The Best State Park in Every State

America’s state parks make adventuring in our backyards possible for everyone

Dream Falls - Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Matt Anderson Photography / Getty Images

We’re dedicating our May features to the outdoors and adventure. In 2020, we saw more people get outside, eager for a breath of fresh air after challenging spring, taking up new activities and blazing new trails. Now, in 2021, read our features to learn more about 15 outdoor skills you should masterthe best state parks across the country, a new trend of hotels opening near formerly remote national parks, and one person’s quest to make outdoor experiences accessible for all.

When we think of America’s most stunning landscapes, our national parks pop into our minds first. We plan and squirrel money away for big family adventures that often last for weeks. For a closer-to-home alternative, one that is often less expensive, consider our country’s state parks, many of which are less populated and more accessible. America’s state parks protect large swaths of land, safeguarding the wildlife and natural habitats that exist there, making adventuring in our own backyards possible for everyone. Keep reading to learn about the best state park in every state and what there is to do and see there once you arrive.

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Alabama: Gulf State Park

A very long boardwalk surrounded by shrubs in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Cheri Alguire / Getty Images
Address
20115 State Park Rd, Gulf Shores, AL 36542, USA
Phone +1 251-948-7275

With 24 state parks to choose from, Alabama offers much to explore. Gulf State Park, located in Gulf Shores, is one of the most popular to visit because of its snow-white sugar sand along two miles of beach. Stay in one of the 20 wood cabins, two of which are handicap accessible; a cottage situated along the northern shore of Lake Shelby, or bring your RV or tent and spend the night at a campsite. Fish for bass, catfish, walleye, or trout and hike the Hurricane Ridge Trail, Middle Lake Trail, Bear Creek Trail, or Alligator Marsh Trail.

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Alaska: Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park

Kachemak Bay State Park - Homer - Alaska
ovidiuhrubaru / Getty Images
Address
Homer, AK 99603, USA
Phone +1 907-269-8700

Surprisingly, Alaska, our country’s largest state by landmass, only has four state parks: Chugach, Denali, Kachemak Bay, and Wood-Tikchik State Parks. While all are worth visiting, Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park is a standout. Witness the diverse wilderness regions, where you can see sea otters, seals, dolphins, and whales in the ocean and moose, bears, mountain goats, coyotes, and wolves on land. Don’t forget to look up as well—birds of prey and eagles are easily spotted. Explore thousands of acres of glaciers, mountains, ocean, and forests on foot, in a boat or kayak, or on top of wheels. Hunting, fishing, backcountry skiing, hiking, and camping are the top activities here. You’ll need to access the park via boat from Homer, Alaska.

03 of 50

Arizona: Dead Horse Ranch State Park

Abandoned wood cabin in Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona
Natalie Ruffing / Getty Images
Address
675 Dead Horse Ranch Rd, Cottonwood, AZ 86326, USA
Phone +1 928-634-5283

With 16 state parks, Arizona is an adventurer’s play space. Dead Horse Ranch State Park, situated at 3,300-feet in elevation, is full of recreation opportunities (yes, it was named after a dead horse found on the property) like hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. The higher elevation creates pleasant warm-weather patterns. River otters, gray foxes, quail, deer, and toads call this area home, as do California kingsnakes.  

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Arkansas: Devil’s Den State Park

Devils Den State Park Arkansas
JosephZahnlePhotography / Getty Images
Address
Arkansas, USA

This state is home to a whopping 36 state parks, making recreating in the outdoors accessible to nearly everyone in Arkansas. Devil’s Den State Park, located in Lee Creek Valley, has a bit of everything to offer: caves, forests, scenic overlooks, dams, waterfalls, and plenty of hiking and biking trails to keep your family busy. There’s even a park café, store, and swimming pool—open only during the summer months. Camp in a tent or RV or rent one of the cabins for a truly remarkable weekend away tucked in nature.

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05 of 50

California: Crystal Cove State Park

Beautiful sunset at Laguna beach in southern California
kanonsky / Getty Images
Address
8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
Phone +1 949-494-3539

It’s no easy to pick just one state park in California—there are 109 state parks and nine state recreation areas to choose from. Crystal Cove State Park, off the Pacific Coast Highway, is a contender for one of the best parks in the state. Classic California is on full display at this park—from the sandy beaches to the inland wilderness. What is magical about this park is that you can be in an urban area, dense with people and concrete, and then quickly escape to this tidepool and wooden canyon haven in no time at all. Swim or surf, hike, and wake up early for the sunrise, which is often spectacular. Stay in a beachfront cottage or camp, and spend time wandering the Crystal Cove Historic District.

