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The Best State Park in Every State

From beautiful beaches to majestic mountains, these are the most popular—and most beloved—state parks across the United States.

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Gulf Shores State Park
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Alabama: Gulf State Park

You don’t have to book a Caribbean vacation to enjoy sun-soaked waves crashing on white-sand beaches. You can find that at Alabama’s Gulf State Park, where there’s plenty of fun in the sun to be had. For the athletic adults, there’s also tennis courts and even an 18-hole championship golf course at the park. These are more of our favorite family-beach destinations.

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South Fork, Campbell Creek, in the Chugach Mountains, Anchorage, Alaska
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Alaska: Chugach State Park

Hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, ATVing, berry picking, horseback riding…you’ll find tons of outdoor activities available at Chugach State Park, which also happens to be one of the largest and best state parks in the country. There are thousands of miles of trails, some of which take you up Flattop Mountain (the most climbed mountain in Alaska) and others that will take you to over 60 stunning glaciers.

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Arizona: Slide Rock State Park
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Arizona: Slide Rock State Park

The name says it all: Slide Rock State Park is home to one of the biggest natural slip n’ slides and one of the best natural swimming pools in the United States. After you take a ride down the 80-foot red rock chute, splash around in the swimming hole below, wander through the apple orchards, or just soak in the Arizona sunshine and breathtaking desert scenery.

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Cedar Falls Petit Jean State Park Arkansas. The long waterfall fills the dark pool of water and dark rocks contrasted by green maple, pine and star shaped leaves of a sorghum tree frame it.
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Arkansas: Petit Jean State Park

About an hour outside of Little Rock, you’ll find Petit Jean State Park. The winding trails will take you high above the Arkansas River Valley—which is absolutely gorgeous in the fall—as you climb through forests and canyons. Once you’re done exploring for the day, you can spend the night in one of the park’s yurts for a truly unique camping experience.

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California: Big Basin Redwoods State Park
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California: Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Northern California may be known for wine, but it’s also known for its giant redwood trees, which you can experience for yourself at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The 18,000-acre grove of statuesque trees is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, with some of the redwoods growing over 50 feet wide and others as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

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Sunset In Eldorado Canyon State Park

Colorado: Eldorado Canyon State Park

There’s no shortage of natural beauty in Colorado. And one of the best state parks to take it all in is at Eldorado Canyon State Park, where you can trek through the scenic canyon, rock-climb to your heart’s content, or picnic by one of the many streams. Want more spots to hike? Discover the best trail in each of the 50 states.

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Gillette Castle
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Connecticut: Gillette Castle State Park

The last place you’d expect to find a majestic mid-century castle would be in the middle of Connecticut. But that’s exactly what you’ll stumble upon at Gillette Castle State Park, where the stone mansion is open to the public for self-guided tours. Not only is there a dungeon to explore, but rumor has it that there’s also a secret room that only a few have found. Psst: Here are 10 real castles you can book on Airbnb.

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Cape Henlopen State Park ,Delaware
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Delaware: Cape Henlopen State Park

Your first stop at Cape Henlopen State Park should be the Seaside Nature Center, where you can pet manta rays and horseshoe crabs. After that, slip on your swimsuit and frolic on the sandy beaches or hike or bike to the end of the cape to enjoy gorgeous views of the Atlantic coastline. Keep an eye out for the dolphins frolicking in the waters.

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Dunedin Causeway connected to Honeymoon Island
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Florida: Honeymoon Island State Park

Like the most beautiful Florida beaches that locals don’t want you to know about, Honeymoon Island is one of the state’s best state parks that’s under the radar. The pristine shoreline is much less crowded than some of the more touristy destinations and there are plenty of nature activities from kayaking out to the Gulf to walking the 3.5 miles of pine-shaded trails.

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Slow shutter speed of Amicalola Falls in Georgia in Summer
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Georgia: Amicalola Falls State Park

The gushing glory at Georgia’s best state park is more than worthy of a spot on our list of the best waterfalls in every state. But fair warning: it will take quite a bit of hiking to get to, as it’s the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi. The views at the top will be more than worth it, though.

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Overlooking Waimea Canyon State Park on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, USA, nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Hawaii: Waimea Canyon State Park

Most people go to Hawaii for the beaches but you won’t want to miss out on what’s been nicknamed “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” And the journey to the canyon is just as gorgeous as the park itself. You’ll drive up a winding road full of overlooks where you can pull over to catch a glimpse of the turquoise river running through the ten-mile long canyon.

