Sep 30

Best State Parks in America

As a child I used to hate going to state parks.  Why? Because they were just a run of the mill state park and a not a national park, if it was worth seeing it would be called a national park.  As an adult I still love going to national parks, but now I have saved a little love in my heart for the state parks.  Like many children I got caught up in name recognition if I did not know about it or it was not famous I did not want it.  Funny… once I started paying for my own things it became a lot less about name recognition and more about how practical it is.  State parks can be great vacation destinations for multiple reasons- less crowds, cheaper, and still provide plenty of recreational opportunities.  There are great state parks all around, but some of them stand out above the crowd.  So, here is my list of the best state parks in America, hope you enjoy.

Best State Parks in America

10. Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

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Size – Close to 30,000 acres
Famous for being the second largest canyon in the country which you would not expect as it lies in the heart of the Texas Panhandle.  Must do activity is to hike the Lighthouse Trail to see the red rock formations that help make the park famous.
Wildlife Viewing – Home to many types of wildlife but most famous for its excellent birding opportunities.

For more information visit their website at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/palo-duro-canyon

9. Fall Creek Falls, Tennessee 

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Size – Close to 26,000 acres
Famous for being the home to the highest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi at 256 feet as well as several other waterfalls.  Most do activity is to hike the very short but extremely steep climb down to the base of the Fall Creek Falls at the Base of the Falls Trail and feel the cool spray of the falls. 
Wildlife Viewing – Fall Creek Falls as a variety of small mammals and deer but birding can be excellent especially during the spring and fall migrations.

For more information visit their website at http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/fall-creek-falls

8. Baxter State Park, Maine

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Size – Close to 200,000 acres
Famous for being the home to Mr. Katahdin Maine’s tallest mountain and one of the more famous mountains in the Northeast part of the United States.  Most do activity is hike the Knife Edge Trail on Mt. Katahdin but is not for the faint of heart the trail crosses four peaks on a ridge that narrows to a little as a couple of feet. 
Wildlife Viewing – Baxter State Park is a great place to see wildlife like Moose, Black Bear, White Tailed Deer, and a variety of smaller mammals like beaver, otter, and muskrats. 

For more information visit their website at http://www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/

7. Chugach State Park, Alaska

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Size – Close to 500,000 acres
Famous for its vast and wild land but at the same time is one more accessible Alaska wilderness areas.  Not too many state parks where you would be able to see grizzly bears and beluga whales in the same visit.  Close to Anchorage the Chugach State Park is easy to get to if you find yourself in Alaska’s main metropolis.  Must do activity is hike one of the most popular trails in Alaska which is up Flattop Mountain. 
Wildlife Viewing – Chugach State Park has excellent wildlife viewing opportunities if it was located in any other state it would have National Park status. 

For more information visit their website at http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/chugach/

6. Dead Horse Point State Park, Arizona

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Size – Close to 400 acres
Famous for its spectacular views of the Colorado River as the state park sits 2,000 feet above the river.  A visitor can also see views of Canyonlands National Park which is nearby.  Must do activity is take in the views at Dead Horse Point one of the most photographed scenic visits in the southwest which is saying something.        
Wildlife Viewing – With only receiving 10 inches of precipitation a year Dead Horse State Park is home a variety of desert animals which are better seen in any shade covered places or at night.

For more information visit their website at http://stateparks.utah.gov/park/dead-horse-point-state-park

5. Itasca State Park, Minnesota

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Size – Close to 32,000 acres
Famous for being the headwaters of the Mississippi River but once you leave the river you find some solitude at some of its more than 100 lakes that are found within the park.  Must do activity close the Mississippi River on foot at the start of its headwaters.      
Wildlife Viewing – Itasca State Park supports many wildlife species but is most famous for birding where you can expect to see many different species of ducks and woodland birds. 

For more information visit their website at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/itasca/index.html

4. Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia

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Size – Close to 2,7000 acres
Famous for being one of the deepest canyons in the United states and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Southeast.  Must do activity is brave the steps and the suspension bridge just make sure you are able to get one daily permits to hike to the bottom.   
Wildlife Viewing – Chance to see woodland animals deer and black bear but also unique species if you are lucky like the green salamander.

For more information visit their website at http://www.gastateparks.org/TallulahGorge

3. John Pennekamp State Park

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Size – Close to 70 nautical square miles
Famous for being mostly an underwater park with great scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities.  Most of the park is underwater but there are a few trails amongst the mangroves and shoreline.  Lots of activities to choose from.  Must do activity make sure you check out the famous underwater Christ of the Abyss statue during a snorkeling or diving excursion.   
Wildlife Viewing – John Pennekamp State Park is home to over 250 species of tropical fish as well as a variety of undersea life. 

For more information visit their website at http://pennekamppark.com/

2. Custer State Park, South Dakota

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Size – Close to 70,000 acres
Famous for being home of the largest free roaming buffalo herds in the country.  Custer State Park sits amongst the Black Hills of South Dakota with its striking granite rock formations.  Must do activity is spend the day at the very scenic Sylvan Lake and hike up the tallest peak in South Dakota Harney peak.  
Wildlife Viewing – Great wildlife viewing opportunities exist at Custer State Park with over 1,000 bison, large number of deer, elk, and pronghorns as a well as a number of small mammal species. 

For more information visit their website at http://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/

1. Niagara Falls State Park, New York

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Size – Close to 400 acres              
Famous for its waterfalls American and Bridal Veil Falls.  Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the United States.  Must do activity if you only visit once make sure you splurge and pay to do the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds attractions just so you can tell people you did it.   
Wildlife Viewing – Not much but who is going to be looking for wildlife with such a spectacular waterfall to see.

For more information visit their website at http://www.niagarafallsstatepark.com/

We hope you enjoyed our list of the best state parks in America.  With over 7,000 state parks designated in the United States it was very hard to just choose 10. Like any top 10 list they are subject to opinion so please give us yours and let us know what you think of our list, is there anything that you think we should not have put on our list and what would you replace it with by leaving a comment.  We are always looking for a new place to visit so let us know about your favorite state park in the United States.

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