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Colorado: Eldorado Canyon State Park

Moon Over Eldorado Canyon State Park
Zachary Joing / Getty Images
Address
9 Kneale Rd, Eldorado Springs, CO 80025, USA
Phone +1 303-494-3943

Explore Colorado’s beautiful landscapes at Eldorado Canyon State Park, near Boulder. Climbers from around the country visit to make their way up hundreds of different technical climbing routes. Hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing are also popular outdoor activities. Fish in South Boulder Creek. Take photographs of the scenery. Kids under twelve can become Junior Rangers to learn outdoor skills. If you can swing it, visit during the week instead of Saturday and Sunday or a holiday to ensure a visit with fewer people. Also, please note that camping is not available—this is a day-use park only.

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Connecticut: Campbell Falls State Park

Campbell Falls in Norfolk, Connecticut, with fallen log on side.
Holcy / Getty Images
Address
Old, Spaulding Rd, Norfolk Historic District, CT 06058, USA
Phone +1 860-424-3200

For such a small state in terms of land area, Connecticut has many state parks. Under the protection of Connecticut and the bordering state of Massachusetts, Campbell Falls State Park stands out for the 100-foot waterfall of the same name that flows from the Whiting River. Hiking and fishing are great ways to whittle the day away, paying attention to igneous and sedimentary rocks as well as verdant displays of plant life.

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Delaware: Fenwick Island State Park

Walk to the sea
Edwin Remsberg / Getty Images
Address
DE-1, Fenwick Island, DE 19944, USA
Phone +1 302-227-2800

For a three-mile expanse of Barrier Island, visit Fenwick Island State Park, located between Bethany Beach and Ocean City along Delaware’s stunning Atlantic coast. It’s all about the water activities at this park, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, early morning beachcombing, surfing, sailing, and warming up in the sunshine. Horseback riding is also available. On the south end of the park, there are plenty of dining options to choose from. The Fenwick Island Beach and the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum are also nearby.

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Florida: Cayo Costa State Park

Aerial view of Cayo Costa State Park, Florida Keys
Jupiterimages / Getty Images
Address
Captiva, FL 33924, USA
Phone +1 941-964-0375

If you live in Florida or are visiting for a few days, you’re likely drawn to the outdoors for the weather and sunshine. Many visitors staying in Captiva or Sanibel will make a day trip to Cayo Costa State Park, accessible only via boat. One of the largest barrier islands in Florida, a visit here rewards travelers with nine miles of wild shoreline. Primitive camping, boat camping, or rustic cabin rentals are available. Shelling is a top reason to visit this park as you’ll find whole shells that are in great abundance. Keep your eyes out for manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, and a variety of shorebirds. Captiva Cruises provides ferry service to and from the island should you want to go for just the day or stay overnight.

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Georgia: Black Rock Mountain State Park

Lookoff Mountain Overlook at Black Rock Mountain State Park
LCBallard / Getty Images
Address
3085 Black Rock Mountain Pkwy, Mountain City, GA 30562, USA
Phone +1 706-746-2141

In Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains sits the highest state park, Black Rock Mountain State Park. Hiking on the well-maintained trails should not be missed. From the Tennessee Rock Trail, a 2.2-mile loop, to the Black Rock Lake Trail, a .85-mile loop, you’ll find various trails for every ability. Expansive mountain views are best photographed in the golden hours of sunrise and sunset. Mountain-top cabins are available for rent, complete with porches equipped with rocking chairs. The Appalachian Trail and the Great Smoky Mountains are nearby should you have more time for an extended visit.

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Hawaii: Iao Valley State Park

Iao Needle State Monument,Maui,Hawaii,USA
Peter Unger / Getty Images
Address
54 S High St, Wailuku, HI 96793, USA

It seems like you could go anywhere in Hawaii and find something pretty to look at, which is true when it comes to the state’s parks. Iao Valley State Park in central Maui, near Wailuku, is where you can go on a short hike and see the Iao Needle, an impressive 1,200-foot avocado-colored rock formation dominating over Iao Stream. This short hike is perfect for little kids, families, and mature adults—the path is paved and easily accessible. The tropical flora of Hawaii is on full display. Visit early for the best chance of getting the best views and photographs of the needle.

