Top-rated State Parks in the U.S. - Go Wandering

Top-rated State Parks in the U.S.

Top-rated State Parks in the U.S.
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Any of the U.S. National Parks offer endless outdoor fun, but they often fill up quickly during the peak of summer. Alternatively, opting for a state park may prove to be less crowded, especially on the weekdays. Here is our comprehensive list of top-rated state parks throughout the United States.


Chugach State Park (Alaska)

Featuring over 450,000 acres of land, this is one of the largest state parks in the U.S. Witness the rugged natural beauty of Alaska and enjoy hiking, fishing, and kayaking to your heart's content while visiting Chugach State Park. This place is full of wildlife, including bears and moose, so always be aware of your surroundings and keep a safe distance from these creatures. Soak in the sounds of nature in the forests of Anchorage, Alaska, at Chugach State Park.


Deception Pass State Park (Washington)

Deception Pass is the most visited state park in Washington, and it features an impressive landscape full of rugged cliffs and a mesmerizing gorge. Many visitors enjoy swimming, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and observing wildlife while they're here. It may be hard to know where to begin since there is much to see and do at this beloved state park. You may also want to continue your outdoor adventure at North Cascades National Park; it's less than 25 miles east of Deception Pass State Park.


Smith Rock State Park (Oregon) 

Look no further for a remarkable rock climbing area in the northwestern United States. Smith Rock State Park is located in central Oregon and features tent campsites, over 1,000 climbing routes, hiking trails, and beautiful natural surroundings. This park isn't rainy most days, so don't hesitate to plan a trip here during any season. While you're at it, you should also consider seeing Crater Lake since it's only two hours south of Smith Rock State Park.



Waimea Canyon State Park (Hawaii)

Kauai is a popular tourist destination, and no words can describe the delightful views at Waimea Canyon State Park. Hiking, picnicking, observing wildlife, scenic car rides, and landscape photography are among the activities you can do here. Experienced hikers can take the Kukui Trail (2.5-miles one-way) to explore the canyon, but those needing an easy trail should take the Iliau Nature Loop instead. You won't regret taking a trip to Waimea Canyon State Park while vacationing in Kauai, Hawaii.  


McArthur-Burney Falls State Park (California)  

See this 129-foot waterfall in northern California. Guests can either come for a fun daytime hike or book a campsite and stay for a while. This park is open year-round from 8 am to sunset. While the McArthur-Burney Falls is not the tallest waterfall in California, it is arguably one of the prettiest ones to visit. Make no mistake that the McArthur-Burney Falls State Park is picturesque and always worth the trip.


Cathedral Gorge State Park (Nevada) 

The deserts of southeastern Nevada are outright mesmerizing. At Cathedral Gorge, you will see cave-like formations and impressive rock spires among the deserted red rock landscape. If you come in the early morning hours, you will probably see some wildlife and take advantage of the cooler temperatures at the same time. This area is ideal for landscape photography, but come prepared with plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen during your visit. 


Lake Havasu State Park (Arizona) 

Lake Havasu is an oasis among the desert, and this state park is so big that it crosses over into southern California. Visitors often enjoy picnicking, boating, camping, hiking, and observing wildlife during their stay. Lake Havasu State Park is open 24/7 year-round and has mild winter temperatures with highs around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Look no further for an all-around relaxing camping destination in the southwestern United States.


Elephant Butte Lake State Park (New Mexico) 

Elephant Butte is the largest lake in New Mexico. This state park is an ideal destination for anyone that loves water sports such as kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and swimming. If you prefer hiking, check out the West Lakeshore Trail. This trail is 10.5 miles long and features neat views of the desert landscape. Bird enthusiasts should visit between September and May to spot the hundreds of migratory birds that come through the area. No matter what, Elephant Butte Lake State Park is a beautiful camping destination.


