While national parks get most of the press, each state offers at least a few state parks that rival their big-league cousins in beauty, diversity, and scale. From lovely, sandy coastal parks to striking, mountainous landscapes, America is full of parks that represent the unique beauty that each state has to offer. Check out the best of the best in our list of the most enchanting state parks in America.
Alabama: Cathedral Caverns State Park
Located in Woodville, visiting this park feels like stepping into another world. Wander through stalagmite forests and past a "frozen" waterfall of stone. The park is also home to "Goliath," a 45-foot tall and 243-foot wide stalagmite. It is one of the largest in the world. Tours last about 90 minutes and will take you through approximately a mile and half of spectacular caverns.
Alaska: Wood-Tikchik State Park
Located in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Alaska, this park has the distinction of being the most remote in the country. Needless to say, it's a great place to go if you need to get away from it all. Visitors can take advantage of the great fishing, hunting, and hiking opportunities the park has to offer, as well as explore the beautiful and vast tundra of the Nushagak lowlands.
Arizona: Kartchner Caverns State Park
Head to the eastern side of the Whetstone Mountains and experience some of the largest cave formations in the country. The caverns are home to colonies of bats, and the caves are considered to be "live" and still undergoing formation processes. Above ground, this park is a great location for fishing, hiking, camping, birding, and star-gazing.
Arkansas: Devil's Den State Park
Situated in the beautiful Ozarks, this state park is awash in beautiful flora and enchanting waterfalls. Hikers will love the scenic Yellow Rock Trail, which offers some of the best views of the park. The park also offers 17 cabins and many different campsites for overnight visitors.
California: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
California is filled with natural wonders, but its redwood forests definitely rank amongst the most enchanting. Head to this state park and check out the world's largest coast redwood, which stands 340 feet tall and is 20 feet in diameter.
Colorado: Mueller State Park
Featuring more than 5,000 acres of diverse ecosystems, this state park offers a little bit of everything. With over 55 miles of hiking trails, great biking areas, plenty of campsites, and even Geocaching opportunities, Mueller may be the most full-featured park in Colorado.
Connecticut: Rocky Neck State Park
Located in East Lyme, this state park is a great summertime destination. With plenty of rocky coastline to explore and lots of sandy spots to spread your towel, there's an endless amount of seaside fun to be had here. And with 710 acres of land, including marshes and forests, this place will keep you busy for multiple visits.
Delaware: Cape Henlopen State Park
Head to Lewes to check out one of the oldest state parks in the country. Cape Henlopen State Park was set aside for public use during colonial times, and contributed to the war effort during World War II. Today, this is a great place for beach days, fishing, and ecological tours.
Florida: Florida Caverns State Park
Located near Marianna, this state park offers plenty of above-ground and subterranean activities that are sure to please. Book one of their cave tours to learn about the park's spectacular caverns, or check out some of the beautiful kayaking and biking areas. And don't forget to play a few rounds on the park's scenic nine-hole golf course.
Georgia: Tallulah Gorge State Park
This park is full of gorgeous waterways and cascades. Lovers of beautiful waterfalls and complicated capitalization shouldn't miss L’Eau d’Or Falls. The park also offers a few waterfalls that are perfect for sliding down and swimming. The surrounding mountainside is also a great place for some woodland hiking.
Hawaii: Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai
Imagine if the the Grand Canyon were carpeted in lush, green foliage and the sound of tropical wildlife echoed between its ridges? That's what you get with Waimea Canyon State Park. Featuring some pretty incredible hiking and even more stunning views, this Kauai treasure is not to be missed.
Idaho: Harriman State Park
Head on over to the Island Park caldera in Yellowstone to experience one of the most stunning state parks in Idaho. Harriman's 11,000 acres are filled with majestic cranes, swans, and moose. There are plenty of fly-fishing and horseback trail opportunities, not to mention lots of spots from which to watch the sun rise over the misty caldera.
