National Parks get all the glory, but three times as many people visit America’s local areas. The Best State Parks in America serve as extensions of our own back yards, offering up adventures both large-scale and intimate. They remain alluring entry points to nature, often with fewer crowds than their better-known, big-name counterparts.
The best state parks in America combine incredible scenery with less crowded trails and campgrounds, making them perfect for hiking, biking, birdwatching or just getting away from it all. Here’s our list of the 29 best ones you should visit this year!
Each park listed has something unique about it that makes it worth visiting on its own merit!
Table of Contents
Best State Parks in America
These parks are listed in any order and not by best first. They are all worth a visit!
Custer State Park, South Dakota
Custer State Park in South Dakota is a popular destination as it contains 71,000 acres in the Black Hills and is full of wildlife like bison, elk, prairie dogs, and more!
With 5 lakes including Sylvan Lake, Center Lake, Legion Lake, Stockade Lake, and Game Lodge Pond, there is no shortage of opportunities for swimming, boating, and fishing. The park also offers many hiking trails from easy to strenuous, horseback riding, and biking.
There are many lodging options including hotels, cabins, lodges, and campgrounds as well as restaurants right inside the park for your convenience.
The park offers 3 scenic drives including The Needles Highway, The wildlife Loop Road and the 17 miles Iron Mountain Road.
The Needles Highway is a beautiful drive winding through tunnels carved into the stone of the mountain. The Needle’s Eye is a unique rock formation in South Dakota, named for the opening eroded by wind, rain, freezing, and thawing. It is a spectacular drive through ponderosa pine forests to Black Hills spruce forests with meadows surrounded by birch trees and aspen woodland. The landscape features rugged granite mountains that will take your breath away!
The 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road is scenic and an excellent way to see the park’s wildlife including bison, deer, elk, burros, prairie dogs, and more. The road takes you from ponderosa pine forest and grasslands with views through many of Custer State Park’s major attractions, including the free-roaming buffalo herd.
A must-do on your visit to the park is the 17 miles of Iron Mountain Road, which climbs in steep zigzags up the side of Iron Mountain. This is a sure-fire way to get some breathtaking views with the 3 tunnels that frame out Mount Rushmore in the distance.
Location: 13329 US Highway 16A, Custer, SD
Baxter State Park, Maine
With over 200,000 acres, Baxter State Park is a true wilderness that is not found especially on the east coast. The park is known for Mt, Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak at 5,268’ and the end of the Appalachian Trail.
But Baxter is much more than that. Beautiful lakes are throughout the park and stunning forests with mountain views.
Hiking is the top activity in the park with hundreds of miles of hiking trails.
There is abundant wildlife throughout the park however people come to see the largest moose. It’s the best place to see moose in Maine.
There is tent camping throughout the park as well as several cabins. But make sure you bring a flashlight as there is no electricity in the park. There is also no running water and paved roads. The main tote road runs 46 miles from the south entrance at Togue Pond to the north entrance in Matagamom and is dirt.
Check out this post on Baxter State Park, Maine’s True Wilderness.
Location: 64 Balsam Drive, Millinocket, ME
Letchworth State Park New York
Voted one of the top 10 state parks in the United States, Letchworth State Park is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East”. The Genesee River runs through the park forming the gorge with 3 stunning waterfalls.
The park has 66 miles of hiking trails consisting of 18 different trails. The most popular trail is the gorge trail where you can see 2 out of the 3 stunning waterfalls that attract visitors to the park.
The park’s main road is a beautiful scenic drive with many overlooks and places to stop to take in this beautiful park.
In addition to outdoor activities, there are also several performing arts programs throughout the year.
The Genesee River is dam controlled and you can visit the dam and even walk over it.
The park also has a big campground, numerous cabin rentals, several picnic area, playgrounds, a camp store with snacks, and a historic lodge, The Glen Iris Inn which is worth seeing and offer fine dining.
Location: 1 Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY
Falls Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee
Known for one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains, Falls Creek Falls State Park is a place to visit when traveling in the southeast. Most people come to see Falls Creek Falls, which is 256 feet high and drops into a pool at the bottom of the gorge.
There are also several other stunning waterfalls within the park including Candy Creek Falls, Piney Falls, Rockhouse Falls, Coon Creek Falls, Lost Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades.