Dead Horse Point State Park (Utah)

Discover the beauty of southern Utah here. Anyone that loves astrophotography should certainly camp at Dead Horse Point since it is a recognized international dark sky park. They have tent sites and yurts available for visitors, and the park is open year-round. Dead Horse Point State Park is also on the way to Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah. You won't regret adding this place to your southern Utah road trip itinerary. 


Eldorado Canyon State Park (Colorado)

Look no further for a rock climbing excursion in the captivating Rocky Mountains. Eldorado Canyon State Park is minutes away from Boulder, Colorado, and features incredible cliffsides and scenic overlooks. It is one of Colorado's most popular state parks, so plan to arrive as early as possible. This place is open year-round from sunrise to sunset and doesn't allow overnight parking or camping; however, there are plenty of camping accommodations nearby if you plan to visit for multiple days.


Curt Gowdy State Park (Wyoming)

Located in the southeastern corner of Wyoming (about halfway between Laramie and Cheyenne), Curt Gowdy State Park is the ultimate place to have an outdoor adventure with friends and family. They have an archery range, horseback riding trails, a mountainous landscape, reservoirs, campsites, cabins, and even a lodge. If you need a neat place to camp in the western United States, do not overlook Curt Gowdy State Park.


Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park (Montana) 

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is Montana's first (and arguably finest) state park. It has an incredible cavern, which happens to be one of the largest limestone caves in North America. Cave tours are available May through September, and they are also open during the holiday season on particular days in December. Besides guided cave tours, visitors can also enjoy bird watching, hiking, camping, fishing, and nature photography while they are here. If you've never visited Montana before, don't hesitate to see Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park.


Castle Rocks State Park (Idaho) 

This southern Idaho gem is ideal for anyone who loves rock climbing, camping, horseback riding, or hiking. Lodging accommodations at this park include a yurt, group lodge, and RV campsites. Castle Rocks State Park is less than 200 miles north of Salt Lake City, making it an adventurous stop for anyone passing into southern Idaho from Utah. Even if you can't come during the summer, snowshoeing and cross country skiing are fun winter activities to do. Enjoy the fresh mountain air at this scenic state park in Idaho.



El Dorado State Park (Kansas) 

Despite popular belief, there are fun places to visit in Kansas. El Dorado State Park features a reservoir that is perfect for people who enjoy fishing and various water sports. While you’re at it, feel free to spend time at their shooting range, practice archery, go hiking, and consider staying awhile on a camping trip. El Dorado State Park provides endless outdoor recreation for locals and out-of-state visitors of all ages, so check it out the next time you’re driving through the sunflower state.


Ha Ha Tonka State Park (Missouri)

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is an incredible place to go swimming, kayaking, fishing, picnicking, hiking, exploring caves, or simply being out in nature. Some of the notable features within the park include the natural bridge and the remains of a historic stone castle. If you're traveling through western Missouri, you won't regret visiting Ha Ha Tonka State Park. You could easily spend a few hours or even a few days here without getting bored. 


Starved Rock State Park (Illinois)

Check out one of the best camping spots in Illinois. Starved Rock State Park is approximately two hours southwest of Chicago, and it features canyons, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, and over a dozen miles of beautiful hiking trails. The park offers free guided hikes from June to November, and their campsites can accommodate both RVs and tents. Feel free to take a load off at Starved Rock State Park if you're traveling through northern Illinois. 


Turkey Run State Park (Indiana)

In the forests of western Indiana, visitors have made countless memories at Turkey Run State Park since 1916. One of the most popular pastimes is the 5-mile challenge along the Turkey Run Ladder Hiking Trail. You can also consider kayaking, playing tennis, picnicking, camping, or fishing if you aren't in the mood for a hike. Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages can expect an adventure unlike any other at Turkey Run State Park. 


