Great State and City Parks to Visit on Vacation

The United States is home to over 10,000 state parks that span a diverse variety of landscapes from arid deserts and vast prairies to the immense gorges of the Grand Canyon and the gushing geysers of Yellowstone. Spanning millions of acres across the country, America's state parks see more than 720 million visitors each year who come to soak up the spectacular natural beauty of alpine rivers, crystal clear lakes, snow-capped mountains, deep valleys, dense forests and bubbling hot springs. Here are some of the best state parks in the country.

Niagara Falls State Park

Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the United States and is home to several famous waterfalls, including the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, and a portion of the Horseshoe Falls, also known as the Canadian Falls. Open 365 days a year, Niagara Falls State Park features several adventure-packed experiences, including the Maid of the Mist boat tours, Goat Island, Cave of the Winds, the Prospect Point Observation Tower, an IMAX theater, and a statue of Nikola Tesla. Other attractions include Old Falls Street and its delectable dining options, concerts, festivals, family-friendly activities, and interactive exhibits; and miles of scenic hiking trails.

Niagara Falls State Park Visitor Center, 332 Prospect Street, Niagara Falls, NY 14303, Phone: 716-278-1794

Reid State Park

Reid State Park is a 770-acre park on Georgetown Island in Sagadahoc County, Maine that features pristine landscapes like rocky tidepools, sandy beaches, salt marshes, towering dunes, and tidal lagoons. The public recreation area overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on Georgetown Island, Sagadahoc County, Maine. The 770-acre park’s long, wide sandy beaches are nesting areas for endangered birds like piping plovers and the least terns along with other shorebirds and attract thousands of visitors every year who come to enjoy the picturesque natural scenery.

375 Seguinland Rd, Georgetown, ME 04548, United States, Phone: +1 207-371-2303

Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park 2,630-acre wilderness area on the Illinois River in La Salle County that is renowned for its spectacular steep sandstone canyons that have been formed by glacial meltwater over thousands of years and breathtaking waterfalls. Boasting a rich cultural history dating back to 8000 B.C., the park is named for a Native American Illiniwek tribesman who died of starvation on top of the 125-foot sandstone butte. One of Illinois' most beautiful destinations, the park offers a variety of recreational activities, ranging from camping and fishing to boating and hunting, and hiking on more than 13 miles of trails that lead to spectacular sandstone overhangs, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking overlooks.

2668 E 875th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348, United States, Phone: +1 815-667-4726

State Forest State Park

State Forest State Park is a 70,838-acre park in the Medicine Bow Range of the Rocky Mountains east of Walden, Colorado that boasts beautiful natural landscapes of dense forests, alpine lakes, and majestic mountain peaks, and a wealth of recreational activities. Established in 1970, the park features over 90 miles of hiking trails, 187 RV and tent campsites, as well as primitive camping sites, rustic cabins and yurts, picnic areas, and boat ramps, and is home to a wealth of diverse fauna and flora, including black bear, elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep. Outdoor recreational activities include hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, four-wheeling driving, and winter sports such as skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling.

56750 CO-14, Walden, CO 80480, United States, Phone: +1 970-723-836

'Akaka Falls State Park

'Akaka Falls State Park is a state park 11 miles north from Hilo Hawai?i’s Big Island and is home to the magnificent 442-foot tall ?Akaka Falls and the slightly smaller but no less magical, 300-foot tall Kahuna Falls. The four-mile ?Akaka Falls Loop Trail winds through a lush rainforest filled with wild orchids, bamboo groves, and draping ferns and past these waterfalls, offering an excellent hike with several viewpoints along the way. The Kahuna Falls has a spectacular 400-foot drop, which can be seen from a small overlook point about 800 feet beyond the ‘Akaka falls overlook. Both falls are best seen after a rainfall when the cascades are most impressive. Akaka Falls Rd, Honomu, HI 96728, USA, Phone: +1 808-961-9540

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Set along the Rio Grande in the Brewster and Presidio counties with 23 miles of river frontage, Big Bend Ranch State Park is a 311,000-acre state park and the largest in Texas. The park encompasses a network of open range cattle ranches and is home to vast herds of longhorn cattle that are rounded up on a semi-annual basis. Visitors to the park can enjoy a wealth of outdoor recreational activities, including river-rafting, kayaking, swimming and fishing, backpacking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking on over 238 miles of trails. Big Bend Ranch State Park is open year-round.