Make sure to stop at Falls Creek Falls Overlook and the five other overlooks in the park. The overlooks provide gorgeous views of the Tennessee landscape and waterfalls even if you don’t want to hike.
The 26,000-acre park is home to the 15-mile Cane Creek Gorge which is known for its hemlock forests and stunning flowering plants. The falls, located on the north side of the park, is controlled by a dam that formed the man-made Falls Creek Falls Lake.
You can fish and boat in the lake however you must rent boats from the park as personal watercraft are not permitted. Although swimming is also not permitted in the lake, the park has an Olympic-sized pool and a wading pool for children. There is a bathhouse and snack bar in the pool area.
In addition, the park also has three caves however they are currently closed to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome in bats.
Staying at Falls Creek Falls State Park is easy with overnight accommodations including three campgrounds, cabins, and lodges. A variety of cabins include rustic camping cabins to three-bedroom villas and numerous cabins sizes in between.
Falls Creek Falls has 12 picnic areas some with playgrounds and grills and five picnic pavilions. Make sure to stop at The Nature Center by the North Entrance for more park information and exhibits.
Location: 2009 Village Camp Road, Spencer, TN
Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania
Ricketts Glen State Park is recognized as one of the best state parks in Pennsylvania but also of the top state parks in the United States.
At over 13,000 acres the park is best known for its waterfall hike with 22 named waterfalls (and many more not named) with the largest being Ganoga Fall at 94’ high. This 7-mile waterfall trail is considered to be a strenuous hike but well worth the effect.
In addition, the park features beautiful Lake Jean which offers swimming with sandy beaches, fishing, and boating opportunities. Boats can be rented in season or you can bring your own non-motorized boat. There is also a campground and cabin rentals and make sure to visit the visitors center for detailed hiking and park information.
Location: 695 State Route 487, Benton, PA
Valley of Fire, Nevada
Valley of Fire State Park (only 50 miles from Las Vegas) is another park that gets national recognition for its scenery.
With over 46,000 acres, Valley of Fire State Park is not just for it is red rocks, but its vast array of naturally occurring sandstone formations that are found here. Some say the park looks like another planet.
Hiking in the Valley of Fire is magnificent and can be done year-round. A few of the most popular trails found in this park are:
- The White Domes Loop Trail is 1.25 miles hike. Visitors head down into the rock structures through a narrow canyon. It’s fun for the kids to explore.
- The Fire Wave Trail is 1.5 miles long and the hikes up to these natural sandstone structures are out of this world!
- Atlati Rock Hike consists of a .5-mile roundtrip hike to this beautiful rock formation, where you can climb around it up a staircase or simply check it out from a distance.
- Rainbow Vista is a 1-mile roundtrip, and you get to see a panoramic view of the park.
If hiking is not your thing don’t let that stop you from going to this park. The scenic drive on Mouse Tank Road (the main road going through the park) is simply beautiful.
Make sure to stop at the park’s visitors center where you can find out about the history of the park, hiking, and see exhibits. It’s open from 8:30 to 4:30 every day.
Location: 29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, Minnesota
Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most popular lighthouses in America. A lot of people take pictures here. It was in service as an aid to navigation from 1910 to 1969.
The lighthouse and surrounding lands were acquired by the State of Minnesota in 1969 maintaining to the present.
There is a Fresnel lens and beacon on the top of the brick tower. The beacon used to flash for 10 seconds at a time at night for early 60 years. Now it flashes on November 10 every year remembering the sinking of Edmund Fitzgerald which happened in 1975.
There are several hiking trails within the park to take in the beautiful views of Lake Superior.
The Gitchi-Gami Trail will span a total of 89 miles when completed however at present there are over 30 miles of trails being used today. This is a multi-use paved trail on the north shore of Lake Superior between the towns of Two Harbors and Grand Marais.
You can also kayak, camp, picnic, fish, and do scuba diving. There are many ways to experience this area.
If you.ve never been to Lake Superior, which spans several states, it should be on your bucket list. It’s a spectacular sight to experience.
Location: 3755 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd, Two Harbors, MN
Itasca State Park, Minnesota
Located in northern Minnesota, this 32,000-acre park is the gateway of the Mississippi River. It’s the first state park in Minnesota and the second oldest in the United States. It is also the home to 157 lakes of which Lake Itasca is the beginning of this 2,500-mile majestic river.
