Most Spectacular State Parks

Most Spectacular State Parks

The U.S. has more than 10,000 state park areas comprising over 18 million acres. They were visited by 740 million Americans in 2014, generating about $20 billion in revenue for local communities, according to the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD). State parks are smaller than national parks – America's "best idea" – but what they lack in size they make up with sheer beauty, opportunities for active adventures, and quality relaxation retreats. They are not as well-known as national parks, which makes them less visited – something many outdoor fans will consider a bonus.

Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee

Fall Creek Falls State Park is Tennessee's largest and most visited park. It encompasses more than 26,000 acres sprawled across the eastern top of the rugged Cumberland Plateau. Visitors have a long outdoor to-do list. The waterfall, which the park is named after, stands at 256 feet and is one of the tallest in the eastern U.S. Within the park's perimeters you'll find three more impressive falls, more than 34 miles of hiking trails amid hardwood forests you can explore on foot or on horseback, an interactive nature center, and an 18-hole golf course. Overnight visitors can book a room in the Fall Creek Falls Inn and more adventurous travelers can take advantage of the park's cabins and campsites. For those who really like to rough it, backcountry camping is also available with a permit.

Baxter State Park, Maine

Baxter State Park is home to the state's highest mountain, Mt. Katahdin, at 5,270 feet. Most of the visitors are hikers and campers who traverse the more than 200 miles of hiking trails to witness stunning views of New England and sleep under the stars at the park's ten campgrounds. This park of colossal splendor is one of the absolute best places to go whitewater rafting in the East. Hunting, wildlife watching, swimming and boating are also popular activities.

Empire Mine State Historic Park, California

Exploring Empire Mine State Historic Park is a unique experience. You will see the site of one of the oldest, largest, deepest, longest and richest gold mines in California. The mine is more than 100 years old, and it used to produce 5.6 million ounces of gold – 7 feet long, 7 feet high, and 7 feet deep box filled with gold – before it closed in 1956. The park still has most of the mine's buildings, the owner's home and restored gardens, as well as the entrance to 367 miles of abandoned and flooded mine shafts. Visitors can also go on easy backcountry forested hikes, mountain biking and horseback riding.

Cathedral Caverns State Park, Alabama

The Cathedral Caverns State Park was originally called Bat Cave. It was renamed because of its cathedral-like appearance. The huge Caverns – 126 feet wide and 25 feet high – are its massive entrance. Once you go in, you'll pass by some of the most gorgeous formations you may ever see, including "Goliath," which one of the largest stalagmites in the world measuring 45 feet tall and 243 feet in circumference. Other popular sites are a "caveman" perched atop a flowstone wall and a "frozen" waterfall of stone. Go on a 90-minute cave tour or stay overnight at a campsite with primitive tent camping areas.

Chugach State Park, Alaska

Chugach State Park has 495,000 acres of land and is one of the four largest state parks in the country. There are many recreational opportunities to suit the most adventurous visitorshorseback riding, boating, off-road tours, hiking. Don't miss the Crow Pass trail to the Raven, one of the most scenic day hikes in the U.S. These 21 miles out and back are considered the best hike in all of the Chugach Mountains. Crow Pass follows a portion of the original Iditarod Trail, including its highest point, according to The first 4-5 miles are enough to get a true feeling of the spectacular scenery along the route – glaciers, waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife, mine ruins, and berries.

Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida

You will find many stunning beaches in Florida but some of the absolute best—and quietest—are, as you can probably guess by the name, in the Honeymoon Island State Park. Nature lovers will find osprey nests, a wide variety of shorebirds and one of the few remaining virgin slash pine forests in South Florida. There are many nature trails and bird observation areas. Swimming, fishing, snorkeling and picnicking, while relishing gorgeous scenery are what most visitors do. Summer cycling and kayaking are other active adventures people like there.

Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas

Devil's Den State Park – located in in the beautiful Ozarks, which are renowned for their natural beauty and lush oak-hickory forest – is a state's icon. Visitors can't get enough of the park's striking vegetation and captivating waterfalls. For some of the best views around, hike along the stunning Yellow Rock Trail. If you want to stay the night, there are about 20 cabins and more than 140 campsites to choose from. Backpacking and mountain bike trails are also popular as they lead to the surrounding Ozark National Forest.