Big Bend National Park TX 79834, Phone: 432-477-2251

Kachemak State Park

Kachemak State Park is a massive 400,000-acre park encompassing pristine natural wildernesses that are home to spectacular landscapes of icefields, glaciers, dense forests, and sandy beaches, and a wealth of wildlife from whales, sea lions, and sea birds to bears, moose, and wolves. Alaska's first state park, this sprawling, the oceanfront reserve is accessible by boat or plane and boasts outstanding scenery and a variety of recreational activities from camping and hiking to fishing, boating, kayaking, and mountain sports. Kachemak Bay Park is home to a vast diversity of marine life, including whales, seals, sea otters, and porpoises, as well as land mammals like black bear, moose, black bear, coyotes, mountain goats, and wolves, and birds such as eagles, gyrfalcons and puffins.

Homer, AK 99603, United States, Phone: +1 907-262-5581

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

Set along the Middle Fork of the Red River in Powell and Wolfe Counties in Kentucky, the Natural Bridge State Resort Park is a public recreation area surrounded by the Daniel Boone National Forest that features spectacular naturally-formed rock arch bridges. The natural sandstone arch bridge, after which the park is named, spans 78 feet and stands 65-foot-high and has been eroded into its shape by the natural process of weathering over millennia. The 2,300-acre park offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking on over 20 miles of scenic trails, and primitive camping and rustic overnight cabins. The nature preserve protects ecological communities of fauna and flora, including critically endangered Virginia big-eared bats. 2135 Natural Bridge Rd, Slade, KY 40376, United States, Phone: +1 606-663-2214

Lake Tahoe State Park

Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park is a 14,300-acre park that surrounds Lake Tahoe, the ‘jewel of Nevada.’ Renowned for its spectacular natural beauty, Lake Tahoe is considered the jewel of the High Sierra. Famous for its cobalt-blue water and surrounding snowcapped peaks, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and draws visitors from around the world to explore and experience the region’s magnificent landscapes. The largest alpine lake in North America, Lake Tahoe boasts gently sloping beaches, crystal-clear water, and unusual rock formations and provides a wealth of activities from swimming, kayaking, and scuba diving at Sand Harbor to boating, fishing, and water-skiing. The crystal clear waters of the lake are ideal for water-based activities in the summer, such as kayaking, canoeing, swimming or boating, and the surrounding state parks, national forests, and protected tracts of wilderness boast a plethora of hiking trails, cycling tracks and picnic areas to enjoy. The winter months bring snow-covered slopes that cater for all levels of skier and cozy lakeside restaurants with crackling fireplaces boast beautiful winterscape views.

NV-28, Incline Village, NV 89451, United States, Phone: +1 775-831-0494

Laughing Whitefish Falls State Park

Laughing Whitefish Falls State Park is a state park named for and centered around the Laughing Whitefish Falls, which are formed by limestone escarpment whose shape draws the cascade into an unusual fan-shaped wall. Located in the townships of Onota and Rock River, in western Alger County, Michigan, the park is bisected by the Laughing Whitefish River, which flows through the Escanaba River State Forest and into Lake Superior. Considered to be the most spectacular of Michigan's falls, they cascade through a picturesque gorge lined with old-growth white pine and hemlock and can be reached by a moderate hike through beech-maple forest. Other hiking trails include the North Country Trail, which runs through the north end of the park and offers excellent bird and wildlife viewing.

Deerton, Michigan, Phone: (906) 341-2355

Makoshika State Park

Spanning more than 11,000 acres on the east-southeast of Glendive, Makoshika (Ma-ko’-shi-ka) State Park is the largest of Montana's state parks and is renowned for being the place where fossils from dinosaurs such as Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex were found. The park encompasses large juniper and pine-studded badlands and has several attractions, including a visitor center with interpretive displays, a campground with 15 sites, an outdoor amphitheater, and several hiking trails. Recreational activities in the park include archery, scenic drives, nature trails, disc golf, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife watching.

1301 Snyder St, Glendive, MT 59330, United States, Phone: +1 406-377-6256

Fort De Soto Park

Fort De Soto Park in Florida’s Pinellas County comprises five offshore keys, including Bonne Fortune Key, St. Christopher Key, St. Jean Key, Madelaine Key, and the main island of Mullet Key, all of which are connected by causeways. Located south of St. Petersburg, the park spans 1,136 acres of diverse landscapes, including mangroves, palm hammocks, wetlands, sandy beaches, hardwood forests, and native plants. The park is also home to a wealth of wildlife, including over 320 species of birds, turtles, reptiles, and marine mammals and amenities in the park include camping, boat launching facilities with 11 floating docks, picnic shelters, playgrounds, a dog park, restrooms, multipurpose hiking trails, two large swim centers, and two fishing piers.