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Idaho: Bruneau Dunes State Park

Ridge of large sand dune overlooking lake at Bruneau Dunes State Park, Idaho, winter sunset
Anna Gorin / Getty Images
Address
27608 Bruneau Sand Dunes Rd, Bruneau, ID 83604, USA
Phone +1 208-366-7919

Night sky lovers, listen up. Bruneau Dunes State Park, located 64 miles south of Boise, has the largest telescope for public viewing in Idaho. The Bruneau Dunes Observatory, open on Friday and Saturday nights, is the place to be for gazing at the night sky in all its splendor. Campsites, cabins, and RV sites are plentiful at this park, home to the loftiest single-structured dune in North America, with a 470-foot peak emerging from the desert floor. Rent a sandboard and have a good time flying down the dune, fish in the lakes near the dune, and go horseback riding for a trip to remember.

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Illinois: Starved Rock State Park

Kaskaskia canyon waterfall
Matthew Crowley Photography / Getty Images
Address
2678 E 875th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348, USA
Phone +1 815-667-4726

Spring, or when the rains are the heaviest, is the best time to visit Illinois’ most beautiful state park: Starved Rock State Park. Explore 13 miles of well-maintained and highly trafficked trails, most with steps or dirt and gravel paths. See 18 different canyons, including French, Wildcat, Basswood, Lonetree, Owl, and Hennepin Canyons, wandering past several scenic overlooks and overhangs. Wildlife along the Illinois River is plentiful—in the skies, water, and on land. The park looks completely different each season or after a rain or snowstorm, so consider visiting throughout the year. Summer is beautiful, but it’s also the busiest time of year at the park, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.   

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Indiana: Turkey Run State Park

Hikers pass beneath the giant Wedge Rock, while another visitor explores the top.

Tom Gill / Flickr

Address
8121 Park Rd, Marshall, IN 47859, USA
Phone +1 765-597-2635

Fun for all ages, Turkey Run State Park is well-known for its profound canyons, sandstone ravines, natural trails along Sugar Creek, and steep ladders that get you from a point A to a point B. The suspension footbridge across the creek is another fun feature of the park. You can float down the creek during the summer months. Turkey Run Inn and Cabins, located inside the park, is an ideal home base.

15 of 50

Iowa: Backbone State Park

Limestone boathouse on Backbone Lake in Iowa
PhilAugustavo / Getty Images
Address
1347 129th St, Dundee, IA 52038, USA
Phone +1 563-924-2527

Iowa’s oldest state park, Backbone State Park, has loads of outdoor activities to keep everyone in your crew busy and happy. From rock climbing to hiking to kayaking to fishing, you’ll spend time in nature and learn about the natural features that make this park a standout. Hang out in the sand at Backbone State Park Beach, go boating on Backbone Lake, spot deer and other wildlife hiding in the bushy trees, and take pictures of the steep bedrock carved out by the river, deemed “Devil’s Backbone.” Campgrounds for camping are available, as are a handful of rustic cabins.

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Kansas: Kanopolis State Park

Clouds over red barn, Kansas, USA
Christian Skilbeck / Getty Images
Address
200 Horsethief Rd, Marquette, KS 67464-9208, USA
Phone +1 785-546-2565

Bluffs, woods, rolling hills, caves, canyons, and lookout points—Kanopolis State Park offers much to intrepid travelers. Divided into two parts, on either side of the dam, this state park has more than 30 miles of trails for hikers to enjoy. Horsethief Canyon Trail is a popular 5.5-mile jaunt that crosses small streams and features sandstone canyons and craggy cliffs. Mountain biking and horseback riding are also popular activities. Cool off in the lake during the warm summer months, catch fish, and explore Faris Caves, human-made caves carved out by early pioneers. Keep your eyes out for bald eagles and other birds of prey.

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Kentucky: Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Kentucky, USA
Sean Pavone / Getty Images
Address
7351 Hwy 90, Corbin, KY 40701, USA
Phone +1 606-528-4121

The Bluegrass State has many parks to offer visitors, including General Burnside State Park, Green River Lake State Park, and Nolin Lake State Park, but it’s Kentucky’s Cumberland Falls State Reserve Park that really shines. Stay at the relaxing Dupont Lodge and get cozy by the massive stone fireplace. Cabins, cottages, and campsites are also available. Fish in Cumberland River, mine for gems at Cumberland Falls Mining Company, feel the thrill of the river on a guided rafting trip, go horseback riding, and set out on foot on 17 miles of hiking trails. Cumberland Falls is one of the few places in the country to see the elusive moonbow, a white rainbow that forms before or after a full moon when the skies are clear.

