The United States is a gorgeous and diverse country full of some of the most extreme, beautiful, and awe-inspiring sights. A great portion of these sights are located within our massive State Park system. There are over 8,000 state parks dotted across the sprawling landscape of America, the entire conglomerate drawing in crowds of over 720 million eager nature-lovers each year. This statistic is almost 2.5 times more than visitors to U.S. National Parks, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite. As Fodor's Travel put it best, these little gems of hidden beauty are strongly considered to be the very "backbone of the U.S. park system," very integral points that teach guests the importance of preservation, conservation, geological history, and immersion into nature. Grab your best hiking boots, all your essential maps, and maybe even your camera, and head to the nearest state park that made our "Best of" list!
- Devil’s Lake State Park - Wisconsin
Welcome to the wilderness of Wisconsin, absolutely one of the best spots in the Midwest for raw rock climbing. This 9,217 acre state park is known for its popular 500 foot quartzite bluffs, as well as its historic Indian burial grounds, 41 miles of trails, and access to the Baraboo Mountains.
- Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park - Michigan
Porcupine Mountains State Park is located along the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s upper peninsula, a spot known to have some of the best back country opportunities in the Midwest. Here you can enjoy over 90 miles of hardwood forests and pine land, as well as inland lakes, unique rock formations, a rugged coastline, and all the best scenery of the "porkies."
- Ha Ha Tonka State Park - Missouri
Head to the Show-Me State to see the Ozarks like never before at Ha Ha Tonka State Park. This Lake of the Ozarks park spectacularly combines nature and history with a protected area overlooking the bluff, complete with the ruins of a historic European-style stone castle built in 1905. Enjoy 15 miles of trails here as well as Missouri cave spelunking opportunities!
- Adirondack Park - New York
Although the Adirondack region is not technically considered a state park, it is the largest publicly protected wilderness region in the entire nation. Here you can look upon six million acres of protected land, an area larger than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks all combined! There is so much to see and do here, maybe start with the 3,000 lakes, mountains, rivers, forests, beaches, and three million acres of "forever wild" scenery.
- Fall Creek Falls State Park - Tennessee
Tennessee has quite the gorgeous state park gem here at Fall Creek Falls State Park. The 26,000 acre state park/resort holds a half dozen wonderful waterfalls, its namesake 256 foot vertical drop main fall, birding, boating, biking, and even golfing, tennis, shuffleboard, and swimming pools! Be sure to pack your camera for this one!
- Itasca State Park - Minnesota
Up in Minnesota you will find the second oldest state park, right behind Niagara Falls State Park, under the name of Itasca State Park. This park is famous for the opportunity to wade the 30 chilly feet through the shallow waters heading the Mississippi River, just 2,552 miles away from the Gulf of Mexico. Enjoy 16 miles of paved bike trails in the remainder of this beautifully forested 32,000-acre state park once you’ve seen the river!
- Slide Rock State Park - Arizona
Seven miles north of Sedona you will find Slide Rock State Park in Arizona, a fairly small 43-acre park that serves as a seriously popular summer spot to escape the Sonoran Desert heat. Enjoy the smooth, red slippery stone natural slide down the watery rocks into the creek, or even the half mile historic trail to the old homestead and apple orchard!
- Hocking Hills State Park - Ohio
In Ohio you will find Hocking Hills State Park, a 2,356-acre geological haven that holds natural sandstone gorges, caves, cliffs, basins, and waterfalls galore. Enjoy different recreational activities within the five main areas of the park, including such activities as fishing Lake Logan, hiking the basin region, or taking a thrilling canopy tour!
- Custer State Park - South Dakota
Custer State Park, located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is a wilderness wonderland filled with pine mountains, stone spires, and rolling grasslands that you definitely won’t want to miss. Enjoy over 71,000 acres of rock tunnels and the mirror-like Sylvan Lake, or perhaps explore the 18-mile wildlife loop filled with antelope, elk, and donkeys. If you are lucky you may see the annual bison roundup of about 1,300 bison, happening each September.
- Assateague State Park - Maryland
Last on our list of top State Parks is the only beach-side state park in Maryland, Assateague State Park. Here you can enjoy a gorgeous ocean front view as you explore the area between the Atlantic Ocean and Sinepuxent Bay, a sort-of secluded barrier island region just two miles away from Ocean City. Enjoy shelling, exploring coves and marshes, watching local waterfowl, and spotting beautiful feral horses on the sand when you can!
If you liked this, be sure to check out Student Camping Across America