3500 Pinellas Bayway S, St. Petersburg, FL 33715, United States, Phone: +1 727-582-2267

Fort Yargo State Park

Fort Yargo State Park is a 1,816-acre state park located in Winder, Georgia, with a 260-acre lake and a beautiful public beach. Located between Atlanta and Athens, the park features spectacular natural scenery and a wealth of amenities such as fully equipped cottages, lakeside yurts, and comfortable RV, tent and trailer campsites for overnight stays, picnic shelters, beach and lake pavilions, boat ramps, and a gift shop. The park also offers a variety of outdoor activities, including swimming, pleasure boating kayaking, and fishing on the lake, as well as hiking, mountain biking, geocaching, disc golf, and mini-golf. Fort Yargo State Park offers charming spaces for special events and functions like weddings.

210 S Broad St, Winder, GA 30680, United States, Phone: +1 770-867-3489

Franconia Notch State Park

Nestled in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest in northern New Hampshire, Franconia Notch State Park passes through Franconia Notch, a mountain pass between the Kinsman Range and Franconia Range. Once the home of the famous Old Man of the Mountain, the park is home to several attractions, including the Flume Gorge and its visitor center, the beautiful lakes of Echo and Profile, and the historic site of the Old Man of the Mountain. Activities in the park include hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding in winter, fishing, ice-fishing, and pleasure boating. The park is also home to the 1930s state-owned ski resort of Cannon Mountain.

Flume Gorge, Daniel Webster Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251, USA, Phone: +1 603-823-8800franconia-notch-state-park.aspx

Hocking Hills State Park

Nestled in the Hocking Hills region of Hocking County, Ohio, Hocking Hills State Park that features spectacular natural landscapes of deep canyons and caves, unique rock formations, cascading waterfalls, and over 25 miles scenic hiking trails. The hidden gem has rustic cabins and cottages for overnight stays and offers a range of daily educational programs, guided nature walks, bird and wildlife watching, and cave exploration experiences. The park has two campgrounds that offer both electric and non-electric, primitive sites with paved pads, hot showers, flushing toilets, laundry facilities, a dump station, a camp store, and activities like swimming, volleyball, playgrounds and horseshoe pits.

19852 OH-664, Logan, OH 43138, United States, Phone: +1 740-385-6842

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Kartchner Caverns State Park is a state park in Arizona that features spectacular limestone caverns filled with spectacular speleothems that are more than 50,000 years old. Located nine miles south of Benton, the park has a show cave with 2.4 miles of passages that were discovered by local cavers in 1974 and which have since been preserved with careful technical cave state park maintenance. Two significant features of the cave system include the Throne Room, which boasts the world’s longest soda straw stalactite and a 58-foot-high column called Kubla Khan, and the Big Room with the world's most extensive brushite moon milk formations. The caves can be explored on guided tours, except during the summer when the caves are a nursery roost for cave bats, and several hiking trails, including the 4.2-mile Guindani Trail, and the 2.5-mile the Foothills Loop Trail.

2980 AZ-90, Benson, AZ 85602, United States, Phone: +1 520-586-4100

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park is an 8,781-acre public recreation area on the East Fork Black River in Reynolds County, Missouri, and is managed together with the adjacent Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. Named for space where the width of a river is narrowed by hard rock that is resistant to erosion, Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park features several such shut-ins that cascade over weather-worn igneous rock to create a natural water park for visitors to enjoy. The park offers a variety of recreational activities such as rock climbing, camping, swimming, and hiking on several trails, including a quarter-mile paved walkway to an observation deck offering beautiful views of the shut-ins, the Goggins Mountain Equestrian Trail, and a section of the renowned Ozark trail.

148 Taum Sauk Trail, Middle Brook, MO 63656, United States, Phone: +1 573-546-2450

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a 3,700-acre located in the Big Sur Valley along scenic Highway 1 that is home to magnificent 300-year old redwood, oaks, and willows trees, spectacular beaches with world-class scuba diving, and the glorious McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall that cascades directly into the ocean. Visitors to the park can camp among old-growth redwood trees, and enjoy numerous activities such as picnicking, swimming, and wildlife watching and hiking the half-mile Waterfall Overlook Trail to soak up the breathtaking views of the McWay Falls, which drops 80 feet from granite cliffs into the ocean below. During December, January, March, and April, gray-whale migrations can be observed from overlook points throughout the park.

