Named for Hernando de Soto, the first known European to cross the Mississippi River, De Soto National Forest is the largest national forest in the Magnolia State and covers over a half-million acres, protecting a part of the increasingly endangered Gulf Coast ecosystem. Its beautiful expanses of longleaf pine forests and savannas attract nature lovers and fun-seekers alike. Whether you enjoy hiking or ATV riding, fishing or canoeing, or just want some peaceful solitude, the forest offers plenty of recreational opportunities. For those who want a little civilization, the nearby city of Hattiesburg has become a premier destination for golfers and history fans. Biloxi and Gulfport's casinos and shops are within an easy drive, and New Orleans is only two hours away. For a relaxing forest getaway, De Soto National Forest is accessible and has something for everyone.
Winding along the Black Creek River, this trail is the longest in the forest as well as the most challenging. Popular with both day hikers and backpackers, this trail features numerous bridges and boardwalks that provide easy crossings over streams and wetlands. The trail is accessible from several trailheads and can be traveled going either north or south.
Length: 39 miles
For those looking for an easier hiking experience, or just a nice walk, the Tuxachanie Trail is a good bet. Markers along the trail give a history of the area, and you can choose to hike the whole trail or do an out-and-back. If your dog wants to come along, this is a great place for her to romp.
Length: 12.5 miles
Although it was originally created for equestrians, hikers and walkers enjoy this trail as well. The wide, flat trail is well-maintained and great for all hiking skill levels. Note that this is an out-and-back trail only with one entrance, and while dogs are allowed, they must be leashed at all times.
Length: 9.5 miles
This trail is another dual-use system popular with hikers, walkers, and runners. Consisting of five connected trails, the system takes you through savannas and pine forests. If you're looking for a place to hike that's quieter and less populated, this is the trail for you.
Length: 9.2 miles
Fishers and canoers love the Black Creek River with its numerous landings to launch a boat or catch spotted bass and catfish. One of the forest's three recreational areas is built on the site of a World War II prisoner-of-war camp and rifle range, where ammunition bunkers can still be seen.
Bring your bike, ATV, or even your horse to enjoy the many trails--or maybe just your hiking boots!
If you're into geocaching, get out your GPS and go treasure hunting
When your day is done, sit back and enjoy some stargazing over the open lakes.
Address: 654 West Frontage Road, Wiggins MS 39577
Fee: Entry fee $0
As the largest and most popular national forest in Mississippi, De Soto National Forest contains some of the best stands of pine savannas and longleaf pine forests in the state, despite damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hikers love the trails that meander past wildlife and over beautiful wooded hills while fishers and boaters take to the water for their best catches or to just while away the day. If you're traveling through Mississippi, De Soto National Forest is not to be missed, and an RV trip is a great way to experience this unique spot for yourself.