Mississippi may be near the bottom on some prestigious lists of states, but when it comes to the great outdoors it is a top-level paradise. One example is the great riding opportunities found throughout the state. One of the most south-eastern options is the Bethel ATV Trail in Desoto National Forest.
Bethel ATV Trail is one of two ATV trails found in Desoto National Forest. As such, the trails are overseen by the US Forestry Department. The trailhead is not staffed but there is a $5 per person entry fee on an honor system. $5 is more than reasonable for the ride. The staging area is found at the end of a long, dirt road. There is plenty of parking and a primitive camping area with room for RVs. There is also a bathroom at the staging area though it’s really more of a nice outhouse.
Bethel consists of two separate ATV trails. The north trail is an 18 mile loop and the south trail is a 19 mile loop. For the most part the trails are wide open and fairly amateur in difficulty. This is a nice place for a ride but you likely won’t be challenged. You also aren’t likely to get very muddy, but it does get very dusty when dry. Bring googles (always!) and a change of clothes unless you are at the front of the group. There is a thick pine forest section on the South trail that leaves only about 48 inches of width. Our Suzuki KingQuad 500AXi scraped both side trying to squeeze between trees a few times. Wide ATV’s and UTVs are definitely not going to work here. Side by sides might be okay on the North trail. The trails are quite bumpy and covered with shallow roots. It’s a great place to dial in your suspension. Some sections of the trail are quite sandy and some have rock that has been brought in to prevent washouts.
You are highly encouraged to “call before you haul” as the park is usually closed for several days following rain. The trail does not close during hunting season, but it is recommended that you ride on Sunday’s as there is no hunting allowed then. You can get the most current park status 24 hours a day by calling the Desoto Ranger District Recreation Office at 601-528-6180 or 601-928-5291.