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Louisiana: Grand Isle State Park

Grand Isle, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
Judy Darby / Getty Images
Address
108 Admiral Craik Dr, Grand Isle, LA 70358, USA
Phone +1 985-787-2559

Louisiana has diverse waterways that are fun to explore—from bayous to swamps to lakes to rivers to lagoons. Grand Isle State Park, a barrier island in Jefferson Parish—the only inhabited barrier island in the state, has excellent fishing and crabbing opportunities for folks that love the sea. See the observation tower, watch the sunset at the fishing pier, and hike on the nature trails. The beachside camping is spectacular and well worth the effort to visit.

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Maine: Baxter State Park

Wild Maine Moose on the Loose
Scott Suriano / Getty Images
Address
Millinocket, ME 04462, USA
Phone +1 207-723-5140

More than 200 miles of trails allure hikers to Baxter State Park each year, especially because the northernmost 10 miles of the Appalachian Trail are in the park. Mount Katahdin is the highest point in Main and the endpoint of the famed trail. Rent a canoe or kayak and spend time on the water inside the park, flyfish on Kidney Pond, swim and picnic at Abol Pond, and bike on Park Tote Road and Dwelley Pond Trail. Cabins and backcountry sites are available for multi-night adventures.

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Maryland: Assateague State Park

wild horses on Assateague Island
Steve Cicero / Getty Images
Address
6915 Stephen Decatur Hwy, Berlin, MD 21811, USA
Phone +1 410-641-2918

Maryland and the Atlantic are divided by a barrier island, where Assateague, Maryland’s single oceanfront playground, is located. I could tell you that it’s the secluded beaches, unique coves and caves, and multi-hued sunsets that are the best things to see here, but it’s the wild horses that can be spotted around the island in the marsh areas that make this park so unique. Don’t approach, feed, or try to pet the horses—they’re feral and can bite or kick—but definitely photograph these beautiful creatures from a safe distance.

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Massachusetts: Mount Holyoke Range State Park

Mount Holyoke Range State Park

Matthew Waskiewicz

Address
1500 West St, Amherst, MA 01002, USA
Phone +1 413-253-2883

Thirty miles of trails entice hikers to Mount Holyoke Range State Park. The Seven Sisters trail, which features plenty of summits and ends at a lookout, is one of the most popular. Horseback riding and mountain biking are also big draws to this area. There’s a visitor’s center and restroom facilities, and dogs can be your hiking buddies. Take on the challenge of hiking to the summit of Mount Norwottuck, the highest mountain in the park. You’ll love the grand views at the top.

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Michigan: Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Lake of the Clouds
Posnov / Getty Images
Address
33303 Headquarters Rd, Ontonagon, MI 49953, USA
Phone +1 906-885-5275

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula offers an incredible amount of backcountry hiking and nature adventures for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s here that you’ll find miles of undeveloped shoreline and top charms like Grand Island, Pictured Rocks, and Miner’s Castle. The Porcupine Mountains, or “Porkies,” is home to old-growth forests, waterfalls, and Michigan’s largest state park, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. 90 miles of hiking trails are plenty enough to keep you fulfilled for many days or weeks. Triple Trail, South Mirror Lake Trail, River Trail, North Mirror Lake Trail, Big Carp River Trail, and Lost Lake Trail are all over 3 miles and worth the adventure. Backcountry camping, cabins, tiny houses, yurts, and lodges are all available for overnights.

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Minnesota: Tettegouche State Park

Ice and Rocky Shoreline in Winter
herreid / Getty Images
Address
5702 MN-61, Silver Bay, MN 55614, USA
Phone +1 218-353-8800

For truly unique landscapes, check out the craggy volcanic cliffs, waterfalls, and verdant boreal forests at Tettegouche State Park, located on the north shore of Lake Superior. Begin your adventure at the visitor center and then follow the Cascade Trail along the Baptism River to the popular Cascades waterfall. See grand views of Lake Superior from the top of Palisade Head. Camp in a tent or stay at Tettegouche Camp, located in the interior, where four cabins are available year-round (yes, even in the winter!).

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Mississippi: Tishomingo State Park

Dawn Over Tishomingo Lake at Tishomingo State Park, Mississippi
campbell36 / Getty Images
Address
105 Co Rd 90, Tishomingo, MS 38873, USA
Phone +1 662-438-6914

Planted in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, not too far from Tupelo, Mississippi (where Elvis was born), and named after a Chickasaw chief, Tishomingo State Park is a treat to see. Camp with views of sandstone cliffs and dramatic rock formations, convene in awe at Bear Creek Canyon and marvel at the gigantic moss-covered boulders strewn about. The area also has disc golf courses, playgrounds, a volleyball court, and a swimming pool. Stay at a campground with your RV, enjoy primitive camping or rent a cabin or cottage.

