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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kentucky: Cumberland Falls State Park
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. And if you want more alpine getaways, check out these majestic mountain towns across the United States.
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.
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.
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.
Wisconsin: Devil’s Lake State Park
While we love glamping as much as the next person (just look at these luxurious destinations), 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.
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.