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Scenic view of Payette Lake, mountains and trees from Ponderosa State Park in McCall Idaho

Idaho: Ponderosa State Park

If you’re looking for one of the best camping getaways in Idaho, look no further than Ponderosa State Park. Pitch your tent at the campground (or book one of the cabins) before you spend the day swimming, playing beach volleyball, fishing, or hiking to Osprey Point for picturesque views of Payette Lake.

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Lasalle Falls at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois
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Illinois: Starved Rock State Park

For when you need to get out of the city for a bit, head to Starved Rock State Park, where you can get a breath of fresh air while roaming the wooded trails or fishing on the Illinois River. If you visit in the cooler months, warm up at the massive fireplace in the lodge, where you can also rent a room for the night.

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Clear blue sky With cloud and sea at Indiana Dunes State Park

Indiana: Indiana Dunes State Park

Are you on the Pacific coast or in the middle of Indiana? You won’t be able to tell the difference at this state park, which is home to miles of sandy shores, rolling dunes, and wildlife-filled marshes. Plan a day trip for swimming, picnicking, and birding, or set up camp by the water’s edge.

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Wet Cave Entrance / A cave entrance with a small waterfall that formed during a rain storm.
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Iowa: Maquoketa Caves State Park

Come prepared to hike at Maquoketa Caves State Park, where comfortable walking shoes are a must. You’ll have to tackle some trails to get to the spectacular caves, which you can explore freely—just be sure to bring a flashlight and be prepared to see some bats flying overhead.

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Kansas: Wilson State Park
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Kansas: Wilson State Park

Dubbed “the clearest lake in Kansas,” Wilson Lake is surrounded by miles of shoreline and rocky cliffs, all of which are open to the public for visiting. Whether you want to pitch a tent and enjoy the stunning sunset over the water or spend a sunny afternoon fishing, there’s plenty of outdoor and water activities for everyone.

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Eagle Falls, in Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, near Corbin, Kentucky.
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Kentucky: Cumberland Falls State Park

Kentucky has more than just bourbon and horse racing. It’s also home to some of the most stunning waterfalls, like those at Cumberland Falls State Park, which is known as the “Niagara of the South.” Make sure you visit at night to catch a glimpse of the super rare moonbow, which is like a rainbow but caused by the full moon. The one at Cumberland Falls is just one of two moonbows in the whole world!
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Fontainebleau State Park
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Louisiana: Fontainebleau State Park

New Orleans is home to plenty of hidden gems, including Fontainebleau State Park. Bordering Lake Pontchartrain, the park is 2,800 acres of forests and beaches—highlights include the Nature Trail that is always teeming with local wildlife and birds and the family-friendly swimming areas.

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Winter at Popham Beach state park in Maine.

Maine: Popham Beach State Park

It’s tough to pick just one spot of Maine’s picturesque coast to visit. But if you had to choose, locals and tourists alike love Popham Beach State Park, 14 miles south of Bath, for its white-sand beaches and abundance of seashells and sand dollars that gather in tidepools along the shore. Can’t make it to Maine? Check out one of these best beach vacations.

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A pair of wild ponies (Equus caballus) running at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland
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Maryland: Assateague State Park

Assateague Island isn’t your average island. Located off Maryland’s eastern shore, the barrier island is best known for the herds of wild horses that freely roam the coastline. The park is very secluded and wild, making it the perfect place to escape summer crowds for a weekend of camping and beachcombing.

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Halibut Point State Park

Massachusetts: Halibut Point State Park

Talk about a park with a view. If you stand on the rocky granite bluffs of Halibut Point on Cape Ann on a sunny day, you’ll be able to see over 80 miles away, to Mount Agamenticus in Maine and the coast of New Hampshire. And if you’re around after high tide, go search for sea life in the many tide pools that form on the shore.

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Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse
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Michigan: Mackinac Island State Park

One of the most romantic island destinations in the United States, Mackinac Island is a popular vacation spot. While you’re there, visit the state park, which has over 70 miles of trails through forests and along the shoreline that you can hike, bike, or even take a horse-drawn carriage ride.

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Minnesota: Gooseberry Falls State Park
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Minnesota: Gooseberry Falls State Park

If you love waterfalls, you’ll love Minnesota’s Gooseberry Falls State Park on the northern shore of Lake Superior. Stand on the bridge for a photo-worthy shot of the Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls or take a short hike to the hidden Fifth Falls. If you visit in the winter, the trails are also open for cross-country skiing.

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Paul B. Johnson State Park
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Mississippi: Paul B. Johnson State Park

For a weekend camping getaway, head to Paul B. Johnson State Park, ten miles south of Hattiesburg, home to the gorgeous Geiger Lake. You can rent a campsite or cabin and spend your time hiking, fishing, or simply kicking back and enjoying the shade of the loblolly pines that border the shore.