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Missouri: Elephant Rocks State Park

Detail of rocks in Elephant Rocks State Park, Missouri, United States of America, North America
John Elk III / Getty Images
Address
7390, 7406 MO-21, Belleview, MO 63623, USA
Phone +1 573-546-3454

Located in southeastern Missouri, Elephant Rocks State Park is a fun park to experience because of its large pink granite boulders that resemble a train of elephants. Wander down the Braille Trail, which is appropriate for children and people with physical and visual disabilities. Be sure to stop at the old railroad engine house, leftover from the railroad and quarrying days.

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Montana: Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

Limestone formations at Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana, usa
ronniechua / Getty Images
Address
25 Lewis & Clark Caverns Road, Whitehall, MT 59759, USA
Phone +1 406-287-3541

The Montana lifestyle places outdoor adventures at the helm. Hiking, biking, floating, and spending time with friends and family is of paramount importance. With 55 state parks, locals and visitors have no problem getting outside and exploring the state’s natural environs. One of the coolest state parks to explore is Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. With a large bat population, this limestone cave is Montana’s first and most well-known state park. Guided cave tours are available from May to September. Dozens of campsites, a tipi, and cabins are available for overnight stays. Spend time on one of the hiking and biking trails, and be sure to stop in the visitor center.

27 of 50

Nebraska: Chadron State Park

Chadron State Park
blakisu / Getty Images
Address
15951 Gold Rush Byway, Chadron, NE 69337, USA
Phone +1 308-432-6167

Nebraska is one of the best states to view the night sky, where low light pollution allows you to see the stars in all their splendor. With eight state parks to choose from, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to immersive nature experiences. Chadron State Park is the first established park, founded in 1921, and it’s located within some of the most beautiful scenery the state has to offer. Try your hand at archery, go swimming, and camp at one of the many family-friendly sites. And, because the park is next to Forest Service lands, hikers and bikers can explore more than 100 miles of trails inside the park and Nebraska National Forest.

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Nevada: Valley of Fire State Park

Fire Wave, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Sumiko Scott / Getty Images
Address
29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV 89040, USA
Phone +1 702-397-2088

Aptly named for its striking rust-colored Aztec sandstone, Valley of Fire State Park is a dynamic and bold backdrop in Nevada’s southern region. Bushes, cacti, petrified trees, desert blooms, and rocky outcrops are home to lizards, snakes, skunks, coyotes, and jackrabbits. This park is hot in the summer and relatively warm in the winter, with plenty of campsites equipped with shaded tables, grills, and water to keep you safe and sunburn-free. Hike in the Mojave Desert, being cautious of safety when it comes to water and the sun. The Annual Atlatl Competition might be fun to experience as well, where you watch participants practice and compete with ancient spear replicas—what could go wrong?

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New Hampshire: Franconia Notch State Park

Ray of light shines down on Echo Lake. View from Artist's Bluff looking across Echo Lake down Franconia Notch. Cannon Mountain and Mount Lafayette on the right and left.
EJJohnsonPhotography / Getty Images
Address
Flume Gorge, Daniel Webster Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251, USA
Phone +1 603-823-8800

Shaped over time by a stream that cut through granite, Franconia Notch State Park is a narrow gorge in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. “The Notch” is a mountain pass connecting Flume Gorge to Echo Lake. Pop in the Flume Gorge Visitor Center, walk over a series of wooden bridges and steps through the Flume Gorge, ride the aerial tramway at Cannon Mountain, and explore the New England Ski Museum. Swimming at Echo Lake is not to be missed. You can ride a bike on Recreational Trail, fish at Profile Lake, and hike on a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

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New Jersey: High Point State Park

Small spring flower bud growing from dirt
Jamie Grill / Getty Images
Address
1480 NJ-23, Sussex, NJ 07461, USA
Phone +1 973-875-4800

High Point State Park, which is 16,000 acres, is a real gem in New Jersey. Kittatinny Ridge, which climbs 1,803 feet above sea level to High Point, is the topmost point in the entire state. Veterans are honored at the top with the High Point Monument, a 220-foot structure where hikers can see the Pocono Mountains, Catskill Mountains, and the Wallkill River Valley. Eighteen miles of the Appalachian Trail follow the ridge through this state park.