Hocking Hills State Park (Ohio)

If you love exploring caves, hiking to waterfalls, or camping, head to Hocking Hills State Park. It is about 60 miles south of Columbus, Ohio, and features seven different hiking areas. Hikers can choose from Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls, Conckle's Hollow, Old Man's Cave, Rock House, or Whispering Cave. Be sure to book a campsite or cabin to get the most out of your visit to this top-rated state park.


Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Michigan)

Explore the old-growth forests of northwestern Michigan. The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is a scenic and secluded place where you can enjoy panoramic views of rivers, waterfalls, and lakes while meandering for miles through its wooded hiking trails. This multifaceted gathering place features an 18-hole disc golf course, a fishing pier, a shooting range, picnic areas, and more. Anyone visiting the northern region of the midwestern U.S. should add Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park to their itinerary.


Peninsula State Park (Wisconsin)

Peninsula State Park offers endless entertainment for all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts. Many people enjoy boating, hiking, fishing, bird watching, picnicking, and other activities during their visit. It is hard to top this park because it features an 18-hole golf course, a lighthouse, campgrounds, excellent hiking and biking trails, and a beach all in one area. Choose Peninsula State Park for your next outdoor getaway in the midwest and find your home away from home.


Ledges State Park (Iowa)

Stop by this central Iowa state park and take a scenic hike through the sandstone gorge or cross the picturesque stone bridge at Peas Creek. This park provides the perfect place to picnic or experience various daytime outings with friends and family. The creek is only ankle deep most of the time, so feel free to dip your feet in the water when you need to cool off. Hikers are welcome to explore over half a dozen trails, and all guests can reconnect with nature at Ledges State Park.


Platte River State Park (Nebraska) 

Located about halfway between Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, this state park has a variety of cabins and full hookup RV sites available. Platte River State Park is a scenic place to go camping, and it also features an archery range, hiking trails, a nature center, a kayak launch, and an on-site restaurant. It is difficult to get bored at Platte River State Park, so make sure to add it to your list of places to see in Nebraska.


Tettegouche State Park (Minnesota)

Northeastern Minnesota is full of luscious forests and secluded campsites that are truly awe-inspiring. Tettegouche State Park is one of the best places to enjoy panoramic views of Lake Superior, and it is open for camping year-round. Bring your best pair of hiking boots and explore hundreds of trails leading to scenic viewpoints, caves, and waterfalls while you're here. No outdoor enthusiast will run out of things to do at Tettegouche State Park, and the views alone will make your trip worthwhile.


Custer State Park (South Dakota)

This gorgeous place is full of wildlife such as bison, prairie dogs, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, and wild turkeys. Custer State Park also features granite peaks, scenic drives, lakes, campgrounds, and incredible hiking trails. Groups of friends and families can always find something fun to do at this park. By far, this is one of the best places to visit in South Dakota. Best of all, Custer State Park is less than an hour away from Mount Rushmore.


Turtle River State Park (North Dakota) 

North Dakota may not be the first state that comes to mind when you consider the midwestern U.S., but Turtle River State Park is an excellent place for camping, picnicking, fishing, mountain biking, or hiking. It features campsites, a lodge, over 12-miles of trails, and secluded wooded surroundings. This remote place is located off U.S. Highway 2 and is open year-round. If you're near Grand Forks, North Dakota, stopping by this state park will undoubtedly be worth your time.



Beavers Bend State Park (Oklahoma)

Anyone traveling through southeastern Oklahoma should not overlook Beavers Bend State Park. Come here for scenic hikes, water sports on the lake, fishing, and other exciting outdoor activities. Lodging accommodations include RV sites, tent campgrounds, cabins, and a beautiful lakeside lodge. This park is one of the most popular places to camp in Oklahoma. It is open year-round and also features a golf course, a volleyball court, a mini-golf course, and a tennis court, making it the ultimate Oklahoma vacation destination.