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Ha Ha Tonka State Park.
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Missouri: Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Located in the Ozarks, Ha Ha Tonka State Park is one of Missouri’s most unique destinations. Part natural paradise, part historical site, it boasts caves and natural bridges along with the remains of a 19th-century stone castle. After exploring, settle in for a picnic lunch by the Lake of the Ozarks.

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Montana: Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
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Montana: Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

It’s what’s below the surface at this state park in Jefferson County that attracts visitors from all over the region. Head underground to explore the vast network of caves, teeming with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites. For a small fee, you can take an hour-long guided tour of the caverns.

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Nebraska: Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
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Nebraska: Eugene T. Mahoney State Park

First things first: Book a room at the park’s Peter Kiewit Lodge where you’ll wake up to beautiful vistas of the Platte River Valley. Then plan what you want to do at the park, whether it’s indoor rock climbing, the treetop ropes course, or, if it’s winter, ice skating and sledding. There’s also an arts and crafts center for kids to enjoy.

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Valley of Fire. First Nevada's state park. One cold winter afternoon in January.
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Nevada: Valley of Fire State Park

Not only is the Valley of Fire arguably Nevada’s most popular state park but it’s also the oldest and the largest. A quick one-hour drive from Las Vegas, it’s 40,000 acres of vibrant red sandstone rock formations (hence the name) which you can hike through to score breathtaking desert views. You may even glimpse petroglyphs on some of the rocks that are thousands of years old.

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Waves in the Atlantic Ocean, at Hither Hills State Park, Montauk, New York
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New Hampshire: Hampton Beach State Park

The whole family will be happy with a day (or weekend, thanks to the campsites and RV hookups) spent at Hampton Beach. You can explore the critter-filled tidepools on the shore, fuel up at the snack bar, and participate in one of the many events often taking place at the park from sand sculpting contests to beach volleyball tournaments.

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Liberty State Park
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New Jersey: Liberty State Park

There are plenty of hidden gems in New York City but one of the best Big Apple must-visits is actually part of New Jersey, across the Hudson River. There you’ll find Liberty State Park, where you can stroll along the two-mile trail or park up with a picnic and enjoy picture-worthy views of the Manhattan skyline.

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Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico, USA
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New Mexico: Elephant Butte Lake State Park

Fishers and boaters rejoice! Elephant Butte Lake, which is the largest body of water in New Mexico, is always buzzing with jet skis, kayaks, powerboats, and more. If you don’t have your own watercraft, you can also rent your own by the hour at any of the three marinas.

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Jones Beach State in Long Island, NY
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New York: Jones Beach State Park

Escape the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple with a quick trip to Jones Beach on Long Island. With white sand beaches, concession stands selling cold lemonade and fried dough, and a wood boardwalk for strolling and fishing, you’ll forget you’re only miles from NYC.

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Jockey's Ridge National Park in NC
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North Carolina: Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Jockey’s Ridge is more than just a gorgeous place to watch the sunset over the ocean—it’s also the tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic coast at 21 meters above sea level. Trek to the top, fly kites, or if you’re feeling adventurous, take a hang-gliding lesson from one of the pros.

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Canon, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, Mandan, ND
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North Dakota: Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

It may not be the oldest tourist attraction in the state but Fort Abraham Lincoln, located seven miles south of Mandan, is North Dakota’s oldest state park, constructed in 1907. Tour the old military fort or the Mandan Indian village, or hit the trails on bikes or on horseback to take in some of the area’s natural scenery.

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A panoramic view of the beautiful lower falls at Old man's Cave in Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio.
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Ohio: Hocking Hills State Park

There are plenty of outdoor activities and exploring to be done at Hocking Hills, like trekking to the waterfalls or navigating one of the many caves, including Ash Cave, the largest recessed cave in Ohio. But perhaps the most exciting activity is the canopy zipline, which was dubbed one of the craziest ziplines in the world.

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Sunset on a Oklahoma lake.

Oklahoma: Lake Thunderbird State Park

Lake Thunderbird, with 86 miles of beautiful shoreline, truly has something for everyone. Head out on the water at this park for some fishing or water skiing, bird watch on the nature trails, or try your hand at the archery range. If you visit in the fall months, there are also hayrides available.

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Upper ponytail falls

Oregon: Silver Falls State Park

Why settle for one waterfall when you can have ten? That’s what you’ll find at Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park, a deep canyon filled with gushing waterfalls and moss-covered ravines. It’s open all year for hiking but locals recommend visiting from March to May when the wildflowers are in full bloom.