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New Mexico: Navajo Lake State Park

Navajo Lake Marina, New Mexico
Mona Makela Photography / Getty Images
Address
1448 NM-511 #1, Navajo Dam, NM 87419, USA
Phone +1 505-632-2278

New Mexico’s second largest lake, Navajo Lake, draws visitors from all around the country for kayaking, boating, fishing on the nearby San Juan River, and water skiing. Navajo Lake State Park is the adventure basecamp, where you can camp right on the lake. Prepare for larger crowds in the summer months.

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New York: Bear Mountain State Park

Bear Mountain and Hudson Valley View
Kirkikis / Getty Images
Address
Route 9W North, Bear Mountain, NY 10911, USA
Phone +1 845-786-2701

On the west bank of the Hudson River sits Bear Mountain State Park, a green oasis situated on 5,205-acres home to black bears. Hike to the Perkins Memorial Tower, where you can enjoy expansive views of the park and the Hudson Highlands and Harriman State Park. Beyond hiking, visitors can ride bikes, swim, or view wildlife. Stay at Bear Mountain Inn, Overlook Lodge, or Stone Lodges.

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North Carolina: Hanging Rock State Park

Hanging Rock State Park, North Carolina, USA
Design Pics / Getty Images
Address
1790 Hanging Rock Park Rd, Danbury, NC 27016, USA
Phone +1 336-593-8480

The Civilian Conservation Corps worked its magic in the 1930s and created the 9,011-acre Hanging Rock State Park for future generations to enjoy. There’s a massive campground and picnic area, a large lake for swimming and non-motorized water activities, more than 20 miles of waterfall-laden hiking trails, and access to the Dan River for paddle sports. Stop in the visitor center to learn about any upcoming happenings.

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North Dakota: Little Missouri State Park

The stunning grass lands of North Dakota. USA
john finney photography / Getty Images
Address
Highway 22, Dunn Center, ND 58626, USA
Phone +1 701-764-5256

Over 6,000 acres are available for folks to play in at Little Missouri State Park on the western side of the Little Missouri River. Explore 45 miles of trails that traverse the North Dakota Badlands on foot or horseback. Whether you stay at a modern or primitive campsite, you’ll enjoy star gazing at night and sleeping in a tranquil part of the country.

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Ohio: Hueston Woods State Park

Canadian geese
Itziar Aio / Getty Images
Address
College Corner, OH 45003, USA
Phone +1 513-523-6347

An age-old sea once covered Ohio, as proven by Hueston Woods State Park’s limestone and shale bedrock, which housed fossilized remains of marine life (visitors can still find fossils today). Outdoor explorers can do a wide variety of activities beyond fossil hunting, including bird watching, archery, golfing, disc golf, fishing, boating, hiking, and horseback riding. If you brought your furry friend, visit the dog park. Don’t leave without seeing the covered bridge and stopping in the educational nature center.  

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Oklahoma: Robber’s Cave State Park

Robber's Cave State Park views, Oklahoma
raksyBH / Getty Images
Address
4628 NW 1027th Ave, Wilburton, OK 74578, USA
Phone +1 918-465-2562

Ideally located in Oklahoma’s picturesque hilly woodlands in the San Bois Mountains, Robber’s Cave State Park is a treasure. Named after an outlaw cave hidden in the sandstone hills and cliffs where Jesse James and Belle Starr hid, this park’s 8,246-acres are best viewed in the fall months to take advantage of leaf-peeping and fewer visitors. Campgrounds, yurts, lodges, and cabins are available for overnight guests.

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Oregon: Smith Rock State Park

Sunset at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon
David Gn Photography / Getty Images
Address
Terrebonne, OR 97760, USA
Phone +1 800-551-6949

Central Oregon’s high desert is home to Smith Rock State Park, where rock climbing is the modus operandi. Hiking and biking trails are also popular in this 650-acre state park near Bend. Wildlife viewing shouldn’t be missed—you can see birds of prey, river otters, deer, and beavers. River Trail is a 2.5-mile relatively easy trail with wooden bridges and natural caves ideal for families.

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Pennsylvania: Ricketts Glen State Park

Scenic view of waterfall in forest,Ricketts Glen State Park,United States,USA
Shawn Grenninger / 500px / Getty Images
Address
695 PA-487, Benton, PA 17814, USA
Phone +1 570-477-5675

Open every day of the year, sunrise to sunset, Ricketts Glen State Park sits on 13,193 acres in one of the most beautiful expanses of Pennsylvania. The Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark, can be accessed via the popular Falls Trail System. You’ll see multiple waterfalls, including the 94-foot Ganoga Falls, the tallest of the 22 waterfalls in the area. Swim at the Lake Jean beach, take a boat ride, or go fishing to top off the experience.