Brazos Bend State Park (Texas) 

Less than an hour away from Houston, Texas, Brazos Bend State Park is ideal for anyone that loves bird watching, stargazing, camping, and hiking. It features an observatory, nature center, lakes, campsites, and over 30 miles of trails to explore. You should certainly book a ticket to the George Observatory if you want an incredible stargazing experience. Brazos Bend State Park is a family-friendly place that is anything but boring, so be sure to stop by the next time you're in the Houston area.


Petit Jean State Park (Arkansas)

Arguably the most popular state park in Arkansas, this place boasts exquisite panoramic views of the Arkansas River Valley. Petit Jean State Park is just over an hour away from Little Rock, Arkansas, and is an excellent place for camping, picnicking, bird watching, or sightseeing. If you have time, be sure to hike to Cedar Falls before you go. Arkansas has 52 state parks, but Petit Jean State Park is one of the best ones to see.


Fontainebleau State Park (Louisiana) 

Drive due east from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and you will eventually reach Fontainebleau State Park. This park features a beach, nature trail, cabins, campgrounds, miles of multi-use trails, a pavilion, and a lake. Fontainebleau State Park covers nearly 3,000 acres and used to be a sugar plantation in the 1800s. Today, it is full of wildlife and is a lovely spot to go camping, hiking, and bird watching. This state park is a magnificent place you should see while driving through southeastern Louisiana.


LeFleur's Bluff State Park (Mississippi) 

In the heart of Jackson, Mississippi, hundreds of tourists and locals visit LeFleur's Bluff State Park every day. Choose from countless outdoor recreational activities, including camping, fishing, picnicking, hiking, golfing, disc golfing, and more. Many people bring a canoe or kayak with them to explore Mayes Lake, and anglers can expect to catch bass, bream, crappie, or catfish on the lake. LeFleur's Bluff State Park is a family-friendly park that is minutes away from local attractions such as museums, historical landmarks, a botanical garden, and more.


Gulf State Park (Alabama)

Head to this southern Alabama state park for some fun in the sun. Gulf State Park features two miles of beachfront, a lake, a nature center, a lodge, and a spacious campground. This 6,500-acre outdoor attraction is full of wildlife such as alligators, butterflies, bald eagles, white-tailed deer, herons, toads, possums, woodpeckers, red foxes, snapping turtles, and more. Hiking, swimming, kayaking, geocaching, and camping are just some of the ways you can spend time here. Every outdoor enthusiast can expect to have an unforgettable trip at Gulf State Park.


Fall Creek Falls State Park (Tennessee) 

Fall Creek Falls State Park is about 2.5 hours southeast of Nashville, Tennessee. It features a golf course, a canopy challenge course, over 50 miles of hiking trails, cabins, campsites, picturesque waterfalls, a nature center, and more. You will be amazed by the main attraction, Fall Creek Falls is over 250 feet high, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in the eastern United States. If you're heading south to Chattanooga, Tennessee, you should also consider visiting Lookout Mountain.


Cumberland Falls State Resort Park (Kentucky)

Home of the "little Niagara falls," Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is located in southeastern Kentucky. Hiking, bird watching, camping, picnicking, gem mining, and guided rafting trips are some of the fun things you can choose from during your visit. At the very least, you should hike to Cumberland Falls, but rafting groups will be able to see the falls up close with the help of their tour guide. Enjoy the beautiful surroundings of this state park on your next trip to Kentucky.


Blackwater Falls State Park (West Virginia)

Breathtaking scenery and gorgeous waterfalls await you at Blackwater Falls State Park. Blackwater Falls is a 57-foot cascading waterfall, and it is one of the most photographed spots in all of West Virginia. Whether you want to hike, bike, geocache, camp, hunt, fish, or swim, you can do it all at Blackwater Falls State Park. Continue the fun by riding the Cass Scenic Railroad, located about 85 miles southwest of the park.


First Landing State Park (Virginia)

See the most visited state park in Virginia. Recreational activities such as boating, swimming, hiking, picnicking, biking, and fishing are some of the things you can do at First Landing State Park. Campers should consider booking a stay at one of their cabins, yurts, or campsites to make the most out of their visit. Camping season begins in March, but since it is a popular place, plan on arriving early on the weekends. The park's regular hours are 7 am to sunset.