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Beautiful Ohiopyle State Park located in Pennsylvania. Summer tourism and vacation destination.
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Pennsylvania: Ohiopyle State Park

Outdoor enthusiasts will be far from bored at Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania, which boasts some of the best (and most thrilling) whitewater rafting on the East Coast. There are also plenty of trails for mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding and pavilions to refuel with a picnic.

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A tranquil path along a rocky seashore at sunset; Colt State Park, Rhode Island
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Rhode Island: Colt State Park

Psst: Don’t tell anyone but Colt State Park was actually voted one of our best under-the-radar places to visit in 2019. It’s a true hidden gem, which is part of what makes it so special. There’s beach volleyball, hiking, boating, fishing, and more to be done while you’re there.

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View across the expansive salt marsh at Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina, USA. Landscape with alligator, lying on a small island among the grass. Nature background.

South Carolina: Huntington Beach State Park

Myrtle Beach may be one of America’s best beaches but nearby Huntington Beach can be just as fun—and even more beautiful, thanks to its uncrowded shores. Make the 15-minute drive to soak up some sun and look for wildlife including loggerhead turtles and alligators. The park also has some of the best bird-watching in the eastern United States.

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American buffalo herd in Custer State Park, South Dakota, USA

South Dakota: Custer State Park

There’s no better way to experience the Badlands of South Dakota than with a trip to Custer State Park. With herds of bison roaming its 71,000 acres of rolling grassy hills and crystal clear lakes, the park was is also one of the world’s top ten wildlife destinations.

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Cherokee Falls on Daniel Creek at Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia.
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Tennessee: Fall Creek Falls State Park

In a state as full of natural beauty as Tennessee, it’s hard to pick just one park. But Fall Creek Falls is arguably one of the most gorgeous and most popular. The main waterfall itself is one of the tallest in the eastern United States and the rest of the park’s forested acres are teeming with gushing gorges and winding rivers just begging to be explored.

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Palo Duro Canyon State Park
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Texas: Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Even the canyons are bigger in Texas, including Palo Duro, which is the second-largest canyon in the entire United States, running 120 miles long. Dubbed the Grand Canyon of Texas, it’s perfect for those who love to camp (there are plenty of cabins and RV hookups) and those who love to hike.

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The famous viewpoint of the majestic landscape inside Dead Horse Point State Park with the Colorado River, Arizona, USA.

Utah: Dead Horse Point State Park

Get a glimpse of the vivid red rock canyons that the West is known for at Dead Horse Point State Park. There are lots of easy hiking trails with stunning views; however, many visitors recommend “Moab mountain biking,” where people of all ages and skill levels can bike around the breathtaking cliffs.

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Vermont: Mt. Philo State Park
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Vermont: Mt. Philo State Park

Only in Vermont can you find Adirondack chairs at the end of your hike up to the top of Mt. Philo. Sit back and relax as you take in the panoramic views of Lake Champlain Valley below.

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Natural Bridge State Park in the State of Virginia
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Virginia: Natural Bridge State Park

Virginia’s Natural Bridge State Park made our list of the most scenic nature getaways in every state…and for good reason. You’ll hike through miles of meadows and mountains (all worth a photo stop) before reaching the bridge itself which is a National Historic Landmark.

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Aerial View Of Lighthouse On Cape Disappointment On Rocky Point - Washington, USA - 4K Aerial Footage
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Washington: Cape Disappointment State Park

Don’t let the name fool you—you’ll be anything but disappointed with a visit to this stunning best state park. While you can simply relax on one of the beaches, we recommend hiking the rocky Pacific coastline, where you may catch a glimpse of gray whales breaching in the ocean, or climb to the top of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

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View of Blackwater Falls, at Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia.
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West Virginia: Blackwater Falls State Park

Blackwater Falls is beautiful in any season, but it’s particularly breathtaking in the fall. After you check out the main attraction (the waterfall itself, of course), be sure to hike to Lindy Point where you’ll overlook Blackwater Canyon ablaze in vibrant red, orange, and golden hues.

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Areal view on the South shore beach and lake from rocky ice age hiking trail during sunset. DevilÃ?s Lake State Park, Baraboo area, Wisconsin, Midwest USA. Beautiful summer evening landscape.

Wisconsin: Devil’s Lake State Park

While we love glamping as much as the next person, we also love regular camping. And there’s no better place to do it in Wisconsin than at Devil’s Lake State Park where you can rock climb, hike, swim, and even paddleboard before retiring to your campsite for the night.

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Geyser and hot spring in old faithful basin in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

Wyoming: Hot Springs State Park

One of the best natural hot springs in the country, this Wyoming must-visit is known for its Bath House, where you can soak in 104-degree water that’s believed to have healing and therapeutic powers. After your dip, roam the grounds of the state park in search of the wild bison often seen grazing nearby.