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Rhode Island: Lincoln Woods State Park

River water streaming and eddying in Blackstone Gorge
danlogan / Getty Images
Address
2 Manchester Print Works Rd, Lincoln, RI 02865, USA
Phone +1 401-723-7892

If you like covered bridges and oodles of charm and character, visit Lincoln Woods State Park in Blackstone Valley. Swim, ride horses, fish, or hike at this park where the new covered bridge beckons at the Breakneck Hill entrance. You’ll find a popular beach, little league field, picnic tables, horse stables, and boat ramp here. Nearby, visit Slater Mill, part of the National Park Service’s Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.

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South Carolina: Table Rock State Park

Table Rock State Park in South Carolina
JillLang / Getty Images
Address
158 E Ellison Ln, Pickens, SC 29671-9524, USA
Phone +1 864-878-9813

Named after a mountain, Table Rock State Park is a 3,000-acre haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Swim in one of the two lakes (where you can also fish for bass, bream, or catfish), enjoy hiking on the 80-mile Foothills Trail to the top of Pinnacle and Table Rock mountains, and camp at one of the tent or RV sites or stay in a cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. If you time it just right, you can experience the Music on the Mountain bluegrass program, which takes place on the second Saturday of each month.

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South Dakota: Custer State Park

Custer Buffalo
Maisna / Getty Images
Address
13438 US Highway 16A, Custer, SD 57730, USA
Phone +1 605-255-4515

Custer State Park is huge. Play on 71,000 acres, with your whole family in tow, in South Dakota’s Black Hills, where you’ll swim, hike, go boating, fish, and view wildlife. Multiple lodges are available, as are tent and RV sites. Guided activities like Buffalo Safari Jeep Tours and Hayride and Chuckwagon Cookouts are available through Custer State Park Resort. If you visit in November, be sure to visit during the Buffalo Auction, held at the park’s visitor center. Drive the Wildlife Loop Road, watching for bison on the road, hike to Black Elk Peak for grand views, photograph the Needles, and visit Sylvan Lake for swimming and light hiking.

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Tennessee: Fall Creek Falls State Park

High Angle View Of Fall Creek Falls
Eddie Caldwell / EyeEm / Getty Images
Address
2009 Village Camp Rd, Spencer, TN 38585, USA
Phone +1 423-881-5298

Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of Tennessee’s largest and most popular state parks. Fall Creek Falls, at 256-feet, is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the eastern part of the country. While at this state park, also make a point to visit Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades. Stay in one of the 30 cabins or at one of the campsites. Backcountry permitted camping is also available. More than 56 miles of trails are ready to explore. The nature center has great educational family-friendly programming and arts and crafts, movies, campfires, and live entertainment. The park is also home to a golf course, a challenging ropes course, a swimming pool, and multiple playgrounds.

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Texas: Palo Duro Canyon State Park

The Big Cave, Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Martina Birnbaum / EyeEm / Getty Images
Address
11450 State Hwy Park Rd 5, Canyon, TX 79015-8747, USA
Phone +1 806-488-2227

In the Texas panhandle, near the cities Amarillo and Canyon, sits Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the second largest canyon in America, formed by millions of years of water and wind erosion. At 120 miles long and 6 miles wide on average (the canyon stretches 20 miles wide in some places), this canyon, which means “hard stick” in Spanish, is the Texas version of the mighty Grand Canyon. The multi-hued rocks, steep canyon walls, and plant life are certainly like its big brother in Arizona. Explore 30 miles of this park on foot, wheels, horseback, or car and make plans to visit during the summer’s Texas Outdoor Musical.  Also, The Canyon Gallery, built with native stone in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, has an educational video, archeological exhibits, and local art, pottery, and jewelry.

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Utah: Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park, a pool with a view.
Ray Wise / Getty Images
Address
1002 Snow Canyon Dr, Ivins, UT 84738-6194, USA
Phone +1 435-628-2255

In Utah’s 62,000-acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve sits Snow Canyon State Park, also known as Zion National Park’s little brother in the Greater Zion area. Camping here is an experience like no other—ancient lava flows and crimson sandstone will surround you. This 7,400-acre striking park is the perfect backdrop for photography, especially right before sunset or just after sunrise. Join a ranger talk and encourage your kids to become Junior Rangers and relish time spent on 38 miles of hiking trails. Rock climb, view petroglyphs, go canyoneering, or ride horses—there are plenty of activities to keep your entire family busy. Keep your eyes out for kit foxes, coyotes, roadrunners, lizards, and frogs.