Chimney Rock State Park (North Carolina)

Get a bird's eye view of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains at Chimney Rock State Park. You can also explore several hiking trails, have a meal at the picnic tables, take pictures at the scenic overlooks, and see the waterfall at this park. Guests who can't climb the stairs to Chimney Rock can still enjoy the view by taking the elevator to the top. Family-friendly fun awaits at this state park, and it is roughly an hour away from Asheville, North Carolina.


Huntington Beach State Park (South Carolina)

Huntington Beach State Park features a national historic landmark, campsites, picnic shelters, a pristine beach, and nature trails. The annual Atalaya arts and crafts festival is held here in late September. This festival offers locally made art, handmade crafts, delicious food, and live music. Huntington Beach State Park is a birder's paradise as well. Over 300 bird species have been spotted here, including double-crested cormorants, great egrets, red-bellied woodpeckers, Carolina chickadees, and more. Discover the beauty of this dog-friendly state park while vacationing in South Carolina.


Amicalola Falls State Park (Georgia)

Amicalola Falls is over 700-feet tall, making it the third-highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Stay at their incredible lodge to soak in breathtaking views, and enjoy an outdoor adventure like no other. Besides hiking trails, Amicalola Falls State Park features a zipline course, archery course, and GPS scavenger hunts. They prove that you don't have to give up modern amenities to reconnect with nature. The park also has an on-site restaurant plus high-speed internet connectivity and all the comforts of home inside the lodge. Find your home away from home at Amicalola Falls State Park.


Blue Spring State Park (Florida)

Just one hour north of Orlando, Florida, this state park boasts a natural pool where visiting manatees often come and say hello in the winter months. Fish and migratory birds are also frequent sights at Blue Spring State Park. Guided riverboat cruises, tubing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming are the most popular activities to do here. This park is open daily from 8 am to sunset and provides a welcome retreat from the summer heat.



Camden Hills State Park (Maine) 

Hikers will definitely get a thrill out of this place. Camden Hills State Park offers several hiking trails, including the Mount Battie Trail leading to the top of the 780-foot mountain. Atop Mount Battie, you will discover gorgeous panoramic views of the valley below. Besides hiking, you can also picnic, camp, mountain bike, or bird watch while you're here. Anyone heading to or from Acadia National Park should not overlook Camden Hills State Park.


Franconia Notch State Park (New Hampshire)

Nestled in the White Mountains, this state park is full of incredible hikes, campsites, picnic areas, and more. Echo Lake is where many people go canoeing, swimming, and fishing. No matter what, don't miss out on the Flume Gorge or Cannon Mountain Tramway; these are sought-after attractions within the park for a reason. Enjoy a New Hampshire adventure at their beloved outdoor attraction, Franconia Notch State Park.


Quechee State Park (Vermont)

Head to eastern Vermont to see the Quechee Gorge, a fun place for an outing with friends or family. Quechee State Park has hiking trails, campsites, a baseball field, a volleyball net, picnic areas, and stunning natural beauty to help you enjoy the great outdoors. This park is right off of U.S. Highway 4 and is a popular tourist destination for myriad visitors every year. Quechee State Park is a place you won't want to miss while road tripping in the northeastern United States.


Gantry Plaza State Park (New York) 

Gantry Plaza is an urban state park on Long Island. It features sights of midtown Manhattan, basketball courts, gardens, and piers overlooking the East River. This park is a neat place to go sightseeing in the big apple and has some green space to sit and relax in the bustling city. Anyone needing a place to walk (to avoid New York's large crowds) should stop by Gantry Plaza State Park.


