The Best of the Best State Parks

This is a feature that I am very excited to display on my web site. I have written five editions of a book entitled Parks Directory of the United States, which has included descriptive information on national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and more than 3,300 state parks, historic sites, and natural areas. In compiling information for the book, I have come to realize that there are a number of state parks that rival the more famous national parks in terms of beauty, cultural and historical significance, and natural resources, though many of these parks are not well known to the general public.

I always had in the back of my mind the idea of compiling a list of the "best" state parks in the United States. Of course, I always knew that such a list would be extremely subjective, since the best parks to a bird-watcher wouldn't be the best parks to a cross-country skier or an off-road biker. Nevertheless, I went forward with my idea and contacted the directors of each of the 50 state park systems and posed the following question:

If you were trying to showcase your state park system, what would be your recommendation to visitors for 2-3 must see" parks and why?

In their replies, many of the directors pointed out how difficult the task had been to select only 2-3 state parks for this project when they had dozens or even hundreds to choose from. Some stretched the rules a little bit and listed 4-5 parks. (I decided to leave these extra selections in.) In many cases, the selections include accompanying text information, which can be viewed by clicking on the "what they said" link that appears just below each state name.

Each state name is hyperlinked to the official home page for each state park system.

In a feature that is certainly open to debate, below is a list of the "Best of the Best State Parks."

Alabama

  • DeSoto State Park
  • Joe Wheeler State Park
  • Lake Guntersville State Park

Alaska

  • Chugach State Park
  • Denali State Park
  • Totem Bight State Historical Park
  • Wood-Tikchik State Park

Arizona
what they said

 

  • Kartchner Caverns State Park
  • Red Rock State Park
  • Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Arkansas
what they said

 

 

  • Crater of Diamonds State Park
  • Ozark Folk Center State Park
  • Petit Jean State Park

California
what they said

 

 

  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park
  • Hearst Castle
  • Huntington State Beach
  • Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Colorado
what they said

 

 

  • Mueller State Park
  • Roxoborough State Park
  • Steamboat Lake State Park
  • Sylvan Lake State Park

Connecticut
what they said

 

 

  • Dinosaur State Park
  • Gillette Castle State Park
  • Hammonasset Beach State Park

Delaware
what they said

 

 

  • Cape Henlopen State Park
  • Fort Delaware State Park
  • Trap Pond State Park

Florida
what they said

 

 

  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
  • Myakka River State Park
  • Paynes Prairie State Preserve
  • St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
  • Wekiwa Springs State Park

Georgia
what they said

 

 

  • Cloudland Canyon State Park
  • Providence Canyon State Park
  • Tallulah Gorge State Park

Hawaii

 

  • Koke'e SP & Waimea Canyon State Park
  • Iao Valley State Park
  • Diamond Head State Monument

Idaho

  • Bruneau Dunes State Park
  • Ponderosa State Park
  • Priest Lake State Park

Illinois
what they said

 

  • Cache River State Natural Area
  • Chain O'Lakes State Park
  • Pere Marquette State Park

Indiana
what they said

 

 

  • Brown County State Park
  • Falls of the Ohio State Park
  • Indiana Dunes State Park

Iowa
what they said

 

 

  • Backbone State Park
  • Ledges State Park
  • Waubonsie State Park

Kansas
what they said

 

 

  • Cheney State Park
  • Scott State Park
  • Tuttle Creek State Park

Kentucky
what they said

 

 

  • John James Audubon State Park
  • Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park
  • Natural Bridge State Resort Park

Louisiana
what they said

 

 

  • Bayou Segnette State Park
  • Fontainebleau State Park
  • Lake Fausse Pointe State Park
  • North Toledo Bend State Park
  • Tickfaw State Park

Maine

 

  • Reid State Park
  • Sebago Lake

Maryland

  • Assateague State Park
  • Elk Neck State Park
  • Gunpowder Falls State Park
  • Swallow Falls State Park

Massachusetts
what they said

 

  • Mount Greylock State Reservation
  • Nickerson State Park
  • Walden Pond State Reservation

Michigan
what they said

 

 

  • Ludington State Park
  • Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
  • Tahquamenon State Park
  • Waterloo Recreation Area

Minnesota
what they said

 

 

  • Blue Mounds State Park
  • Itasca State Park
  • Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park

Mississippi
what they said

 

 

  • John W. Kyle State Park
  • Percy Quin State Park
  • Tishomingo State Park

Missouri

 

  • Ha Ha Tonka State Park
  • Meramec State Park
  • Montauk State Park
  • Prairie State Park

Montana
what they said

 

  • Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
  • Makoshika State Park
  • Ulm Pishkun State Park

Nebraska

 

  • Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
  • Fort Robinson State Park
  • Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area

Nevada

  • Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park
  • Cathedral Gorge State Park
  • Valley of Fire State Park

New Hampshire
what they said

 

  • Franconia Notch State Park
  • Mount Washington State Park
  • Odiorne Point State Park

New Jersey
what they said

 

 

  • High Point State Park
  • Island Beach State Park
  • Wharton State Forest

New Mexico
what they said

 

 

  • City of Rocks State Park
  • Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park
  • Sugarite Canyon

New York
what they said

 

 

  • Jones Beach State Park
  • Niagara Reservation State Park
  • Riverbank State Park
  • Saratoga Spa State Park

North Carolina
what they said

 

 

  • Hammocks Beach State Park
  • Hanging Rock State Park
  • Morrow Mountain State Park
  • Stone Mountain State Park

North Dakota
what they said

 

 

  • Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
  • Icelandic State Park
  • Lake Sakakawea State Park

Ohio
what they said

 

 

  • Hocking Hills
  • Hueston Woods State Park
  • Mohican State Park

Oklahoma
what they said

 

 

  • Beavers Bend State Park
  • Quartz Mountain State Park
  • Robbers Cave State Park

Oregon
what they said

 

 

  • Ecola State Park
  • Shore Acres State Park
  • Silver Falls State Park
  • Smith Rock State Park

Pennsylvania
what they said

 

 

  • Ohiopyle State Park
  • Presque Isle State Park
  • Ricketts Glen State Park

Rhode Island
what they said

  • Beavertail State Park
  • Colt State Park
  • Goddard Memorial State Park
  • Misquamicut State Beach

South Carolina
what they said

 

  • Caesars Head State Park
  • Huntington Beach State Park
  • Jones Gap State Park

South Dakota

 

  • Custer State Park
  • Fort Sisseton State Park
  • Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area

Tennessee

  • Fall Creek Falls State Park
  • Montgomery Bell State Park
  • Paris Landing State Park

Texas

  • Garner State Park
  • Goliad State Historical Park
  • Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Utah
what they said

 

  • Antelope Island State Park
  • Dead Horse Point State Park
  • Wasatch Mountain State Park

Vermont
what they said

 

 

  • Burton Island State Park
  • Coolidge State Park
  • Mount Philo State Park