HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - With 382,000 acres of open public land, DeSoto National Forest offers just about everything you can imagine for outdoor activities. Its lakes, natural forests and wildlife are the perfect backdrop for hunting or camping.
"We have primitive camping here," said District Ranger Ron Smith. "We also have folks who want to bring RV's. We have electrical hookups here. We have water hookups here, beautiful bathhouse."
Smith said DeSoto also boasts the largest, and most diverse trail system in the state.
"We have hiking trails, biking trails, motorized trails, ATV trails. We have the Black Creek Scenic River, and we also have the only two wilderness areas in South Mississippi or in Mississippi altogether."
Bethel Bike trail is 19 miles of exhilarating twists, turns, dips and climbs.
"It's fun," admitted Jim Foster, president of the Gulf Coast Bicycle Club. "You're outside the motor vehicle, you're in touch with everything."
Foster said there are a lot of people who take advantage of the trail, but there could always be more.
"We have probably the largest single tracks complex in the state of Mississippi, and there are a lot of other places to ride," said Foster. "Some people say, 'Well you don't have mountains to climb.' And we say, 'Would you come try our soft sand?'"
Jeff Sellers of Competition Sports in Gulfport is another avid biker who enjoys the challenges of Bethel Trail. It's something that reminds him of his childhood.
"Getting out having a good time. Just riding trails and doing things that you want to do, but you just haven't been able to do since you were a kid. So it just takes you back to being a kid again, I'd say."
And remember, it is in the middle of a forest, so you never know what you'll see. Sellers recalled some of his most memorable encounters.
"We've seen deer. I've had a friend of mine get chased by an armadillo."
Whatever your choice of sport may be, Ranger Smith said DeSoto National Forest is ready and waiting.
"Hey, we're right in your back yard, and we invite you to come out and enjoy your national forest."
If you'd like to learn more about DeSoto National Park, click here or call (601) 528-6160.
If you'd like to learn more about the Gulf Coast Bicycle Club, click here.