There are over six thousand state parks in the United States, so how do you decide which ones to visit? The twenty-five state parks listed below are the best state parks in the US by far.
Each of these state parks has something unique, and they are located all over the country. The landscapes at these parks have everything, including waterfalls, canyons, gorges, deserts, and islands.
Camping is allowed at nearly all of them so that you can plan an extended stay in nature. Or, if you just need to get away for a day, there are short hiking trails and picnic areas to make your day perfect.
Whether you are a hiker, biker, birdwatcher, or just someone looking to spend some time in nature, these US state parks will have what you are looking for.
Let's explore the 25 best State Parks in the USA.
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Fall Creek Falls State Park is in central Tennessee. It is one of the best state parks in the US for waterfall chasers. The park's most famous attraction is Fall Creek Falls, and at 256 feet, it is the tallest free-fall waterfall on the east coast.
Besides Fall Creek Falls, the park is home to 26,000 acres of cascades, gorges, waterfalls, streams and hardwood forests. For beautiful views, you can hike to one of many overlooks throughout the park.
For overnight visits, you can reserve one of the more than two hundred campsites with many amenities. Otherwise, thirty cabins are available to rent and guest rooms at an inn at the park. The inn also has a conference center and banquet rooms for significant events.
Address: 2009 Village Camp Rd, Spencer, TN 38585
Anza Borrego Desert State Park is located in southern California. The park is nearly six hundred thousand acres big, and it is the largest state park in California.
Visitors can explore five hundred miles of roads throughout the park. Over one hundred miles of hiking trails are in the park, with popular trails marked for convenience.
In the summer months, average temperatures can easily be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the desert climate. The plants that thrive in the park's environment include many cacti and rock formations.
There are a few areas of springs and oases with cool California Fan Palms. You will find many types of birds in the park, perfect for bird-watching, as well as sheep, snakes, coyotes, and other native desert animals.
The park is also an International Dark Sky Park, meaning the sky at night is beautiful and filled with stars, so you will want to stay in the evening.
Address: 200 Palm Canyon Dr, Borrego Springs, CA 92004
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in California
Dead Horse Point State Park has over five thousand acres of the high desert in eastern Utah. The name comes from a rumor that nineteenth-century cowboys' horses often died in the desert's climate.
The park is full of desert, rocks, cliffs, and canyons, all surrounding the Colorado River. Visit the outlooks throughout the park for the amazing views of the Colorado River. The park is an Internation Dark Sky Park where, at night, the sky is full of bright stars.
The campgrounds and picnic areas offer guests overnight and dining amenities. A unique feature is the yurts available to rent for a one-of-a-kind overnight experience. There is a popular eight-mile hiking trail that has overlooks along the way.
There is also a seventeen-mile mountain biking trail for more adventurous people. Hunting is not allowed as a safety precaution, and guests must stay away from cliffs and keep an eye out for lightning storms.
Address: UT-313, Moab, UT 84532
Also Read: Top 10 Things To Do in Moab, Utah
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is in Big Sur, California, and the park is named after a popular rancher who lived in Big Sur in the early twentieth century.
The park is spread over 3700 acres and sits adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the best state parks in America because of its natural features.
The park contains the famous redwoods, 300-ft tall trees native to California. The other popular site is McWay Falls, an 80-ft waterfall that falls into the ocean.
Visitors can reserve campsites and camp right next to the Pacific Ocean. Hiking trails and an underwater scuba diving area are located near the campsites and ocean as well.
There are specific, restricted areas in the water that are marine reserves and marine conservation areas. These areas are protected to help the wildlife in the ocean.
Address: Pfeiffer Big Sur Rd, Big Sur, CA 93920
Located just outside Las Vegas, Nevada, is Valley of Fire State Park. The name comes from the Aztec sandstone formations that are millions of years old, and limestone mountains surround them.
The park is one of the oldest US state parks and the oldest state park in Nevada.
Although it can be scorching hot during the day, the desert cools off at night. Different species of bush and cacti thrive in the park, as well as desert flowers.
Guests will likely enter the park on the famous Valley of Fire Road. There are camping areas located throughout the park, hiking trails for different levels of difficulty, and picnic areas of all sizes.
