• 12/28/2022

The Best State Parks in the U.S.A. for Your Bucket List

The Best State Parks in the USA

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Updated March 27, 2024

There’s something so special about wandering down a nature trail and immersing yourself in nature. State parks are the perfect places to do just that, but which ones should you visit? These are the best state parks in the U.S.A. that should earn a spot on your travel bucket list this coming year.

1. Roxborough State Park (Littleton, Colorado)

A red rock formation in Roxborough State Park.

Many people journey to Denver for outdoor adventures. When you finish exploring the city, drive southwest to Littleton. You’ll find Roxborough State Park and all its cliff faces. Prepare your hiking boots for six trails of varying lengths and difficulties. You’ll have a blast hiking to all the fantastic views and snapping professional-quality photos of the pristine park.

2. Chugach State Park (Girdwood, Alaska)

A man kayaks on a lake in Chugach State Park.

Some of the best state parks are in the gorgeous Alaskan forests. Chugach State Park has almost half a million acres for hiking, camping, kayaking and fishing. You can even go hunting with the proper license. Not sure if you want to stock up on supplies and camp in a tent? There are also rental cabins available for cozier getaways.

3. Custer State Park (Custer, South Dakota)

Buffalo in a field in Custer State Park.

Lake lovers should check out Custer State Park when the weather’s nice. It’s one of the best state parks because it has five lakes with seemingly endless hiking trails and numerous campgrounds. Just be aware that the park is also known for the wild animals that roam the area, so keep your eyes out for elk, bison and curious burros. Add pepper spray to your travel essentials and you’ll be ready for accidental encounters.

4. Burton Island State Park (St. Albans, Vermont)

Fall leaves on a mountain in Vermont.

East coasters don’t need to travel across the country to visit a beautiful park. Vermont is home to Burton Island, which has a trendy state park. The area has restaurants, a marina and plenty of places to stay when you’re not out paddleboarding or hiking. Burton Island State Park could be your next favorite vacation spot, whether you want a waterfront cabin or a campground with a private bonfire.

5. Purgatory Chasm State Reservation (Sutton, Massachusetts)

A woman hiking in a forest.

Enjoy a leisurely walk through Massachusett’s Purgatory Chasm State Reservation and you’ll find the hours flying by. The park has gravel trails for easy hiking through the rock formations that a glacier created 14,000 years ago when the last ice age ended. It’s a great choice if you want to go for a hike and head home afterward. The park is only open for day trips and doesn’t allow camping.

6. Cloudland Canyon State Park (Rising Fawn, Georgia)

A creek in Cloudland Canyon State Park.

People who drive out to the western side of Lookout Mountain will find Cloudland Canyon State Park waiting for them in Georgia. No matter how you want to spend your time, there’s something to do. You could bring your favorite people and go horseback riding, play disc golf, stay overnight in a cottage and fish for a few hours. Before heading home with new treasured memories, don’t miss out on the waterfalls and picturesque views.

7. Red Rock State Park (Sedona, Arizona)

You may never board a rocket ship to Mars, but exploring one of the desert southwest’s most gorgeous red rock wildernesses is the next best thing. You’ll find over five miles of trails, one of which is even paved for wheelchair access. However, those who prefer a more vigorous workout will find some moderate climbs, and guided excursions introduce you to area wildlife and flora.

Red Rock State Park is a gem to visit any month of the year, even during the winter — the snow against the red rocks makes for spectacular photography. Although you’ll need plenty of water in the warm, summer months, there’s shade. Plus, you can always head north 30 minutes to Slide Rock State Park and cool down in a series of natural waterfalls after your hike.

Visit the Best State Parks in the U.S.A.

Now that you’ve learned about the best state parks in the U.S.A., consider which parks would best suit your interests. You could spend next year hiking, kayaking and horseback riding throughout the country if you start planning your trips now.

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