Do you know you can ford the river near the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Visitor Center? It is said that if you slip on a rock and fall into the river you will have good luck!
There are many things to do in the park including the following:
- Hike one of the 47 miles of hiking trails, many leading to amazing views. One of these hikes is to a fire tower where you can climb and see specular views of northern Minnesota.
- Take a narrative boat tour on Lake Itasca.
- Make sure to stop by the historic Douglas Lodge which is over 100 years old.
- Take a scenic drive along Wilderness Drive, the main road in the park. Look for wildlife along the way and admire the northwoods tall trees that remain.
- With all the lakes, this park is a boating and fishing paradise.
- The park also offers a 200-site campground, bike trails, beaches, and playgrounds with picnic areas. You can also rent bikes, canoes, and boats.
- During the peak season, park rangers also offer many programs including junior nature programs and organized hikes.
In springtime, you can see the mountain laurel and rhododendrons blooming while in the fall you get to see the leaves paint the nicest pictures.
Another visitors center, the Jacob V. Brower has a museum and interactive children’s center, so make sure you stop there too.
Location: 36750 Main Park Drive, Park Rapids, MN
Goblin Valley State Park Utah
Goblin Valley State Park is Utah’s most popular park. Although the park itself is small it has so much to see.
The first area is the goblin valley which houses the famous goblins, known as hoodoos, that give this place its name. This is an open area where you can explore covering 3 square miles. Just be careful because the hoodoos are fragile.
There are 4 other hiking trails that are popular in the park including:
- The Goblin Lair–This trail has an elevation gain of 219 feet and ascends a rocky slope and features the Goblin’s Lair – known for its cavernous formation!
- Carmel Canyon Loop Trail–This trail connects with Goblin’s Lair trail and is great to see in the evening.
- Entrada Canyon–This hike features goblins that you can only see when taking this hike.
- Three Sisters–This easy hike has great views of the best goblin features in the park.
The park is an official “Dark Sky Park” due to the large areas of little population and light making it a great place to see the milky way. Turs of given at night by rangers where you can see the night sky through telescopes.
The park has a 24-site campground and 2 yurt sites in addition to a group camping site.
Location: 18630 Goblin Valley Road, Green River, Utah
Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio
Hocking Hills State Park is in southeast Ohio near the towns of Logan, South Bloomingville, and Nelsonville.
The park is divided into seven areas: Ash Cave, Old Man’s Cave, Rock House, Conkle’s Hollow, Cedar Falls, Cantwell Cliffs, and Whispering Caves. Each area has its own unique features and trails for hikers of all levels to enjoy. This scenic wonderland of deep, narrow gorges and waterfalls offers a variety of activities and adventures for visitors.
Old Man’s Cave is the most visited area in Hocking Hills State Park. The popularity of this destination can be attributed to its scenic beauty and various recreational opportunities. There are five waterfalls, a large recess cave, a beautiful stream that flows through the gorge, and several trails to explore.
In addition to hiking, fishing is available at Rose Lake. Swimming is available at the swimming pool located at the Lodge for a small fee (guests of the cottages are free). Dining is also available at the Lodge.
In-park sleeping accommodations include The Cottage (40 units) and a first-come, first-serve 168-site campground.
Hocking Hills State Park is a gem that is well worth a visit.
Location: 19852 State Route 664 S, Logan, OH
Watkin Glens State Park, New York
New York Finger Lakes Region is filled with beautiful state parks, wineries, and stunning waterfalls. Watkins Glen State Park is the jewel of the region.
You can see the best scenery in the park by hiking within a 2-mile stretch featuring 19 waterfalls and 200-foot cliffs. There is also a rim hiking trail that overlooks the gorge.
Watkins Glen State Park offers an Olympic size swimming pool, campground, picnic area, and fishing at nearby Seneca Lake and Catherine Creek.
Location: 1009 N. Franklin Street, Watkins Glen, NY,
Dead Horse State Park, Utah
A short drive from Canyonlands National Park sits the stunning Dead Horse State Park. The park offers a beautiful backdrop for travelers that is filled with stunning landscapes and dark skies.
The main attraction to this park and a must-see when visiting is the overlook that snakes the Colorado River. A short trail brings you to spectacular views of this river. There is a large shelter at the overlook to keep you out of the weather and summer heat.
