Named after Hernando de Soto, who was an explorer during the 1500s, the Desoto National Forest in southeast Mississippi has 518,587 acres for you to explore and enjoy. This is the largest national forest in Mississippi and has tons of piney forests with lush vegetation and mature trees to give you shade and provide plenty of cover for the wildlife.
There are over 170 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding as well, so you can get out and take some selfies in the rugged wilderness to share on Facebook and Instagram. You may also enjoy hunting in the woods or try some target shooting if you need some practice. Whether you come for the fishing, swimming, boating, or other types of water sports, the forest has several lakes. One popular fishing spot is the 250-acre Turkey Fork Lake that is home to trophy-sized bass, catfish, and many other types of fish.
If you would rather do some river fishing, the Mississippi River and Big Biloxi Rivers are great places to catch all kinds of water critters. Take an exciting whitewater trip down the river or a nice calm boat ride on one of the lakes before heading back to your RV or camper at one of the four RV campgrounds in the forest. We have highlighted our top three favorites here.
The Desoto National Forest is nestled between Gulfport and Hattiesburg and is easy to get to from Highway 98 or 49. You can take a scenic trip down the Black Creek along Highway 29 from New York Road by Red Wolf Wilderness to Janice Landing. This 21-mile section is the only designated National Scenic River in Mississippi, even though it is actually a creek.
Enjoying the scenic drive is part of the fun of your visit to the Desoto Forest but you should be aware that some of these streets can be curvy and dangerous if you are pulling a trailer or driving a large RV. As long as you drive carefully and watch for wildlife that cross the roads, you should be okay no matter what you are driving. The roads can get slippery when it rains, which it often does in Mississippi.
Getting deeper in the forest and closer to your campground you will notice that the streets are more like dirt roads and there may be potholes and low hanging branches to watch for. And they will get pretty muddy during heavy rains. Maneuvering in the campgrounds can be tricky when driving a big rig so it is best to park it and leave it at your site while you explore on foot.
Turkey Fork Campground in Richton, Mississippi has 28 campsites along the banks of the 240-acre lake. There are two sections with some overlooking the lake and some that are further into the forest. Twenty of the campsites have electricity and water but the other eight are more primitive. Restrooms and hot showers are available as well and are ADA-accessible. All campsites have picnic tables, fire pits with grills, and can accommodate up to 50-foot RVs and campers.
The lake is stocked with catfish, bluegill, and bass, and there is a boat ramp for launching your boat. Jet skiing is not allowed but skiing is allowed from 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM. You can also enjoy swimming at the two beaches, one on each side of the lake. If you want to take a walk, the Turkey Fork Trail is almost a mile long and is limited to hiking only. These are first-come, first served campsites and they fill up fast so get here early to get a spot. Pets are welcome too as long as they are supervised and restrained at all times during your stay. This is alligator country so always keep an eye on your pets and kids.
On the banks of the Big Biloxi River, the Big Biloxi Campground in Gulfport, Mississippi has 25 campsites with electricity, picnic tables, and fire pits with grills for cooking. Each site can accommodate trailers and RVs up to 42 feet long. There are modern flush toilets with running water and shower houses with hot water, which are ADA-accessible. These campsites are on a first-come, first served basis so you need to get here early to get a good spot.
If you like fishing, the Big Biloxi River has plenty of hungry fish including several kinds of bass, catfish, and bream. You can also go floating in a canoe, raft, or tube or just get in and float down the river on your back. No matter what, you are sure to have a good time during the hot Mississippi summer. Dogs and cats are welcome too as long as they are restrained and supervised at all times during your visit. This is alligator country so always keep an eye on your little ones.
If you are an equestrian, check out Long Leaf Horse Trail Campground in Laurel, Mississippi. Right next to Gator Pond, this pine-filled campground has 17 campsites and is right in the middle of the Gavin Forest Educational Auto Tour. Each campsite has its own picnic table, a hitching post, and a fire ring with a grill for cooking. Some sites can accommodate trailers and RVs up to 47 feet in length. The park also has vault toilets and one is ADA-accessible but there is no potable water so you will have to bring your own.
The horse trail is also used for bikers and runners and has three loops up to 25 miles long. You can also go fishing at the lake where you can catch catfish, bluegill, and bass. Boating is allowed but there is no boat ramp and you can only use electric motors. These are first-come, first served campsites so you will have to get here early to get a good spot. And pets are welcome too as long as they are supervised and restrained at all times. This is alligator country so always keep an eye on your children and pets.
If you like frisbee, you will probably love disc golfing, which is really nothing like golfing at all. The Ashe Lake Recreation Area off Highway 49 by Brooklyn, Mississippi has a fantastic 18-hole disc golf course that has been approved by the PDGA. So don’t forget to pack your disc golfing gear in the camper before going. They also have a nine-hole disc golf course that is ADA-accessible. This is a day-use area that does not have camping so you will have to camp at one of the other RV campsites in the forest.
Pack all your friends and family in the RV before heading to the Desoto National Forest for a picnic! They have seven different parks where you can reserve a picnic pavilion with various amounts of picnic tables, BBQ grills, and most have restrooms with running water. You can usually find a playground for the kids nearby as well. If you do not have that many people with you, try one of the dozens of picnic areas all over the forest that have picnic tables and BBQ pits as well.
Hook the trailer to the RV for your ATV, three or four wheelers, or motorbikes because there are more than 100 miles of OHV trails throughout the Desoto National Forest to explore. Bethel OHV Trails has 43 miles of trails along the coastal plains, swamps, and woods for you to enjoy. Bethel South has an easy 4.6-mile trail, a 3.8-mile trail that is minimally technical, and the Lost Trail, which is eight miles of technical trails. The Rattlesnake Bay OHV Trailhead has three loops up to 22 miles long.
There are 19 hiking trails in the Desoto National Forest ranging from a half mile to 42 miles in length. Long Leaf Horse Trail Campground has the Long Leaf Horse Trail, which has three loops. One is six miles long, one is 11 miles long, and the other is 25 miles long. Big Biloxi has one unnamed trail that is a half mile and is for hikers only. Turkey Fork has one trail almost one mile long and is limited to foot traffic only.
The Desoto National Forest provides over half a million acres of land to hunt on whether you are looking for big game like deer and turkey or small critters like quail, rabbits, frogs, and squirrels. Both the Black Creek Wilderness and Leaf River Wilderness areas have some fantastic hunting opportunities in the wet and wooded areas. So make sure you do not forget to put your hunting gear in the RV before heading to the forest and carry your hunting license with you at all times.
If you need to do some target shooting, there are two shooting ranges in the Desoto National Forest. The Black Creek Shooting Range near Brooklyn, Mississippi has a large backstop with one shooting bench. The targets include 25, 50, and 100 yards. The Woodman Springs Shooting Range by Gloster, Mississippi is ADA-accessible and has 25, 50, and 100-yard markers. Both of these shooting ranges are free to the public and are open from sunup to sundown daily.