Bucket List October 17, 2022
These 19 Bucket-List Worthy State Parks That Rival Any Of The Country’s National Parks
National Park System encompasses 423 national park sites in the United States. They span across more than 84 million acres, with parks in each of the 50 states and extending into the outlying territories. Within this expansive system, there are 63 sites that include “National Park” as part of their proper name, including well-known places like Acadia, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon.
And then, there’s the state parks.
There are over 6,600 state park sites in the U.S. covering
14 million acres of land. These parks provide a wide range of recreation opportunities in accessible, close-to-home settings. And when we say “opportunities,” we mean bucket-list-level opportunities. Some of the most glorious parks in the country are, in fact, our state parks! These are places with sublime scenic beauty, unrivaled recreation, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. In short, these are superlative state parks that belong on everyone’s bucket list, offering adventures that rival anything you’d find at our country’s finest national parks.
Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park - California
Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park's 10,000 acres are managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and California State Parks, and feature the most beautiful and lush, old-growth forest in Northern California. This spacious expanse is one of our country's most precious and protected treasures -- and success stories. During western expansion in the 1800s, the redwoods were under siege. The massive trees offered early settlers a seemingly endless lumber supply; however, within 100 years, the vast forests had dwindled to a shadow of their former glory. By the early 1900s, it was apparent that the future of the old-growth redwood forests was in jeopardy. But thanks to the actions of California's Save-the-Redwoods League, these glorious giants received the protection they needed. Today,
Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park
is one of the most wondrous and wild places in the country, and its massive size means this treasure is generally not very crowded, either. If you want to lose yourself in the forest à la John Muir, visit this California State Park.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Crescent City, CA 95531, USA
Emerald Bay State Park - California
Lake Tahoe is a California icon, and
Emerald Bay State Park
is a stunning natural area that features one of the world-famous lake's most photographed locations. This state park is everything you'd hope for at Lake Tahoe, with endless skies, verdant (or,
, as it were) forests, and shockingly blue waters. In addition to the astounding natural beauty of this park, it's home to the Vikingshom mansion, a commanding castle that's an incredible example of Scandinavian architecture -- visit it by hiking down a steep, one-mile trail. Emerald Bay is also home to unique underwater trail for SCUBA divers and adventurers, too, making this a year-round destination for adventure seekers, outdoor enthusiasts, wildlife lovers, and dreamers.
Emerald Bay State Park, 138 Emerald Bay Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150, USA
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - California
One of the most objectively beautiful places in the entire country,
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
is a vibrant jewel that represents the most sublime beauty of California's Pacific Coast. The park is named for a beloved pioneer woman in Big Sur; the daughter of one of the first settlers to the California town, in fact. Rugged and resplendent, with the rocky outcroppings of the Pacific Coast and cerulean waters of Hawaii, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park can only be described as wildly, wonderfully beautiful.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, 52801 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
Silver Falls State Park - Oregon
Of all the beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest,
Silver Falls State Park
truly is on another level. This park is breathtakingly beautiful; it possesses many of the PNW’s unique features and wonders; and with an abundance of stellar trails and campsites, Silver Falls stands out as Oregon’s single best state park. At 9,000 glorious acres, Silver Falls is the largest and most popular state park in Oregon, and it's easy to see why once you see all this wondrous place has to offer. Silver Falls State Park is home to a lush temperate rain forest of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, Oregon grape, and a plethora of other native trees and plants. Of course, this Oregon State Park is best-known for its waterfalls, with South Falls the most spectacular, and the smaller North Falls and Middle Falls also to be admired. While Crater Lake often steals the show in terms of the Oregon parks podium, Silver Falls State Park is, in our opinion, as lovely as its national park sibling.
Silver Falls State Park, 20024 Silver Falls Hwy SE, Sublimity, OR 97385, USA
Makoshika State Park - Montana
Widely regarded as the single best park in Montana (national *or* state),
Makoshika State Park
is an otherworldly expanse that encompasses 11,538 acres at an elevation of 2,415 feet. This park -- the largest state park in Montana, in fact -- looks positively alien, with its terrain and topography unlike anything else in Big Sky Country. Not only is Makoshika State Park hauntingly beautiful, but it has been one of the largest sites for fossil discoveries in Montana, making it a rich place for recreation
Makoshika State Park Road, Makoshika State Park Rd, Glendive, MT 59330, USA
Custer State Park - South Dakota
Custer State Park
is in a league of its own; it's so scenically stunning, in fact, that many believe it should receive National Park status. Its landscape is a study in juxtaposition: somehow stark and soft, unmoving and undulating, all at the same time. Rocky outcroppings and jagged peaks intermingle with soft foliage and active wildlife, with the topography both mountainous and flat. While the landscape alone is worth the trip to Custer, the park is also unique in that it is home to an annual bison roundup, an incredible spectacle that certainly belongs on any wildlife enthusiast's bucket list.