The park protects petrified wood and petroglyphs over 2,000 years old found in the park. Take the time to stop by the visitor center early in your trip to learn about what the park has to offer. Here you can learn about the geology, ecology, prehistory and history of the park.
Address: 29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV 89040
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Nevada
Chugach State Park in Anchorage, Alaska, is the third-largest state park in the US. The park is nearly 500,000 acres big and has a lot of unique land features.
There are miles of coastlines, enormous mountains, and glaciers. There are also a ton of animals at the park, like moose, birds, and bears. Visitors can see the animals along the Eagle River, which has a three-mile trail parallel to it for hiking.
Outdoor lovers will enjoy the vast space in the park allowed for hunting and fishing. Hiking is popular among guests, especially along the Lakeside Trail.
The trail is over twelve miles long and follows the shores of Ekutna Lake. The trail also passes the beautiful blue Eklutna Glacier. ATVs, bikes, and horses are all allowed on the trail as well.
There are multiple campsites at the park near a river, a lake, and a few creeks. For more upscale overnight stays, cabins are available to rent.
Address: 18620 Seward Hwy, Anchorage, AK 99516
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Alaska
Niagara Falls State Park is easily one of the best state parks on the east coast and the oldest recognized park out of all US state parks. Millions of visitors visit the park in northwest New York every year.
The park overlooks three of the waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Canadian Falls. For an up-close look at the falls, guests can take a boat tour along the river at the bottom of the falls, as well as in the famous caves below the falls.
In addition to seeing the falls, there are hiking trails at the park. There is also a scenic trolley that gives a three-mile-long guided tour of the park. The trolley also acts as a way to move through the park and get on and off at the popular spots.
Finally, another popular attraction is the two hundred and thirty-foot tall observation tower overlooking the American and Horseshoe Falls. Many guests go to the observation tower since it is the only place to see the famous Horseshoe Falls outside of Canada.
Address: 332 Prospect St, Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in New York State
Baxter State Park in Maine is a nature park named after Percival Baxter, a former governor of Maine and a nature lover during his life until he died in 1969.
The park spans more than 200,000 acres in northern Maine. The park is full of woods, mountains, lakes, and waterfalls.
Vistors can enjoy many outdoor activities in the park, including hunting, fishing, biking, and camping. There are many different types of campsites, including cabins, tent sites, and even unique lean-tos.
Over 50,000 acres in the park are open for hunting many types of animals. Fishing is also allowed in many of the ponds and streams.
In the winter, snowmobiles are allowed on some of the park's dirt roads. Since the park is north, the winters can get cold and snowy, but the weather is excellent in the summer but occasionally includes snow.
Wildlife in the park is abundant with moose, bears, and many birds, including hawks, owls, and eagles.
Address: 64 Balsam Dr, Millinocket, ME 04462
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Maine
Custer State Park is in southwest South Dakota. The park is over 70,000 acres large, making it the biggest state park in South Dakota. It was the first state park in South Dakota and is named after Civil and American War Lutenent George Custer.
It is one of the beautiful state parks in the US to hang out and relax with your family. The park is not far from Mount Rushmore National Park, so visiting both can easily be combined into one trip.
The park is home to a vast bison herd and many elk, deer, and other mountain animals for visitors looking to see wildlife. The "Begging Burros" also live in the park. They are native donkeys that are known for approaching cars and begging for food.
In addition to seeing the many animals, guests can explore the park by hiking or biking along the many miles of trails. There are lakes in the park where guests can swim and fish.
There are also campsites and cabins for overnight visitors. Finally, there is a horse park near the mountains with premarked horseback riding trails.
Address: 13329 US Hwy 16A, Custer, SD 57730
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in South Dakota
Ecola State Park in Astoria, Oregon, is one of the coolest state parks in the US. It stretches for nine miles on the northwest coast next to the Pacific Ocean.
In addition to the ocean's incredible views, there are beautiful forests, mountains, caves, and even an abandoned lighthouse. Many animals call the park their home, including deer, eagles, and even whales that can be spotted in the ocean.