Letchworth State Park (New York)

If you’re on your way to or from Niagara Falls, stop by Letchworth State Park to see even more waterfalls. This beautiful state park is known as the “Grand Canyon” of the eastern U.S. and is only an hour and a half away from Niagara Falls State Park. Letchworth is a scenic place to enjoy a picnic and take a hike with friends and family. You won’t want to skip over this state park while touring upstate New York.


Hopkinton State Park (Massachusetts) 

Visit the Hopkinton Reservoir at Hopkinton State Park to cool off during the summer. This place is located 30 miles west of Boston, Massachusetts, and has lifeguards on duty at most beaches. Visitors can also fish, kayak, sail, or paddleboard on the reservoir. If you don't want to get wet, this state park is also an excellent place for a picnic. They have 300+ picnic tables and 100+ pedestal grills available on a first-come, first-served basis.


Colt State Park (Rhode Island)

Capture outstanding views of Narragansett Bay at Colt State Park. This place features hiking trails, paved bike paths, open fields, and scenic shorelines. It is minutes away from downtown Bristol, Rhode Island, and is home to the oldest Independence Day parade in the United States. Head to the northern section of the park to enjoy a meal at the picnic tables, fish along the pier, or play frisbee on one of the open playing fields. All should witness the beauty of Narragansett Bay and Bristol Harbor at Colt State Park.


Kent Falls State Park (Connecticut)

Located in northwestern Connecticut, Kent Falls State Park features a 250-foot tall cascading waterfall, which looks impressive, especially in the springtime or after a rainstorm. Visitors also enjoy picnicking, hiking, and fishing at this park. Feel free to explore the trails or climb the 0.3-mile staircase to enjoy the sights and sounds of the waterfall and nearby brook. Be sure to arrive early on the weekends because the parking lot can fill up quickly, especially during the summer.


Liberty State Park (New Jersey)

Enjoy sights of the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty at Liberty State Park. This park features a 2-mile promenade leading toward the Hudson River, plus picnic areas, a playground, and a nature center. It is situated in the northeastern metropolitan region of New Jersey, less than 10 miles away from the Empire State Building and Times Square. If you're taking a sightseeing tour of New York City, consider stopping by Liberty State Park on your way out.


Ricketts Glen State Park (Pennsylvania)

Come to northeastern Pennsylvania to see the remote forests and over a dozen waterfalls within Ricketts Glen State Park. This park encompasses over 13,000 acres and is ideal for outdoor recreation such as hiking, camping, fishing, boating, picnicking, swimming, or horseback riding in the summer. The fun doesn't stop in the winter; visitors often take advantage of cross country skiing and snowmobiling at the park. Ricketts Glen State Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset, no matter the season. 


Cape Henlopen State Park (Delaware)

Head to Delaware's coastline to see Cape Henlopen State Park, one of the best places to enjoy the beach in the northeastern U.S. This is also where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, and you can look out to sea for miles right here. A fun and free activity you can do is borrow a bike (courtesy of the Friends of Cape Henlopen) and tour the loop trail. Guests of all ages can also visit the on-site nature center, which has an interactive touch tank so everyone can see various aquatic creatures up close.


Assateague State Park (Maryland) 

Lastly, Assateague State Park is on a barrier island in eastern Maryland. Visitors often enjoy fishing, kayaking, bird watching, and swimming at this park. Camping is another popular outdoor activity, and their campsites are available from the last week of April through the last weekend in October. Keep in mind that a herd of wild horses frequently come and graze in the marshlands, so keep a safe distance if you see them. There is no doubt it will be worth your time to stop by this secluded state park while touring the northeastern United States.


We hope you can visit some of these state parks in your lifetime and encourage you to add these scenic places to your future U.S. road trip itineraries. 

Here are some road trip routes to give you some inspiration: Eastern U.S. State Parks, Midwestern State Parks, Western U.S.

Avid hikers should check out some of these articles: Colorado, Eastern U.S., Idaho, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon.

Find out how to take the quickest tour of the national parks here.

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