52801 California State Route 1, Big Sur, CA 93920, United States, Phone: +1 831-667-2315

Blackwater Falls State Park

Situated in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County in West Virginia, Blackwater Falls State Park is a large preserve centered around the 62-foot Blackwater Falls, a cascade formed by the Blackwater River leaving the Canaan Valley and falling into the rugged Blackwater Canyon. Named for its tannin-darkened waters, the Blackwater River winds its way through the park, offering excellent fishing, and kayaking. Other facilities in the park include a contemporary lodge with 54 rooms, 39 rustic cabins, a campground with 65 campsites, a casual restaurant, and a nature center with exhibits that showcase the history of the park. Visitors to the park can enjoy recreational activities such as hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, nature walks, wildlife watching, and fishing in the Blackwater River and Pendleton Lake.

1584 Blackwater Lodge Rd, Davis, WV 26260, United States, Phone: +1 304-259-5216

Boston Harbor Islands State Park

Boston Harbor Islands State Park forms part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area and encompasses 34 islands and peninsulas spread over 50 square miles in and around the Boston Harbor. Situated just minutes from Boston’s city center, the urban oasis is home to several interesting attractions and sites, including America's oldest lighthouse, Civil War-era forts, and campsites on four islands that are only accessible by boat. Each island in the park has a unique character and vibe and can be explored by scenic ferry rides. Seasonal camping is permitted on Bumpkin, Grape, Lovells, and Peddocks Island, and a permit is required for off-season camping.

191W Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02110, Phone: 617-223-8666

Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park is a 6,807-acre park named after its centerpiece – the 535-million-year-old monolith rock known as Chimney Rock. Located 27 miles southeast of Asheville at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Chimney Rock State Park offers a variety of recreational outdoor activities including a network of hiking trails for all skill levels, some of which lead to the top of Chimney Rock State Park where 75-mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge can be enjoyed. The Park is also home to a spectacular 400-foot waterfall, and the Great Woodland Adventure, which features 12 ‘Discovery Stations’ for kids and their families. The park is also famous for one of the locations in the Hollywood movie, The Last of the Mohicans.

431 Main St, Chimney Rock, NC 28720, Phone: 828-625-9611

Custer State Park

Tucked away in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota, Custer State Park is a state park and wildlife reserve named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer. South Dakota's largest and first state park, Custer State Park encompasses 71,000 acres of spectacular terrain is one of the last remaining wild sanctuaries in the country where buffalo roam freely. Custer State Park is packed with fantastic recreational activities, from hiking to hay wagon riding. Hit one of the many trails on foot, horseback or mountain bike and soak up the natural beauty of the area. Buffalo Jeep Safaris travel through the park in open-air jeeps in search of buffalo, elk, and pronghorns and can be combined with a Chuck Wagon Cookout at the end of the safari.

25453 SD-87, Custer, SD 57730, United States, Phone:+1 605-255-4531

Devil's Lake State Park

An enchanting gem in the heart of Oregon's attractive Lincoln City, the less-than-sweetly named Devil’s Lake is the 685-acre freshwater lake that was formed by a blockade of dunes from a nearby beach in approximately 14,000 BC. Situated in a unique location on Oregon's Pacific Ocean coast, Devil’s Lake is connected to the ocean by the D River and offers excellent fishing for coho salmon, grass carp, and rainbow trout. Surrounded by riparian life, creeks, beaches, wetlands, forests, and oceans, Devils Lake is an area of outstanding biodiversity, and nature-lovers will delight in the wealth of bird species such as coots, common grebes, cormorants, egrets, and various species of ducks.

West Oregon

Ecola State Park

Stretching nine miles along the beautiful Oregon coastline, Ecola State Park is a small park perched on Tillamook Head overlooking the famous Cannon Beach, which was made famous in the Hollywood films, The Goonies and Point Break. The park can be explored by driving the scenic Ecola Park Road, which winds its way through pristine landscapes of old-growth rainforest and lush spruce forest, secluded coves, and grassy bluffs overlooking its stunning beaches. The park’s main attractions include Indian Beach, Ecola Point, which doubles as a lookout point and a trailhead for the Lighthouse Trail, and several hiking trails with breathtaking vistas. The park is home to a diverse array of birds and wildlife, ranging from herds of Roosevelt elk, bald eagles, and migrating gray whales.

84318 Ecola Park Road, Seaside, Cannon Beach, OR 97110, United States, Phone: +1 800-551-6949

Elephant Butte Lake State Park

Located along the shore of Elephant Butte Reservoir just north of Truth or Consequences in New Mexico, Elephant Butte Lake State Park surrounds the 36,000-acre reservoir and is the largest state park in New Mexico. Named after an elephant-shaped butte at the head of the dam, the park offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and camping in one of three developed camps on the lake that features over 200 camping and picnicking sites, marinas, and grocery stores. The lake is ideal for water-based activities such as house-boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming, and scuba-diving.

101 NM-195, Elephant Butte, NM 87935, United States, Phone: +1 575-744-5923