Illinois: Starved Rock State Park
In addition to a colorful name, this state park offers over 2,630 acres of canyons, waterfalls, and gorgeous hiking trails. This is an especially lovely place to visit during the autumn in order to catch the turning leaves at their best.
Indiana: Brown County State Park
This state park is actually a popular wedding destination, no doubt due to the marvelous scenery. In addition to gorgeous sites, visitors can check out the park's many awesome fishing and swimming holes or rent a quaint camper for a peaceful woodland overnight stay.
Iowa: Pikes Peak State Park
Situated in McGregor, Pikes Peak State Park is perhaps the most scenic of Iowa's 85 state parks. Including thousands of acres of pristine wilderness and sparkling waterways, the jewel of this park is Bridal Veil Falls. Visitors can also head to the 500-foot tall bluff overlooking the Upper Mississippi River for a gorgeous aerial view of the park.
Kansas: Scott State Park
Located just a hair north of Scott City, this park offers stark canyon landscapes, beautiful grassy prairie land, and sparkling natural springs. Visitors can also check out the El Quartelejo Ruins, which were abandoned by a group of Pueblo native people in 1706. For even more historical immersion, guests should head over to the Steele Home, a late 19th-century homestead that has been preserved inside and out.
Kentucky: Daniel Boone National Forest
Situated in both Slade and Stanton, this state park is all about the trees. Check out the Swift Camp Creek Overlook (pictured) for a stunning view of the park and its beautiful foliage. Rock climbing at the Roadside Crag is also a great option for those looking for a bit of a challenge. Biking and canoeing opportunities abound, and the wildlife is known to be particularly friendly and curious.
Louisiana: Chicot State Park
Named for Lake Chicot, this beautiful park is as diverse as it is enchanting. A stroll through the cypress swamps and a stay at the lovely lakeside cabins are not to be missed. The Louisiana State Arboretum is situated right next door to this park, which makes learning about the local flora and fauna easy and fun.
Maine: Mt. Blue State Park
Acadia National Park gets a lot of attention in Maine, but Mt. Blue State Park is equally beautiful. At 8,000 acres, it's the actually the largest state park in Maine. The park is named from the blue spruce trees that cover the slopes of Mount Blue, and has some of the best hiking trails around. Visitors can also take advantage of the park's sandy beaches, camping sites, and many scenic picnic areas.
Maryland: Elk Neck State Park
There are over 2,188 acres of rugged and beautiful wilderness to explore at Elk Neck State Park. Hiking trails vary in difficulty and length, but even casual explorers will find a path they can tackle here. There are 250 campsites and 15 cabins on offer those wishing to stay overnight. Visitors should be sure to visit the Turkey Point Lighthouse, which is especially picturesque at sunset.
Massachusetts: Mount Greylock State Reservation
This gorgeous park is centered around majestic Mount Greylock, whose striking 3,489-foot high peak towers over the rest of the park. With over 70 miles of trails that are perfect for hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, and even snowmobiling, this park is a treasure in all seasons. Visitors should also be sure to stop by Bash Bish Falls, the tallest waterfall in Massachusetts.
Michigan: Belle Isle
Located in Detroit, this 982-acre island is an unexpected green refuge in an otherwise stark urban landscape. First opened in 1904, the park offers a greenhouse filled with fascinating plants, a lush botanical garden, and enchanting lily pond. If you're lucky enough to swing an invitation, be sure to check out the Belle Isle Yacht Club, which is the largest of its kind in the country. The club's Mediterranean-style villa is equally lovely viewed as from afar.
Minnesota: George H. Crosby Manitou State Park
The George H. Crosby Manitou State Park is special for many reasons. This was the first park in the state to be designated especially for backpackers, and the park remains a backpack-only area. The Manitou River runs through a 1.1 billion-year-old volcanic gorge, and waterfalls tumble along the entire length of this valley. It is one of Minnesota's least visited parks, which means that guests will have even more of the area's natural beauty to themselves.