The park features 8 miles of hiking trails and 17 miles of mountain biking trails. There are 2 campgrounds as well as cabin and yurt rentals.
The park is also an official International Dark Sky Park.
Location: SR 313, Moab, UT
Niagara Falls State Park, New York
Niagara Falls State Park in New York is the oldest state park in the United States, known as the home of the beautiful and stunning Niagara Falls.
You should start at the visitor center where you can get maps and learn about different parts of the park because there are so many attractions you can choose to do during your visit.
Although the state park is free to all visitors, several attractions cost extra, including Maid of the Mist, Observation Tower, Cave of the Winds, Niagara Scenic Trolley, and the Adventure Theater. There is also the Niagara Aquarium which is worth seeing if your time allows.
The park offers several hiking trails but the most beautiful one goes through the Niagara Gorge. The Upper Great Gorge follows the Gorge Railway Trail and is easy to hike. Another easy hike is the Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike which only takes an hour.
Try to do dinner at the Top of the Falls restaurant for beautiful views of Horseshoe Falls. The restaurant is located on Goat Island in the park.
A must-do is seeing the falls at night as they are Illuminated daily from dusk until 2 am. LED lights create breathtaking views of Niagara Falls in all different colors.
Location: 332 Prospect Street, Niagara Falls, NY
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah
This 1,200-acre state park located in Southern Utah is known for its coral pink sand and dunes. There are many ways to explore the dunes. Even though there are no hiking trails, you can hike over the dunes but the more popular are OHV riding, sledding, and sand boarding.
The best way to see the dunes is with a dune buggy or ATV. The area is wide open with lots of hills which makes riding fun. If you don’t have OHV vehicle tours are offered through outside companies.
Another great way to explore the park is sledding down the dunes. You can rent these at the park or bring your own. Just remember it’s hard hiking up the sand (especially in hot weather) since some of the dunes can be steep.
There is also sand boarding which is much harder than sledding and can be challenging even if you snowboard. These can also be rented at the park or you can bring your own.
No matter how your want to enjoy the park, it is worth seeing the beautiful coral pink sand dunes.
Location: 12500 Sand Dunes Road, Kanab, UT
Grandfather Mountain North Carolina
Grandfather Mountain State Park is located at the highest peak (5,946’) along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The park has over 13 miles of hiking trails with the grandfather trail being one of the southeast’s most challenging trails where hikers climb cliffs with the help of 18 ladders.
Part of the park is privately owned by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation with all proceeds going to the preservation of the mountain. This section is known for its mile-high swinging bridge as well as a nature center, wildlife exhibits, and hiking trails.
You need to drive up the mountain to reach the 228’ suspension bridge which is located at one mile of elevation. You can walk the bridge and hike underneath it.
While there make sure you visit the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery. There are many interactive exhibits that educate you on the weather, geology, flora, fauna, and history of Grandfather Mountain.
Also next to this center is the Wildlife Habitats. Here you can experience animals such as the mountain lion, bear, elk, bald eagles, and many more in their own environment. This area gives you the ability to view these animals up close as they live in the world in a safe way. There is also an otter exhibit where you can view them in and out of the water.
Location: 2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville, NC
Devil’s Lake State Park Wisconsin
The stunning scenery of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and a 360-acre lake make Devil’s Lake State Park an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can enjoy nearly 30 miles worth of hiking trails, fishing, mountain biking, lakeshore picnic areas, and swimming beaches with paddling.
Also worth seeing are the amazing rock formations and expansive vistas from the top of Baraboo Bluffs.
The Nature Center is a fascinating stop for any nature lover. It’s home to an extensive collection of displays, including live animals in terrariums and informative panels on park wildlife–including some rare species you can only find here! The lower level has a collection of photos of the history of the area as well as interactive play areas that will keep kids busy with hands-on exhibits.
The park has 3 campgrounds with a total of 423 available sites (some have electricity). Plan ahead as the campsites book early. There are no first-come, first sites available.
Boat rentals are available including kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and paddle pontoon boats. You can also take a kayak tour, information for this is at the Nature Center.