Belle Isle, Michigan

Belle Isle Park is a Detroit gem, rich with history and natural beauty. The 985-acre island park is situated on the Detroit River between the U.S. and Canada. See the lush botanical garden, visit the nature zoo, and go to the Yacht Club, the largest of its kind in the country. Don't miss the oldest aquarium in the U.S. with more than 1,000 fish and tour the oldest continually running conservatory in the country, boasting 13 acres.

Tishomingo State Park, Mississippi

Tishomingo State Park is situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The park is immersed in history and picturesque splendor. "Archaeological excavations confirm the presence of Paleo Indians in the area now encompassed by the park as early as 7000 B.C." The well-known Natchez Trace Parkway, the premier highway of the early 1800s and a modern scenic parkway, runs directly through the park. Visitors get a chance to witness unique landscape of massive rock formations and fern-filled crevices found nowhere else in Mississippi, making them feel as if they are living in  prehistoric time.

Kanapolis State Park, Kansas

Kanapolis State Park is located amidst the striking Smoky Hills region of Kansas and is treasured for its many miles of hiking trails that meander through canyons, prairies and wooded creek bottoms. The sublime Dakota sandstone bluffs and craggy Horsethief Canyon decorate the park and its surrounding area presenting pristine views of what's considered some of Kansas' most stunning scenery. The 3,500-acre lake and 12,500-acre wildlife area provide anglers and hunters abundant fish and game.

Bogue Chitto State Park, Louisiana

Showcasing some of southern Louisiana's most remarkable landscapes, Bogue Chitto State Park is a perfect campground for all types of outdoor enthusiasts. Accommodations for tent, cabin and RV camping are available and as home to streams, rivers, swamps, forests, and rolling hills, the 1,786-acre park offers opportunities for everything from kayaking to horseback riding tofresh water fishing and perfectly picturesque picnicking.

Monmouth Battlefield State Park, New Jersey

Once a turbulent battlefield during the Revolutionary War, the hilly farmland setting of New Jersey's Monmouth Battlefield is now better recognized as a peaceful state park. Visitors are welcome to participate in activities like hiking, apple picking, bird watching, and horseback riding, and with a landscape that offers everything from wooded paths to open meadows. After a long day of exploring, the only thing left to do is choose the perfect picnic spot.

Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Hocking Hills State Park is treasured for its variety of recreational opportunities in  superb natural scenery. The 2,356-acre park has towering cliffs, waterfalls and deep hemlock-shaded valleys to appeal to hikers and naturalists. Primitive camping and staying at cottages is available. Hiking is by far the most popular adventure, but archery and hunting rank very high as well.

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina

Hunting Island State Park is the "single most popular" state park in the state as it attracts more than a million visitors annually. On the well-preserved, five-mile stretch of South Carolina coast you'll find a maritime forest, the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state and the white-tipped waves of the Atlantic. Some of the unique features of the park include about 3,000 acres of salt marsh and more than four miles of beach, a large lagoon, created by sand dredging in 1968, and unexpected species such as  seahorses and barracuda.  

Assateague State Park, Maryland

Assateague State Park, situated on Assateague Island is Maryland's only oceanfront park. Its two miles of ocean beaches offer swimming, beachcombing, sunbathing, surfing and fishing. The bayside offers visitors the chance to explore secluded coves by canoe or kayak. The marsh areas have a variety of wildlife, including deer, waterfowl and feral horses, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Adirondack State Park, New York

Outdoorsy travelers will love the Adirondacks. The state park is known for skiing and snowboarding at Whiteface Mountain and whitewater rafting in the fall, but the warmer months offer an adventurous experience like none other. The entire mountain range in the northeast of Upstate New York is filled with iconic scenic roads where you can even bike along wine trails. They will also take you to incredible museums, lavish forests, as well as bike festivals, paddling contests and golf courses.