Visitors can hike along the cliffs and beaches or the Clatsop Loop Trail. The two-and-a-half-mile-long trail was part of the historic Corps of Discovery journey, which ended at Tillamook Head, another place in the park with amazing views.
The beaches in the park have unique features and viewpoints, and they are great for surfing and exploring beautiful tide pools. Although overnight stays are not allowed in the park, there are many picnic areas for day use.
Address: 84318 Ecola Park Road, Seaside, Cannon Beach, OR 97110
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Oregon
Starved Rock State Park is one of the best state parks in the USA (and one of the most visited state parks in Illinois). Its popular attractions are the canyons and cliffs, which are thought to have formed thousands of years ago.
The park also sits along the Illinois River that includes the Starved Rock Lock and Dam. There are many types of fishes in the river, and fishing is allowed in the park. There are also more than 150 types of plants in the park.
At the park, you can hike along thirteen miles of trails that pass by rivers and canyons. It is recommended to visit the park in the summer for nice weather since the winters in Illinois are cold and snowy.
However, winter is best for birdwatchers since thousands of bald eagles call the park their home between December and February. Some waterfalls freeze in the winter, and ice fishing is allowed on the river.
Starved Rock Lodge is available for overnight visitors as well as campsites. Other activities at the park include kayaking, hunting, and boating.
Address: 2678 E 875th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Illinois
Akaka Falls State Park on Hawai’i Island is one of the most beautiful state parks in the US. The most popular attraction gives name to the park: Akaka Falls.
The waterfall is over 400-ft tall and is named after Cheif Akaka. There is a second smaller waterfall nearby called Kahna Falls.
Both waterfalls are visible from a short hiking trail along Hilo Coast that is less than a half-mile long. The coast and trail go through a beautiful rainforest that is home to many plants.
To keep the park clean and pretty, there is no overnight camping in the park and no bikes or pets. The weather at the park is very mild. Although there is occasional rain, the temperature stays warm but not hot, so perfect for the hike!
The hike is elevated but short enough that most people can do it. The park’s simplicity and beauty make it one of the most visited state parks in the US.
Address: 875 Akaka Falls Rd, Honomu, HI 96728
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Hawaii
Hocking Hills State Park in South Central Ohio is one of the most diverse American state parks. The park is divided into different hiking sections based on landscape. There are caves, cliffs, waterfalls, and other trails.
The most popular area in the park is Old Man’s Cave. The cave is along the Old Man’s Cave hiking trail, which is a one-mile-long trail. The cave area includes three different waterfalls and two gorges.
Visitors can spend the night at Hocking Hills at one of the many campsites spread throughout the park. All the sites are easily accessible by the hiking trails, which also allow leashed pets.
The hiking trails connect and have a variety of difficulty levels. Boating, fishing, and swimming are permitted at the park’s lakes, and hunting and archery are allowed in specific areas.
Plus, there are other unique activities that guests can participate in, such as zipline tours, horseback riding, and stargazing.
Address: 19852 OH-664, Logan, OH 43138
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Ohio
Devil’s Lake State Park is one of the best state parks in the US Midwest, and it is the largest state park in Wisconsin.
The lake spans 360 acres, and twelve thousand-year-old glaciers created it. Parallel to the lake are bluffs made of quartzite rock.
The most popular activity in the park is hiking. There are over 40 miles of hiking trails, some are handicap accessible, and others are for experienced hikers or even bikers.
Many of the trails are near the lake, and the elevated trails give good overlooks of the lake.
Many people also visit the park to rock climb on the hills made of rock. Other activities include swimming at the beach or boating on the lake.
Campsites are available for overnight stays. There are a variety of sites available, including group sites, indoor sites, and horse-friendly campgrounds.
For pleasant weather, plan to visit in the summer months since Wisconsin receives a lot of snow and frigid temperatures.
Address: S5975 Park Rd, Baraboo, WI 53913
Franconia Notch State Park is in New Hampshire and is full of mountains. The main attraction of the park is the Flume, a gorge between the park's mountains that visitors can walk through.