Location: Baraboo, Wisconsin
Presque Isle State Park, Pennsylvania
This Pennsylvania park is another American gem offering 13 miles of shoreline, 13 beaches, and 3,200 acres on Lake Erie. As a matter of fact, Presque Isle State Park is the only place in Pennsylvania where you can go surfing.
However, the park is known for its birdwatching and is considered the best place to see birds in Pennsylvania. Many birders travel from all over to find over 300 species.
This most visited Pennsylvania park also has 11 miles of hiking trails and is known for the multi-purpose Karl Boye National Recreation trail which is 13.5 miles and is used for biking, jogging, and in-line shaking.
There is so much to enjoy here around the lake as you can take a 90-minute boat tour on Lake Erie. This narrative tour runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day and is a must-do when visiting the park.
Make sure to visit the Presque Isle Lighthouse too. You can climb to the top for stunning views of the park and Lake Erie.
The park offers a rental service for most activities including bicycles, roller blades, four-wheeled surreys, tricycles, paddle boats, and kayaks, for your convenience.
Location: 301 Peninsula Drive, Erie PA
Maquoketa Cave State Park Iowa
Maquoketa Caves is a stunning destination for outdoor enthusiasts. With more caves than any state park, it’s no wonder that this location has been one of Iowa’s most popular destinations as well as on the list of the best state parks in America!
There are 13 caves that are opened from mid-April to Mid-October. A great place to start your visit is the visitor’s center. Here you can find out lots of information about the caves before you go hiking. Several caves are large, like Dancehall Cave with 3 entrances and over 800 ft long where you will be able to walk in and around while others you would have to crawl on your hands and knees to see, like Wye Cave.
The trails are set up in a series of boardwalks where you can go from cave to cave so you can see all the caves in one day.
The caves in this park are diverse and interesting. Some were formed by the flowing water, while others still show evidence of active erosion from it!
The Interpretive Center has some great information about how each cave got its unique shape as well as what lives inside them, so plan on stopping there first thing on your visit!
The park also has a campground that has both electric and non-electric sites. There is also a picnic area with 2 shelters.
Location: 9688 Caves Rd, Maquoketa, IA
Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
Silver Falls State Park is one of the best state parks in America. It is Oregon’s largest with 9,000 acres and it has very impressive waterfalls.
With over 20 miles of hiking trails, there are several to choose from, but the 8.7 Canyon Loop is the most visited. The trail boasts 10 waterfalls of which 4 of them you can walk behind the falls. The highest fall, South Falls, is the most impressive as you watch 177 feet of water from behind the falls in front of you.
This is a moderate hike along Silver Creek, that can be done by most people even though it’s a long hike that takes about 5 hours depending on how long you stay at each fall. You won’t be alone on this hike since it is one of the most famous waterfall hikes in the country.
In addition to the above hiking, the park also offers 2 miles of bike paths as well as 14 miles of horse trails.
Make sure to visit and enjoy the rustic feel of South Falls Lodge, which has a cafeteria and seating in an old stone building that smells like smoke from firewood (no overnight accommodations).
The day area near Soth Falls offs a playground, a picnic area with BBQs, and a large lawn area for the kids to run around.
The park also has a campground that can accommodate tents and RVs as well as cabins. In addition, they also have a youth camp.
Location: 20024 Silver Falls Highway SE, Sublimity, OR
State Forest State Park Colorado
State Forest State Park consists of over 70,000 acres in Colorado’s wilderness. Many people describe it as a miniature Rocky Mountain National Park without the crowds.
There are 2 main lake areas North Michigan Creek Reservoir and Ranger Lake with numerous smaller lakes to explore.
It is known for its wildlife but especially moose watching. With a population of over, you have a good chance of spotting one. Make sure to stop at the Moose Visitors center to get information on the best places to see Moose and park information.
Hiking, off-roading, mountain biking, fishing, geocaching, and camping are common pass times in the park. The drive through the park, along the reservoir, and in just about any direction has beautiful views of the Medicine Bow Range and the Never Summer Mountains.
Location: 56750 Highway 14, Walden, CO
Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Antelope Island State Park is known for its wildlife and for its scenic beauty. It is a great place to take a hike and enjoy all the wildlife and scenery that the island has to offer, which includes the Great Salt Lake.
Here are some of the main attractions of this beautiful park:
- Go swimming in the Great Salt Lake which is even saltier than the ocean
- Wildlife Viewing is a main attraction within the park. It has one of the largest herds of free-ranging bison in the country. You can also see mule deer, big horn sheep, and pronghorn.
