

Address
De Soto National Park
31.0704602, -89.2542261

Management: National Forest Service

DeSoto National Forest Camping – Unnumbered DeSoto National Forest boondocking campsites available. Stay limit: 7 days. No alcoholic beverages allowed. This location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking. This location is at low elevation.

Best Review:

Big Creek Landing, located on a high bank overlooking Black Creek Wild and Scenic River, serves as the northern terminus and beginning/end point for both the Black Creek float trip and the Black Creek Hiking Trail. Here the stream ranges from 20 to 100 feet wide and, depending on the season and rainfall, 1 to 15 feet deep.

Best Trail:

Black Creek Hiking Trail: Out-and-Back

5 Black Creek Hiking Trail Out-and-Back

 

Beautiful, just a lot of standing water after crossing Fairley Bridge Road at beginning. It just rained 2 days ago, so expected. Well marked.

Length: 9.2 mi
Elevation gain: 734 ft
Route type: Out & back

Dogs on leash, Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Forest, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife

6. Big Foot Horse Trail and Camp

Address
De Soto National Park
31.06716, -88.98267

Management: National Forest Service

DeSoto National Forest boondocking – Unnumbered DeSoto National Forest camping areas available. Stay limit: 7 days. No alcoholic beverages allowed. This DeSoto National Forest boondocking location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking. This location is at low elevation.

Amenities:
Parking
Hitching Rails
Sanitary Facilities (chemical toilets)
Picnic Tables
Grills.

Best Review:

This horse trail is approximately 23.7 miles long and moderate in difficulty. Big Foot Horse Trail consists of four loops ranging in length from 5 to 11 miles. A ride of almost any desired length can be made by combinations of these loops. Most of the trails run parallel to roads, making it possible to enter the trail at any point.

Best Trail:

Fontainebleau Nature Trail

6 Fontainebleau Nature Trail - DeSoto National Forest Boondocking

Well maintained trail did not see any birds. Went just after a rain storm so some of the rails were under some water but still good trail

Length: 1.6 mi
Elevation gain: 45 ft
Route type: Loop

Dogs on leash, Wheelchair friendly, Kid friendly, Stroller friendly, Hiking, Walking, Bird watching, Forest, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, No shade

7. Black Creek Hiking Trail (Hike In Only)

Address
De Soto National Park
30.98792, -89.05174

Management: National Forest Service

DeSoto National Forest boondocking – Unnumbered DeSoto National Forest camping spots available. Stay limit: 7 days. No alcoholic beverages allowed. This location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking. This location is at low elevation. Primitive DeSoto National Forest boondocking is permitted 100 feet away from the trail.

Best Review:

Discover the hidden beauty of the piney woods in the Gulf Coastal Plain by hiking one of Mississippi’s longest and most challenging trails. The Black Creek Hiking Trail continues for 39 miles along the Black Creek River. Hikers can access the trail from Black Creek Trailhead, Fairley Bridge Landing, and Big Creek Landing. The trail climbs over rolling hills and meanders down through the flat land of the Black Creek flood plain. Over 100 bridges and boardwalks have been constructed to provide crossing over small streams and ponds.

Best Trail:

Gulf Islands Seashore

7 Gulf Islands Seashore

This was nice for us from out of the area for something different. Mostly flat (watch out for roots) & majority of it was along the road since some boardwalks closed due to damage. We saw no gators but locals told off his adventures across the road. Many turtles, birds, tadpoles, & pretty view of big water at end (visitor center area).

Length: 3.1 mi
Elevation gain: 75 ft
Route type: Out & back

Dogs on leash, Wheelchair friendly, Kid friendly, Stroller friendly, Hiking, Walking, Running, Forest, Partially paved, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Fee

8. Black Creek Wilderness Area

Address
De Soto National Park
30.98075, -89.02823

Management: National Forest Service

No vehicles allowed. Only foot travel is permitted within the wilderness. Stay limit: 7 days. No alcoholic beverages allowed. This DeSoto National Forest boondocking location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking. This location is at low elevation. DeSoto National Forest camping is permitted 100 feet away from the trail.

Best Review:

Black Creek bisects the wilderness, creating a large hardwood floodplain containing oxbow lakes and stands of sweetgum, loblolly pine, spruce pine, willow oak, bald cypress, sweet bay, and red maple. The terrain is fairly gentle, with elevations ranging from 100 to 270 feet above sea level. The only development in this area is the Black Creek Trail.

No facilities are provided. Only foot travel is permitted on the trail. Black Creek Wilderness is open year-round unless weather conditions require the trail to be closed. No user fees required.

Best Trail:

Flint Creek Water Park Nature Trail

8. Flint Creek Water Park Nature Trail

NOBODY ON THE TRAIL! Even ventured off the trail some! BUT! If its hunting season you can very easily venture into hunting grounds! Even found an area where theres some prospecting going on.

Length: 2.2 mi
Elevation gain: 104 ft
Route type: Out & back

Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Walking, Beach, Forest, Lake

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9. Leaf Wilderness Area (Hike In Only)

Address
De Soto National Park
31.0016 N, 88.8834 W

Management: National Forest Service

No vehicles allowed at this DeSoto National Forest boondocking spot. Only foot travel is permitted within the wilderness. Stay limit: 7 days. No alcoholic beverages allowed. This DeSoto National Forest camping location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking. This location is at low elevation. Primitive camping is permitted 100 feet away from the trail.