Custer State Park Spur, Custer, SD 57730, USA
Tettegouche State Park - Minnesota
Tettegouche State Park
is a magnificent Minnesota state park nestled on the banks of Lake Superior. It covers more than 9,000 acres along the North Shore, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers in this far-north region of the state. Regardless of where you live (Minnesota or otherwise), it's worth discovering, though. With its rocky cliffs, rushing waterfall, and amazing views of Lake Superior, Tettegouche State Park is a picturesque park that represents the best and most beautiful features of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Tettegouche State Park, 5702 MN-61, Silver Bay, MN 55614, USA
Valley of Fire State Park - Nevada
It's almost incomprehensible that
Valley of Fire State Park
, a natural wonderland of fiery red sandstone formations, is hiding just beyond the bright city lights of Las Vegas. In addition to being the most visually stunning Nevada State Park, it's also the state's oldest. The Civilian Conservation Corps began work on the land in 1933 and it was officially designated a state park in 1935. During your first visit, you'll instantly understand why the park received its name. Consisting of nearly 46,000 acres, vibrant, violently red rock formations stretch for as far as the eye can see. It's an astonishing spectacle to witness with your own eyes; a moving experience you won't soon forget.
Valley of Fire State Park, 29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV 89040, USA
Palo Duro Canyon State Park - Texas
Hailed as the "Grand Canyon of Texas,"
Palo Duro Canyon
is the second largest canyon in the country. Within the eponymous state park, there are numerous ways to explore the canyon, starting with its 30 miles of trails. This canyon is 120 miles long and 20 miles wide, and is up to 800 feet deep in some areas. A place of immense history, you can see the beautiful colors of four geologic layers painted on the colossal canyon walls. The canyon began forming a million years ago -- but the walls of the canyon tell a much older geologic story, one that began 250 million years ago! Prepare to experience total awe and wonder at this Texas State Park.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, 11450 State Hwy Park Rd 5, Canyon, TX 79015, USA
Caddo Lake State Park - Texas
Caddo Lake State Park
is an otherworldly expanse that is certainly not what most envision when conjuring up images of Texas. If it helps, this Texas State Park straddles the lines between Texas and Louisiana, which certainly explains the landscape a bit. Because the landscape? It's dramatic, lush, and, frankly, a bit unsettling. Caddo Lake is not only the sole natural lake in Texas, but also the world's single-largest bald cypress forest. Thick Spanish moss hangs down into the water, creating a hauntingly beautiful scene guaranteed to capture the imaginations all who experience it.
Caddo Lake State Park, 245 Park Rd 2, Karnack, TX 75661, USA
Hunting Island State Park - South Carolina
Pristine and postcard-perfect,
Hunting Island State Park
is a gem hiding in South Carolina. The state's most-visited state park features five miles of beaches, including a gorgeous boneyard beach with sun-bleached downed trees. It also includes a campground, nature trails, a nature center, and a circa 1875 lighthouse that's open for tours. And while hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the park each year, since there is an
to explore, Hunting Island State Park rarely feels crowded.
Hunting Island, South Carolina 29920, USA
Chimney Rock State Park - North Carolina
North Carolina is home to 41 state parks, but most agree that
Chimney Rock State Park
stands out as the best. Because while a number of states in America have natural wonders they've dubbed "chimney rock" (Nebraska, Minnesota, and Kentucky, to name only a few), the 315-foot naturally occurring chimney rock at Chimney Rock State Park is wholly unique, offering intrepid explorers epic, 360-degree views. (The best part? Elevator access makes this scenic vista accessible for all!) Headlining rock aside, the Chimney Rock is home to some can't-miss trails that lead to equally extraordinary views, one of which leads to the most iconic waterfall in the state.
Chimney Rock State Park, 431 Main St, Chimney Rock, NC 28720, USA
Fall Creek Falls State Park - Tennessee
Tennessee is a state that's rife with waterfalls, from the cascades that stud the Mississippi to the cavernous expanse of the Great Smoky Mountains. The entire state is known for its natural beauty, of course, but it’s these incredible natural water features that really make their mark.
Fall Creek Falls State Park
is the most-visited state park in the state, and for good reason: it’s the home of the tallest waterfall in the state of Tennessee, the eponymous Fall Creek Falls. At a commanding 256 feet tall, Fall Creek Falls is not only the highest waterfall in the park, but also the eastern United States. It's a dazzling vision sure to delight even the hardest-to-please adventurer seekers.
Fall Creek Falls State Park, 2009 Village Camp Rd, Spencer, TN 38585, USA
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park - Kentucky
In terms of state parks,
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
reigns supreme. It's 1,657 acres of pure Bluegrass beauty, offering visitors an extraordinary park experience. The hiking here is unrivaled; In total, there are 12 hiking trails throughout the park, and they'll take you past some truly remarkable rock formations, historic bridges, and other impressive natural features, including, of course, the eponymous falls. Cumberland Falls -- Kentucky's "Niagara of the South" -- is a majestic 68-foot waterfall on the Cumberland River. And Not only is Cumberland Falls an awe-inspiring force; it's also the site of a rare natural phenomenon. Known as a "moonbow," Cumberland Falls is one of the few places on the planet that regularly produces this prismatic phenomenon, created when light is refracted in the waterfall's spraying water droplets. This stunning spectacle happens regularly, too, and it's definitely worth timing your visit to coincide with it.