Mississippi: Tishomingo State Park
Tishomingo State Park ranked among the top 100 family campgrounds according to Reserve America, and has earned many other honors and awards. The staggering rock formations and ferny valleys of this park make it feel like something out of a prehistoric age. It's a great place for fishing, hiking, climbing, and learning about life in the 19th century. This park has also been named one of the one of the “Top 25 Romantic Spots" by Reserve America, so you know there's some real magic in the air here.
Missouri: Knob Knoster State Park
In addition to offering prime fishing and boating on Buteo and Clearfork lakes, this beautiful park is full of easy to moderate difficulty hiking trails. To get the best view of the park without too much trouble, try the 0.9-mile Discovery Trail. Equestrians will also be delighted to know that the park offers an expansive McAdoo Trail System designed specially for horseback riding.
Montana: Makoshika State Park
Glacier and Yellowstone may get all the press, but Makoshika is actually Montana's largest state park. Makoshika State Park is situated on Montana’s Dinosaur Trail, where the fossil remains of 10-12 dinosaur species have been discovered. Beautiful rock formations and red rock badlands make this place a striking departure from the everyday. The park also has some great hours: it is open for exploration 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Nebraska: Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
Located near Ashland, this park was voted the best park in the state by Reserve America. With over 700 miles to explore and year-round natural beauty, that's an honor it definitely deserves. Visitors can take advantage of the park's trail rides and get a taste of equestrian fun.
Nevada: Valley of Fire State Park
Located in Overton, the red sandstone formations of Valley of Fire State Park were formed over 150 million years ago by the eroding forces of wind and water. Petrified wood and Anasazi native petroglyphs can be found throughout the park, with some of these being as old as 3,000 years old. This place is also home to some of the most spectacular hiking trails in Nevada.
New Hampshire: Crawford Notch State Park
Head to this state park and lose yourself (metaphorically) in over 6,000 acres of pristine wilderness. With plenty of thunderous waterfalls, streams and mountains, this park is a great place to get in touch with nature.
New Jersey: Palisades Interstate Park
This place deserves much more attention than it gets. Though technically partially in New York, the New Jersey side of Palisades is about 12 miles long and offers more than 30 miles of trails. The Palisades Cliffs are a National Historic Landmark, and the historic Women's Federation Monument is also located on the park grounds.
New Mexico: Bottomless Lakes State Park
Located near Roswell, this lake is famous for its bafflingly beautiful lakes. Aquatic plants lend the waters a mystical blue-green tint, which makes them appear to be bottomless. In reality, most are a mere 19-40 feet deep! Visitors are welcome to swim and scuba dive.
New York: Adirondack State Park
If you visit just one state park in New York, make it this one. Visitors can explore the park's six million acres (you read that correctly) completely free of charge. Hitch a ride on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, climb the 46 peaks of the park's mountains, or attend one of the park's many yearly maple syrup festivals.
North Carolina: Hanging Rock State Park
Conveniently located near Danbury, this state park gives visitors over 20 miles of hiking trails to explore and plenty of rock climbing opportunities. You can also take a dip in many of its beautiful waterfall pools.
North Dakota: Little Missouri State Park
Head here for miles upon miles of terrific hiking, excellent backpacking areas, and great equestrian trails. This park's badlands are also some of the most impressive in the region.
Ohio: Hocking Hills State Park
April Dray/Only In Your State
This may be Ohio's most popular state park, and the reasons are numerous. Hocking Hills offers plenty of waterfalls, caverns, and incredible hiking trails to explore. Old Man's Cave and Cedar Falls (pictured) are two of the park's most beloved attractions, but the entirety of the park is worthy of a full survey.
Oklahoma: Beavers Bend State Park
With 1,300 acres of picture-perfect forest and riverways, this state park is a year-round delight. Beavers Bend is a great place to try your hand at fly-fishing and learn about the local wildlife. The park's nature center operates various campfire programs along the banks of the Mountain Fork River that are perfect for families looking to get to know the native landscape.
Oregon: Smith Rock State Park
The sheer cliffs and warmly colored stones of this park make for an epic backdrop to any nature outing. Experienced hikers should check out Misery Ridge Trail, which takes visitors past some of the most stunning scenery in the preserve. This park is also known for its excellent stargazing, so camping is a great option.
