Little River Canyon Metric

        Starting in Fort Payne, Alabama this spectacular 62 mile route travels up Lookout Mountain, through the Little River Canyon and the DeSoto State Park, and loops up to the small resort town of Mentone and nearby DeSoto Falls.

This route is very hilly, beginning with a long climb, then continuously up and down along the canyon, followed by some long grades. It's worth the effort as it travels through some of the most unusual and scenic country in Alabama.

Little River Canyon
Cue Sheet Map  -  2 Page BikeRouteToaster

Route details:

Three miles after the start from Fort Payne High School there's a one mile climb up Beason Gap, at a 10% average grade. That's followed by 13 flat-to-rolling miles to enter the Little River Canyon at its midsection. The hilly, twisting rollercoaster road above the canyon is 11 miles of exhilarating cycling, with panoramic views of the canyon and several waterfalls.

Exiting the canyon there's a short stretch on AL-35 and a rest stop at Ralph's Canyon Grocery at the 28 mile mark. That's followed by a couple of miles of chip-seal, then good pavement gradually gaining elevation. The DeSoto State park is next, a wooded area with smooth curvy roads and a long climb. There's a grocery and gift store in the park at 38 miles.

The next road include some long hills that remind you how much you've already climbed, followed by a quiet windy road along the Little River with some rough pavement, leading to Mentone at 49 miles.

Little River Canyon map
        There are convenience stores and restaurants in Mentone, including the Wildflower Cafe which has great food and atmosphere, though the service can be slow. It's located in a converted house off the main road to the left, up a gravel drive.

A couple of miles after Mentone there's a short out-and-back to DeSoto Falls with an overlook that's worth the short walk.

The Wildflower Cafe in Mentone
        The remaining route follows mostly shaded backroads along the ridge, skirting the DeSoto State Park and descending down Wade Gap with a couple of switchbacks, returning to the school a few miles later.

The total elevation gain is 2,970', starting at 1,000' with a maximum elevation of 1,770'. Most of the elevation is gained before the rest stop at Mentone.

Little River Canyon Metric elevation profile

This route can easily be shortened to 46 miles by omitting the loop to Mentone, which cuts out 550' of climbing. Or extend the ride to 72 miles by adding the rougher and more difficult southern half of the canyon road (shown in orange on the map). The added 7.5 mile section along the canyon includes some short steep climbs and descents and adds 840' more climbing.

46 Mile Cue Sheet 72 Mile Cue Sheet
Group at DeSoto Park entrance
        Directions to start:

This ride starts at the Fort Payne High School in Fort Payne, an hour and a half drive east of Huntsville. These directions take I-59 for a few miles to bypass the many stoplights in downtown Fort Payne:

Google Maps directions to Fort Payne High School

Directions to Fort Payne High School