Best Review:

Leaf Wilderness is a 940-acre tract of land in the floodplains of the Leaf River. All but the western edge of the wilderness, which is uplands, consist of meandering sloughs, oxbow lakes, and level terrain. Vegetation is mostly loblolly-shortleaf pine forest and oak-gum-cypress-spruce pine on the river bottoms.

Access to this area is from the 1.5-mile hiking trail. This area is open to foot travel only. Leaf Wilderness is open year-round unless weather conditions require the area to be closed. No user fees required.

Best Trail:

Beach Boulevard Boardwalk Trail

9 Beach Boulevard Boardwalk TrailLoop - DeSoto National Forest Camping

I have enjoyed this trail. Today there was lots of trash at the entrance including a junk TV. The trail signs that I made and put up were gone. Broken car window glass at the entrance was enough to keep me from hiking this trail today. Stay safe

Length: 1.2 mi
Elevation gain: 13 ft
Route type: Loop

Dogs on leash, Kid friendly, Hiking, Walking, Bird watching, Forest, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife

10. Tuxachanie National Hiking Trail

Address
De Soto National Park
30.66679, -89.13314

Management: National Forest Service

No vehicles allowed at this DeSoto National Forest camping area. Only foot travel is permitted on the trail. Stay limit: 7 days. No alcoholic beverages allowed. This location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true DeSoto National Forest boondocking. This location is at low elevation. Primitive camping is permitted 100 feet away from the trail.

Best Review:

Tuxachanie National Hiking Trail offers the hiker a 11.9-mile voyage through south Mississippi’s vast forest. Rows of live oaks mark the trail’s entrance on HWY 49. Off-highway parking is provided. The first five miles of trail follow an old abandoned railroad which once served the sawmill of Dantzler Lumber Company at Howison, MS.

Best Trail:

Beach Boulevard Boardwalk Trail

10 Tuxachanie National Hiking Trail - DeSoto National Forest Boondocking

The trail was fairly simple and easy for anyone to walk it. I saw quite a few people walking, jogging and biking while I was walking the trail. After completing the trail, I decided to continue my trail by walking across the Leo W. Seal, Jr Memorial Bridge and ended up with 12.31 miles.

Length: 5.6 mi
Elevation gain: 42 ft
Route type: Out & back

Dogs on leash, Wheelchair friendly, Kid friendly, Stroller friendly, Road biking, Walking, Running,
Beach, Paved, Views

De Soto National Forest Permit Camping

Cost $7 Night or $3.50 Night With Passport America

11. Bethel OHV Trails

Trail use fee ($10.00 per user per day); ticket stub must be on each person. Operators must have valid driver’s license; under age 16 must have safety certificate and helmet.

Address
De Soto National Park
30.65096, -88.94848

Management: National Forest Service

DeSoto National Forest boondocking facilities include a trailhead with primitive campsites and vault toilet (no water). Stay limit: 7 days. This DeSoto National Forest camping location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking.

Amenities
Vault Toilet

Management: National Forest Service

Best Review:

This is a 43-mile trail established for all-terrain vehicles of widths no greater than 50 inches (primarily motorcycles, three and four wheelers). The rider will encounter the south Mississippi Coastal Plains vegetative types (longleaf and slash pine, hardwood flats, swamps, pitcher plants, etc.). Motorcycle Enduros are held annually and attract riders from various southern states.

Best Trail:

Lucedale Loop and Depot Creek Walk Way

11 Lucedale Loop - DeSoto National Forest Camping

Check out this 1.3-mile loop trail near Lucedale, Mississippi. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 27 min to complete. This trail is great for hiking, road biking, and trail running, and it’s unlikely you’ll encounter many other people while exploring.

Length: 1.3 mi
Elevation gain: 75 ft
Route type: Loop

Dogs on leash, Wheelchair friendly, Kid friendly, Stroller friendly, Hiking, Road biking, Walking, Running, Forest, Partially paved

Delta National Forest Campsites

Address
De Soto National Park
32.76097, -90.79127

Management: National Forest Service

DeSoto National Forest camping facilities include a trailhead with primitive campsites and vault toilet (no water). Stay limit: 7 days. This DeSoto National Forest boondocking location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking.

Amenity
Vault Toilet

Management: National Forest Service

This DeSoto National Forest camping location is located inside the De Soto National Forest. There are no facilities here this is true boondocking. There are 57 primitive campsites dispersed throughout the Delta National Forest. DeSoto National Forest camping camping is only permitted in a designated campsite. Reservations for all sites may be made at least 48 hours in advance online at www.recreation.gov

Amenity
Graveled Pad
Fire Ring
Lantern Post
Picnic Table
Potable Water Nearby

Best Review:

The Delta National Forest glimmers like a great, green jewel surrounded by lazy rivers and spreading agricultural fields. The Delta is a large, contiguous block of bottomland hardwood forest, seasonally flooded timber, and small sloughs draining into the Big and Little Sunflower Rivers in the Yazoo Basin of the Mississippi River. It is the only entirely bottomland hardwood ecosystem in the National Forest System.

Best Trail:

Lucedale Greenway Preserve Nature Trail

12 Lucedale Greenway Preserve Nature Trail

Walked to get out and stretch our legs and walk the dog after driving 10 hrs. Can hear the constant flow of traffic but still a pleasant trail.

Length: 1.0 mi
Elevation gain: 62 ft
Route type: Loop

Hiking, Walking, Forest, Views, Wildlife


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