Pennsylvania: Cook Forest State Park
This stunning park covers over 8,500 acres and boasts sparkling streams, peaceful woodland glades, and plenty of tranquility. National Geographic Traveler magazine ranked Cook Forest State Park as one of the top 50 state parks in the country.
Rhode Island: Beavertail State Park
Head to Jamestown for some stunning ocean views and plenty of coastal picnic spots. This state park boasts a historic lighthouse, a fascinating aquarium, and absolutely killer seaside walking trails. Stroll along the shore long enough, and you might just discover one of Beavertail's hidden beaches.
South Carolina: Hunting Island State Park
This is the most visited state park in the state, and you know more than a million visitors per year can't be wrong. Hunting Island offers more than 5,000 acres of pristine seaside and salt marsh environments. Fishing and boating are popular activities, but simply wandering the 10 miles of trails leading around the island is a more than rewarding way to spend a day in this park.
South Dakota: Custer State Park
Custer State Park is one of the biggest state parks in the country, so you definitely won't run out of things to do and see here. Between wandering through rolling fields of bright sunflowers, catching some sun by the placid waters of Sylvan Lake, and even cliff jumping from the park's beautiful rock formations, there's something here for everyone. The park was also recently named one of the world's Top Ten Wildlife Destinations.
Tennessee: Roan Mountain State Park
One of the best times to visit this park is during the spring, when the preserve's many flowers are in full bloom. The park's purple rhododendrons are particularly stunning, but Roan Mountain's fall foliage almost rivals the flowers in vibrancy and beauty.
Texas: Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Drive on over to this Canyon and check out some of the most majestic red rock formations in the state. This place looks positively Martian, and many of the scarlet valleys are made even more striking by the lush greenery that blooms during the springtime.
Utah: Jordanelle Reservoir State Park
This park is spread over 3,064 acres of wilderness, and contains the beautiful Jordanelle Reservoir. It's a perfect place for kayaking, canoeing, large craft boating, and fishing. The area is also a good spot to spy some graceful mule deer.
Vermont: Smuggler’s Notch State Park
With a whimsical name and a convenient location between Stowe and Jeffersonville, this state park is filled with nooks and crannies to explore. Check out Bingham Falls (pictured) for an incredible photo and swimming opportunity, or investigate the caves and boulders scattered throughout the park.
Virginia: Shenandoah River State Park
There's no better way to get to know the natural beauty of Virginia than a trip through Shenandoah River State Park. With over 1,600 acres, 5.2 miles of river shore, and endless sporting opportunities, this park is just brimming with promise and adventure. As a bonus, Massanutten Mountain lies just to the west and Shenandoah National Park is to the east.
West Virginia: Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
When it comes to this state park, the journey is everything. This park offers scenic railroad trips from Back Allegheny Mountain all the way to Bald Knob. At its highest point, the railroad climbs to over 4,700 feet. Visitors should dress warmly and plan to spend between two and five hours touring the park.
Washington: Wallace Falls State Park
This state park is pretty huge, and full of things to do. Springtime brings hiking, camping, and fishing opportunities galore. This is also the best time of year to head to two of the park's stunning waterfalls: Lower Wallace Falls and Middle Wallace Falls. The park has two tent camping sites available, and five cabins that can be rented.
Wisconsin: Peninsula State Park
This park stretches across 4,000 acres and draws over a million visitors a year. Though with so much space to roam, you might not ever run into another guest during your explorations. This park is known for its fiery fall foliage, and bunking down at one of the park's 400 campsites provides the most immersive natural experience and best chance of catching a spectacular sunrise.
Wyoming: Hot Springs State Park
When you feel like combining a natural outing with a spa trip, this is the perfect destination. Located in Thermopolis, this park offers a free bathing house that is maintained at 104-degrees as well as gorgeous Tavertine Terraces that are made of calcium carbonate. Herds of bison also roam the park's beautiful grounds.