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, 7351 KY-90, Corbin, KY 40701, USA
Hocking Hills State Park - Ohio
Ohio is home to a truly beautiful national park, but that's not the only extraordinary park up the Buckeye State's sleeve. In southeastern Ohio's Appalachia,
Hocking Hills State Park
boasts some of the most sublime scenery and bucket-list-worthy outdoor recreation in the region. The hiking here is second to none; the trails within this 2,356-acre Ohio State Park feature incredible natural wonders like waterfalls, caves, cliffs, and rock formations. Between Old Man's Cave, Ash Cave, Devil’s Bathtub, and Cedar Falls, you could literally spend days exploring dozens of caves and waterfalls in Hocking Hills, and that's an outdoor adventure we'd happily embark upon.
Hocking Hills State Park, 19852 OH-664, Logan, OH 43138, USA
Watkins Glen State Park - New York
Watkins Glen State Park
is the most popular state park in the Finger Lakes region, and for good reason. The park's iconic Rainbow Bridge and Falls are absolutely breathtaking - so beautiful, in fact, they don't look real. The hikes in this state park are equally enchanting; the trails winding through verdant green forests that feature stone staircases, secret caves, and trickling waterfalls. Watkins Glen State Park is the closest you'll come to experiencing Tolkien's Middle Earth... and it's an absolutely sublime experience.
Watkins Glen State Park, 1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891, USA
Baxter State Park - Maine
Acadia National Park often steals the spotlight in the Pine Tree State, but Baxter State Park easily keeps pace with this national park.
Baxter State Park
in Millinocket offers 2,000 beautiful acres of land on which to explore, unwind, and let go. It also offers a chance for adventure-seekers to challenge themselves on some of the state's hardest trails. Governor Percival P. Baxter gifted the park to the state of Maine in 1931; his only stipulation was that it remain "forever wild." Today, if you visit, you'll see that the mandate has been taken seriously, as this is one of the most wild-feeling spots in all of New England.
Main Street, Main St, Maine, USA
Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park - Hawaii
Nestled on Kauai’s north shore,
Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park
is one of the most breathtaking and isolated state parks in the country. Despite its remoteness, the jagged coastline, towering mountains plunging to the sea, and bright and beautiful colors are iconic, instantly recognizable, and Hollywood famous. While visitors often opt for helicopter or boat tours of this park, the most immersive way to experience the Nā Pali Coast is on two legs! The Kalalau Trail is a bucket-list trek; the most popular section of the trail is the first stretch from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapiai Valley, a "sand trail" through Hawaii's jungle oasis. However, hikers who continue on the trail will be rewarded with unrivaled views of Hanakapiai Falls. Towering 300 feet into the sky, this waterfall truly looks like something falling from the heavens.
But really, everything at Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is of divine inspiration.
N? Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kapa?a, HI 96746, USA
Kachemak Bay State Park - Alaska
Kachemak Bay State Park
is a destination that should be at the very top of everyone explorer's bucket list. Located south of Homer, Alaska, this stunning state park is filled with extraordinary experiences, from whale watching and island hopping to hiking or kayaking past glaciers. Kachemak Bay is Alaska's very first state park, and it’s packed with a whopping 400,000 acres of some of the most awesome scenery on the planet: glaciers, towering mountain peaks, beautiful ocean bays, and stunning forested land and islands. Remote and rugged, you’ll have to fly in, or boat to the shoreline and hike into the park. While this remoteness might deter some, to us, it's perhaps *the* most enticing allure of the Last Frontier.
Kachemak Bay State Park, Homer, AK 99603, USA
There’s no better way to admire the splendor of
America the Beautiful than our parks — national *or* state. We hope the above superlative state parks across the U.S. provides ample fuel to feed your wanderlust for years to come. Address: Fall Creek Falls State Park, 2009 Village Camp Rd, Spencer, TN 38585, USA Address: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Crescent City, CA 95531, USA Address: Main Street, Main St, Maine, USA Address: Caddo Lake State Park, 245 Park Rd 2, Karnack, TX 75661, USA Address: Chimney Rock State Park, 431 Main St, Chimney Rock, NC 28720, USA Address: Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, 7351 KY-90, Corbin, KY 40701, USA Address: Custer State Park Spur, Custer, SD 57730, USA Address: Emerald Bay State Park, 138 Emerald Bay Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150, USA Address: Hocking Hills State Park, 19852 OH-664, Logan, OH 43138, USA Address: Hunting Island, South Carolina 29920, USA Address: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, 52801 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA Address: Kachemak Bay State Park, Homer, AK 99603, USA Address: Makoshika State Park Road, Makoshika State Park Rd, Glendive, MT 59330, USA Address: N? Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kapa?a, HI 96746, USA Address: Palo Duro Canyon State Park, 11450 State Hwy Park Rd 5, Canyon, TX 79015, USA Address: Silver Falls State Park, 20024 Silver Falls Hwy SE, Sublimity, OR 97385, USA Address: Tettegouche State Park, 5702 MN-61, Silver Bay, MN 55614, USA Address: Valley of Fire State Park, 29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV 89040, USA Address: Watkins Glen State Park, 1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891, USA
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