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Vermont: Smugglers’ Notch State Park

Forest scene in Smugglers Notch State Park, VT
Bob Pool / Getty Images
Address
Smugglers Notch, Cambridge, VT 05464, USA

Unplug from your devices and enjoy a nature-filled retreat in Vermont’s Smugglers’ Notch State Park. Smugglers’ Notch is a narrow passageway through the Green Mountains where illegal trade with Canada occurred. Smugglers’ Notch was an escape route for fugitive slaves to enter Canada. Liquor was also smuggled into the states during prohibition. Stop in the Barnes Camp Visitor Center and amble along the wetland’s boardwalk, see Bingham Falls, and hike on Hellbrook and Sterling Pond Trails.

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Virginia: Grayson Highlands State Park

Purple flowers in Grayson Highlands State Park, USA
Jeff Greenough / Getty Images
Address
829 Grayson Highland Ln, Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363, USA
Phone +1 276-579-7092

Halfway between Independence and Damascus, Grayson Highlands State Park, near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, is the place to go for 4,502-acres of gorgeous mountain views, hiking trails that lead to waterfalls and scenic overlooks, and year-round access to the Appalachian Trail. Situated within the Jefferson National Forest, this park is also ideal for horseback riding, trout fishing, and river floating.

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Washington: Moran State Park

Stream flowing over rocks in forest, Moran State Park, Orcas Island, Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, Washington State, USA
Pascal Walschots / Getty Images
Address
3572 Olga Rd, Olga, WA 98279, USA
Phone +1 360-376-2326

Moran State Park, located on Orcas Island in Puget Sound’s San Juan Islands, is made for multigenerational families, couples who want to slow down and take in the scenery, and friends who want to spend time around a campfire. Ride a bike or hike to the summit of Mount Constitution (2,407 feet), where there’s a historic stone tower, for grand sights of the San Juan archipelago. There are five lakes, 38 miles of hiking trails, and plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing throughout this state park’s 5,000 acres of terrain. You’ll delight in the diverse forest, wetland, bog, hill, and lake ecosystems.

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West Virginia: Babcock State Park

Babcock State Park Old Grist Mill in West Virginia autumn with river
krblokhin / Getty Images
Address
486 Babcock Rd, Clifftop, WV 25831, USA
Phone +1 304-438-3004

Much like an old oil painting, Babcock State Park, located 20 miles from the New River Gorge Bridge, is picturesque with the Glade Creek Grist Mill, a working replica of the Cooper’s Mill. Hike the Island-in-the-Sky, Lake View, Mountain Heath, Skyline, or Ridge Top trails. Stay in one of the park’s 28 cabins or pitch your tent at one of the campgrounds. Nearby, adventure seekers can go whitewater rafting or ziplining or visit Summersville Lake.

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Wisconsin: Devil’s Lake State Park

Aerial photo of Devils Lake, in Wisconsin
timhughes / Getty Images
Address
S5975 Park Rd, Baraboo, WI 53913, USA
Phone +1 608-356-8301

Devil’s Lake State Park has a nature center will a full lineup of programming. Explore outdoors and see the two sandy beaches, picnic areas, and 29 miles of hiking and biking trails. In the warm summer months, you can rent paddleboats, kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards for a day of water-filled fun. Newbies can hire a guide and learn how to boulder and rock climb in the area as well. The East Bluff/Ice Age Trail is the park’s most popular, rated as moderate, offering spectacular views. See the Elephant Cave, Elephant Rock, and Devil’s Doorway.

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Wyoming: Sinks Canyon State Park

Cave Sinks Canyon
Maxfocus / Getty Images
Address
3079 Sinks Canyon Rd, Lander, WY 82520-9115, USA
Phone +1 307-332-6333

For something a bit distinctive, visit Sinks Canyon State Park, planted at the base of the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming. Wyoming’s Wind River country is home to some of the best bighorn sheep sightings in the country. Hike down an easy path and see the spot where a river disappears underground at the mouth of a canyon. “The Sinks” are truly remarkable, as it’s also an audible experience like no other. You’ll see and smell sage bushes, spot fish in the river and ponds, and find shade under aspen and pine trees. There are multiple small campgrounds near the river in the canyon: Sawmill Campground and Popo Agie Campground.

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The Best State Park in Every State