15 Exquisite State Parks to Explore

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Forget the crowds and embrace the wonders of nature. America’s natural beauty is apparent in some of the most breathtaking state parks with cascading waterfalls and towering redwoods. These 15 parks are nature lovers’ paradise with countless forms of wildlife and a vast selection of plants.

Custer State Park – South Dakota

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Custer State Park is over 71,000 acres of pristine wilderness. It’s famous for its granite peaks, rolling plains, and dense forests. Notable landmarks include the iconic Needles Highway, where towering granite spires dominate the skyline, and you can spot bison, elk, and bighorn sheep on the wildlife loop road.

Chugach State Park – Alaska

Chugach State Park – Citizens Advisory Board/Facebook

Stretching across the Chugach Mountains surrounding Anchorage, Chugach State Park offers unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities and stunning natural beauty. One of the park’s most awe-inspiring attractions is witnessing the mesmerizing aurora borealis, or northern lights, dancing across the night sky during winter.

Catalina State Park – Arizona

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Catalina State Park is a desert oasis of more than 5,500 acres. It’s home to multiple plants and animals that parkgoers can observe while hiking. If you’re a birdwatching, picnicking, and photography fan, this will be an excellent spot to visit in the spring.

Niagara Falls State Park – New York

Niagara Falls State Park, USA/Facebook

Situated in New York, Niagara Falls State Park is home to the world-famous Niagara Falls, a collection of three majestic waterfalls across the border between the United States and Canada. For optimal viewing conditions, plan your trip in the summer.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – California


Explore 3,762 acres of rugged coastline and ancient redwood forests. People visit the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to watch the McWay Falls, a stunning 80-foot waterfall that cascades onto the beach below. Head to the park in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.

Antelope Island State Park – Utah

Antelope Island State Park/Facebook

The unique park is home to herds of bison and pronghorn antelope. Visitors can explore the scenic trails by hiking, biking, or horseback riding. They can also take panoramic pictures of the surrounding salt flats and mountains. Antelope Island State Park is a popular spot for birdwatching and stargazing.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park – Texas

Palo Duro Canyon State Park – Texas Parks and Wildlife/Facebook

This is the second-largest canyon in the United States. With more than 29,000 acres, the Palo Duro Canyon State Park features red rock cliffs, colorful mesas, and rugged canyons. The park is open year-round, and there is a fee for entrance and camping.

Makoshika State Park – Montana

Makoshika State Park/Facebook

Makoshika State Park is a prehistoric paradise with fascinating geological formations and ancient dinosaur fossils. It’s full of colorful sandstone cliffs, hoodoos, and eroded rock formations that glimpse the region’s ancient past. Highlights include the Dinosaur Trail, where you can see fossilized dinosaur bones. 

Ecola State Park – Oregon

Goonies Day in Astoria, Oregon/Facebook

Ecola State Park is on the Oregon coastline, offering fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean and beautiful coastal forests. It’s home to multiple beaches, dramatic cliffs, and old-growth forests teeming with wildlife. The best time to visit is in the summer, when sunny weather and clear views are available.

Iao Valley State Park – Hawaii

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When you visit Iao Valley State Park, you can admire the beauty of the Iao Needle, a vegetation-covered 1200-foot peak. The locals link this structure to the Hawaiian God of the Underworld, while the rest of the park is said to be governed by Kāne, the provider of life.

Peninsula State Park – Wisconsin

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This park features rugged limestone cliffs, sandy beaches, and dense forests overlooking the waters of Green Bay. Visitors to the Peninsula State Park can explore the massive network of hiking and biking trails, which offer stunning views of the surroundings.

Eldorado Canyon State Park – Colorado

Eldorado Canyon State Park – Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Facebook

Eldorado Canyon State Park is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts and rock climbers. Spanning 885 acres, visitors can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding in the middle of breathtaking scenery. It is ideal to visit during the fall or spring when the land is ablaze with color. 

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park – Florida

The Lodge at Wakulla Springs/Facebook

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State is home to one of the world’s largest and deepest freshwater springs. Visitors can swim, snorkel, and even take glass-bottom boat tours to observe underwater life. The park is also home to lush forests, scenic hiking trails, and abundant bird species.

Castle Rocks State Park – Idaho

Castle Rocks State Park/Facebook

If you’re in Idaho during spring or fall, don’t miss the chance to explore the Castle Rocks State Park. Parkgoers enjoy the park’s trails, which wind through sagebrush-covered hillsides and offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It’s an excellent spot for rock climbing and wildlife viewing.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – Michigan

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – the Porkies/Facebook

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is a famous wilderness area stretching over 60,000 acres. Watch the black bears, wolves, and moose strolling through the park, and don’t miss the Lake of the Clouds, which overlooks the waterfalls along the Presque Isle River.


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