Another attraction is the historic Old Man of the Mountain. When viewed from a certain point in the park, the cliffs of the mountain depict a face, hence the name, but unfortunately, the face collapsed in 2003.
Cannon Mountain, a large ski resort, is a part of the park. Visitors can ride trams up the mountain all year round to see views of the park.
Echo Lake Beach is a popular spot in the park for water activities like swimming, boating, and fishing.
For overnight stays, you can reserve a campsite in the park, some of which allow tents, others can fit large RVs. Hiking trails wind through the park, along with a path specific to bikes.
Address: Flume Gorge, Daniel Webster Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in New Hampshire
Makoshika State Park in Glendive, Montana, is one of America's best state parks. The state park is the largest and most popular in Montana since it is famous for the stunning badlands, a type of rock formation made of dry, clay-like materials.
Archeologists have discovered many dinosaur fossils in the park, including complete skeletons. Some of the fossils found are on display at the park’s visitor center, and there are also educational displays with the park’s history and the significance of the dinosaurs.
In addition to seeing the fossils, there are many hiking trails to be explored in the park. There are tent and RV campsites available for overnight stays year-round.
Archery and hunting are also allowed in designated areas, and you can find a variety of wildlife in the park including Turkey vultures, golden eagles, and prairie falcons.
Address: 1301 Snyder St, Glendive, MT 59330
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Montana
Letchworth State Park is located in Castile, New York. The park is centered on the Genesee River. The river runs through a large gorge and over three large waterfalls.
There is a gorge in the north part of the park to control flooding. At the south end, there is a live railroad that goes over one of the waterfalls. A road also runs through the park next to the gorge, so expect the drive to be a scenic one.
Since the river is a large part of the park, popular activities include swimming, rafting, kayaking, and fishing.
Hiking is prominent in the park with sixty-six miles of trails. The trails have different views and levels, and some trails are specific to horseback riding and hiking.
In the winter, trails open up for snowmobiling, snow tubing, and cross-country skiing. Camping is also available in tents or RVs throughout the park. Hunters can hunt as well in designated areas.
Address: 1 Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY 14427
Cayo Costa State Park, located in Captiva, Florida, is among the best state parks in the United States and for good reasons.
The park is on a seven-mile-long island situated on Florida’s west coast by the Gulf of Mexico. The only way to reach the park is by boat or helicopter.
Since the park is surrounded by water, popular activities include swimming, boating, snorkeling, diving, fishing, and collecting seashells. Inland, there are hiking trails, bike trails, and many areas to picnic.
Camping is also allowed on the island in cabins and tents. There are also boat docks on the water for people to park their boats and even stay in them overnight.
The park is open all year round, and the weather in Florida stays warm. Many animals and birds live on the islands and the beaches like manatees and sea turtles.
Address: Captiva, FL 33924
Hunting Island State Park in Beaufort, South Carolina, is an island on the east coast of the United States. The island spans across 5000 acres, and it is the most popular park in the state.
The park is known for its beautiful beaches. On the beach is Hunting Island Lighthouse, the only public lighthouse in South Carolina that is one hundred and thirty feet tall. Visitors can climb up the lighthouse and see the island’s beauty from the top.
Campsites allow guests to stay on the island overnight in tents or RVs and enjoy activities such as hunting, biking, and photography.
Along the five miles of beaches, swimming, boating, and strolling the sand are popular things to do. There is a nature center on the island that educates visitors on the animals that habitat in the park. There is a pier next to the nature center for fishing.
Address: 1775 Sea Island Pkwy St. Helena, Beaufort, SC 29920
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in South Carolina
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is located in Canyon, Texas, in the state’s northern part. The canyon is the second largest in the United States and is commonly referred to as the Grand Canyon of Texas.
The canyon is as deep as one thousand feet at some parts, and it stretches approximately one hundred and twenty miles long. The canyon was formed about millions of years, and Native Americans began living in and near the canyon thousands of years ago.
Guests can explore sixteen different hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails in the park. Along the trails are campsites for tents and RVs, with cabins also available to rent.
A popular site in the park is the Canyon Gallery. The gallery has educational and historical exhibits, and the overlook of the canyon from the gallery is one of the best views in the park. The park is also a popular destination for birdwatchers.
