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36 Stunning U.S. State Parks

These state parks are much more than just playgrounds and picnic areas

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Flickr/south_dakota

Playgrounds, green pastures and playful pups; these are a few of the things we first think of when we hear the word “park.” Not that these associations aren't on point, but there are more than 7,500 state parks plotted across the U.S., all of which feature attractions that reach beyond your typical interpretation of a picturesque park.

Aside from the federally run National Parks, each of our 50 states is home to an elaborate park system of its own, all designed to preserve the most environmentally significant and historic lands of the area. According to the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD), each year more than 720 million Americans visit state parks and generate more than $20 billion in revenue for local communities.

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With gems like North Dakota's rugged Little Missouri State Park and West Virginia's historic Cass Railroad State Park strewn across the states, a visit to one of our nation's state parks opens up opportunities that extend far beyond picnicking and playing fetch with Fido.

This list of noteworthy state parks was compiled by the people who know them best; the directors and managers whose job it is to run and maintain them. Lewis Leford, Executive Director of the NASPD, called upon deputies from an assortment of states in order to gather their expert recommendations.

While we couldn't include a park from every single state, we're still confident that we've painted a quality picture that highlights a good deal of our country's best state parks.

Did your favorite state park not make the list? Let us know if we missed a noteworthy state park that you love in the comments section below!

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