- Along the shores of Salt Lake is a birding paradise with millions of birds gathering around the islands.
- Antelope State Park in an International Dark Sky Park
You can also hike, bike, or horseback ride through the backcountry trails which are in the park. You can also spend a night in a different campsite or on the beach. There are lots of places to explore when you’re in Antelope Island State Park, including the Great Salt Lake.
Location: 4528 W 1700 Street, Syracuse, Utah
Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN
Nestled along the North Shore of Lake Superior, Gooseberry Falls State Park boasts breathtaking waterfalls and year-round recreation and is one of the most popular Minnesota state parks. It gets its name from the gooseberry bushes which grow wild along the shore.
Visitors can the hike park’s 20 miles of trails including the five awe-inspiring falls either from the top or below each one or watch for ships sail by while they enjoy their lunch overlooking one stunning shoreline!
Wildlife enthusiasts might spot some rare creatures. There are roughly 225 recorded species of birds and 46 mammals in all.
There are also 15 miles of paved biking trails.
In wintertime, you could either cross country ski or snowshoe through the 1700-acre park on 12 miles of groomed trails.
Gooseberry Falls State Park is a must-see for history lovers. The rich past of this park can be felt in its beautiful and diverse landscape, which includes old-growth trees as well as stone structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps that date back to 1934.
But first, visit Joseph N Alexander’s visitor center where they have all sorts of information and resources about parks including hiking maps.
Location: 3206 Highway 61 East, Two Harbors, Minnesota
The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan
Located in the western Upper Peninsula, Porcupine Mountains State Park is the largest park in Michigan with over 60,000 acres. It’s right across from Lake Superior where you can take in stunning sunsets.
It’s known for the “Lake in the Clouds” which is the most photographed area of the park. The lake is accessible by a boardwalk (wheelchair access) and is surrounded by forest.
The park has the largest black bear population in the Upper Peninsula with estimates of over 600.
Other areas in the park include the Summit Peak Scenic area, a short hike (about 1 mile) to a wooden tower where you climb to the highest point of the Upper Peninsula (1986’). Views of the mountains are beautiful.
The other major area of the park is an hour’s drive west and in the central time zone called the Presque Isle River Scenic area. Here you get to hike to three beautiful waterfalls. This loop is 2.3 miles and includes an expansion bridge that takes you to Lake Superior.
Make sure to stop by the visitor’s center where you can see exhibits of the wildlife that call the park home. You can also learn how most of the park consists of old-growth forests and has incredible plant life.
See this for more information on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Locations: 33303 Headquarters Road, Ontonagon, MI
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
The second-largest canyon in the United States, Palo Duro Canyon spans 120 miles long and 20 miles wide. In certain spots, it goes 800’ deep! It’s known as the “Grand Canyon of Texas” and its beauty is filled with colorful rock formations.
There are many ways to explore the 20,000-acre park. Take the scenic drive on the road going through the park for spectacular views of the canyon.
With 30 miles of trails throughout the park whether you hike, mountain bike or horseback ride there is an adventure waiting for you.
Lodging in the park includes camping, equestrian camping sites, cabins, and luxury glamping sites.
If you are visiting during the summer months make sure to see the Texas Outdoor Musical at the Pioneer Amphitheater in the park. This musical show includes singing, dancing, and Texas-style comedy along with fireworks that the whole family can enjoy.
For more information about the park be sure to stop by the visitors center on the canyon rim. Visit the Trading Post on the canyon floor for a snack or a meal.
Location: 11450 Park Road 5, Canyon, TX
Tahquamenon State Park, Michigan
Located on the Northeast section of the Upper Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is almost 50,000 acres of stunning wilderness with the Tahquamenon River running through the park.
It’s known for its beautiful waterfalls; the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls are both must-sees when visiting the park. You can also take a riverboat tour to the Upper Falls.
One of the biggest falls east of the Mississippi River, with a 50’ drop but it’s 200’ wide, making it second in size to Niagara Falls.
This is a series of 5 smaller falls and together they are known as Lower Falls. They are surrounded by an island that you can take a rowboat over to or walk across the newly constructed bridge. This area is popular especially for families as you can swim off the island and explore all the falls.
Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tour
Located in Soo-Junction, Michigan the tour is 6.5. hours where you start on a trolley train where you take a 35-minute ride through a forest. Here there is a good chance you will see bears and eagles. The train takes you to the Tahquamenon River where you board a riverboat to the state park. There is a ½ hike to where you can view the Upper Falls.
The park also has 2 campgrounds, cabins, and several restaurants. If you are a beer drinker there is the Tahquamenon Brewery by the Upper Falls. They serve local beers and have a full-service restaurant.
Location: 41382 West M-123, Paradise, MI
Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire
Franconia Notch State Park is part of the White Mountain Region of New Hampshire. It is home to many of the area attractions as well as some of the best hiking and biking in the area.
When visiting these are must-see attractions in the park:
A self-guided hike through rock walls and waterfalls. The 2-mile loop consists of granite walls as high as 90’ and up to 20’ wide at times.
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
This is a tram that takes you to the summit of Cannon Mountain. On a clear day, you can see four states as well as Canada. You can also explore the mountaintop. There is also a café and a bar.
Franconia Notch Bikeway
This 8.7-mile trail can get hilly at times but it totally worth it as you pass most of the park attractions on the trail. The scenery is stunning as you pass Echo Lake, the Flume Gorge area, Old Man on the Mountain site and you get views of many mountains and streams.
Echo Lake Beach
Beautiful 39-acre lake with beautiful views of the mountains. You can swim in the lake as well as rent non-motorized boats during peak summer months.
The park also has a campground and there is a 7-site RV-only campground at Echo Lake.
For more information see this post on New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
Location: 260 Tramway Drive, Franconia/Lincoln, NH
Babcock State Park, West Virginia
With over 4,000 acres of beauty, Babcock State Park is one of the best state parks in West Virginia. , Located just 20 miles away from the New River Gorge National Park it is worth the trip.
A must-see when visiting the park is the fully functioning Glade Creek Grist Mill where you can purchase fresh cornmeal.
Grist mills are a big part of history with few remaining. The park is a replica of the Cooper’s Mill which was originally located on the grounds.
The park offers hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and boating. Boat rentals are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Lodging in the park includes a 52-site campground as well as 28 cabins available for rent.
Location: 486 Babcock Road, Clifftop, WV
Point Lobos State Park, California
The best state park in California, Point Lobos State Park is known for its million-dollar views.
Most people come for the views, hiking, and wildlife. The wildlife that is so abundant includes sea lions, seals, sea otters, birds, and whales during the winter months.
Take the kids to see the tide pools at Weston Beach seeing the crabs swimming around the pools as well as other marine life.
The most popular hiking trail is the .8-mile Cypress Grove loop trail along the rare Cyprus trees where the land and ocean come together.
The Bird Island Overlook Trail is another popular trail to take. You can see hundreds of birds especially Western Gulls and Brandt’s Cormorants.
The park is also a scuba diving paradise. You can scuba dive at Whalers and Bluefish Coves. There is as much to see under the water as to see above the water. Proof of certification is required. It’s also fun for hikers to go see people scuba diving.
Location: 62 CA-1, Carmel, CA
Assateague State Park, Maryland
Maryland’s only coastal state park, Assateague State Park offers 2 miles of pristine beach. Surrounded by water, the park has the Atlantic Ocean on its east side and the Sinepuxent Bay on its west side. To the north and south of the park is the Assateague Island National Seashore.
The ocean side offers, swimming, fishing, and surfing while the bay side offers a boat ramp, canoeing, kayaking, and a fishing pier. Beach is clean and has clear water.
The park is famous for the wild horses. Visitors come from all over to see these beautiful horses. There are approximately 85 horses roaming free within the park. The park also has a 350-site campground. It gets crowded so reservations are recommended.
Location: 7307 Stephen Decatur Highway, Berlin, MD
Conclusion Best State Parks in America
With an increase of attention for outdoor adventure came the crowds so we created this list of the best state parks in America so you can discover some of the lesser-known places to seek adventure.
Whether you’re looking for a short hike, a family camping trip, or to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, the best state parks in America have something for everyone.
This list was put together from advice from people who travel throughout the United States and discovered some of the best places to see.
We can’t wait to hear which one of these parks is your favorite. Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to check out our blog posts with more details about some of these parks.