Address: 11450 State Hwy Park Rd 5, Canyon, TX 79015
Chimney Rock State Park, located in Asheville, North Carolina, is one of the best state parks in America. The park sits on more than 8000 acres of land and is located in the state’s western part.
The most popular site is Chimney Rock, a three hundred and fifteen-foot tall granite monolith. The monolith is a vast, single rock that guests can ascend for beautiful views of the park.
Another feature is Hickory Nut Falls, a waterfall more than 400-feet tall. Visitors can reach the bottom of the waterfall on a round hiking trail that is approximately one and a half miles long, though it may be difficult for some people.
Finally, visitors can view the famous Devil’s Head balancing rock inside the park. There are other hiking and biking trails in the park for guests to use, and fishing is allowed on the park’s river.
Although camping is not permitted in the park, there are many picnic areas and a restaurant to use during a day-long visit.
Address: Chimney Rock, NC 28720
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in North Carolina
Castle Rocks State Park is a unique park located at the southern border of Idaho. The park is in the Albion Mountains at the base of Cache Peak.
Cache Peak is one of the highest mountain peaks at over 10,000 feet. Historically, people have been living near the mountains and the park for thousands of years.
The most popular activity at the park is rock climbing since there are many mountains. Other activities include hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
During the winter, trails are open for snowshoeing. While exploring the park, visitors will see amazing views of the mountains surrounding them. Campsites are available in the park’s forest for both tents and RVs, or rent a cabin or yurt.
Address: 748 E Castle Rock Rd, Almo, ID 83312
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Idaho
Island Beach State Park is one of America's best state parks for beach and water lovers. The park is located in the coastal town of Seaside Park, New Jersey, on the Atlantic Ocean.
Since the most popular attractions at the park are beaches, it is famous among the visitors for water activities such as swimming, boating, surfing, and fishing.
The best time to visit the beaches is in the summer when the temperature is highest. The beaches have lifeguards on duty to ensure the safety. It is too cold to swim in the winter, but fishing and walking along the beaches is still permitted.
A significant area of the park is not open to visitors to protect its natural habitat. There are many miles of sand dunes at the park that are untouched. Many plants and animals thrive in the habitat here, including birds and marine animals.
Address: Seaside Park, NJ 08752
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in New Jersey
Palouse Falls State Park is a 94-acre park located in Washington state. The most popular attraction and the park’s namesake is Palouse Falls.
The waterfall is two hundred feet tall and falls into a large canyon. The waterfall and canyon were created during the last ice age when many glacial floods ran through the area.
It is easy to reach a viewpoint of the falls on a short hiking trail. Near the waterfall are campsites and picnic areas for guests to use during their stay.
The campsites can accommodate tents and RVs. The park is also a popular site for birdwatching and seeing wild animals that inhabit the park.
Address: Palouse Falls Rd, Lacrosse, WA 99143
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is one of the best state parks to visit in the US and the largest state park in Michigan.
The park features the Porcupine Mountains, also known as the Porkies, a mountain range with a large northern hardwood forest area. Lake of the Clouds is the most popular overlook in the park, although there are others, including an observation tower.
Inside the park, visitors can explore over ninety miles of hiking trails that pass waterfalls, the forest, and the beautiful shoreline on Michigan’s coast.
There is a disc golf course at the park, and in the winter, you can visit the ski area. Camping is available in many different areas of the park, and cabins are available to rent. Nature is abundant and you'll see wild plants and animals in the park, including moose, foxes, wolves, and eagles.
Address: 33303 Headquarters Rd, Ontonagon, MI 49953
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Michigan
These are the 25 best state parks in the USA for anyone looking to explore the outdoors. Although small in size as compared to national parks, there is no shortage of activities in the state parks. Hiking, fishing, camping, and swimming are some of the popular activities at these parks.
A visit to one of these US state parks will give you a chance to soak in the dramatic natural scenery that includes mountains, canyons, rivers, and oceans.
You can find the state parks throughout the US, from Hawaii to Maine and from Washington state to Florida. No matter where you are, there will be one of these great state parks near you!