High Point State Park , N.J. from Stunning State Parks

Stunning State Parks

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Flickr/aloucha

High Point State Park , N.J.

The result of continental collisions that folded earth's crust, and centuries of ice sheets and erosion, the Kittatinny Ridge that the park is named for is the highest point in the state. Make it to the top for magnificent views, unique flora and a memorial dedicated to New Jersey’s veterans. The 10,000-acre park is also home to the highest elevation swamp of its kind in the world. state.nj.us

—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/AR Nature Gal

Custer State Park, S.D.

Custer touts itself as one of the few remaining wild sanctuaries in the country. Elk, mountain goats and nearly 1,300 buffalo roam this 71,000-acre park, set in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Visit in the autumn to experience the annual buffalo roundup, where wranglers and rangers bring the buffalo population together. They say you can feel the earth shake beneath thousands of heavy hooves. travelsd.com
—Diana Gerstacker

Louisiana State Parks

Bogue Chitto State Park, La.

Showcasing some of southern Louisiana’s most remarkable landscapes, Bogue Chitto State Park is a perfect campground and play place for all types of outdoor enthusiasts. Accommodations for tent, cabin and RV camping are available and as home to streams, rivers, swamps, forests, and rolling hills the 1,786-acre park offers opportunities for everything from kayaking to horseback riding and fresh water fishing to perfectly picturesque picnicking. lastateparks.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Bob Mical

Cape Henlopen State Park, Del.

Swimming, hiking, biking and an 18-hole disc golf course—what more could you ask for in a park? How about some American history? Cape Henlopen has seen it all, Native American communities, WWII bunkers and towers, Cold War preparations, and even pirates. Visit this versatile state park for six miles of beach that dips into the Atlantic, a WWII Observation tower with 360-degree views and convenient saltwater fishing. destateparks.com
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Michael Hicks

Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tenn.

As Tennessee’s largest and most visited State Park Fall Creek Falls presents visitors with a long outdoor to-do list. The waterfall which the park is named after stands at 256 feet and is one of the tallest in the eastern U.S. Within the park’s perimeters you’ll find three more impressive falls, more than 34 miles of hiking trails, an interactive nature center, and an 18-hole golf course. “It’s just one breathtaking waterfall after another. Incredible hiking, caving and a great lake with fishing cabins and a great lodge,” says Delaware State Parks Director Raymond E. Bivens. Overnight visitors can book a room in the Fall Creek Falls Inn and more adventurous travelers can take advantage of the park’s cabins and campsites. For those who really like to rough it, backcountry camping is also available with permit. tnsstateparks.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Tom Gill

Indiana Dunes State Park, Ind.

Set on the shores of Lake Michigan, these 15 miles of state park coast are known as some of the best lakefront beaches in the country. If sun and sand aren't for you, the park has more than 70 miles of hiking and biking trails which wind through dunes, forests, prairies and marshes. in.gov
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/ Scott McDonough

Monmouth Battlefield State Park, N.J.

Once a turbulent battlefield during the Revolutionary War, the hilly farmland setting of New Jersey’s Monmouth Battlefield is now better recognized as a peaceful state park. Visitors are welcome to participate in activities like hiking, apple picking, bird watching, and horseback riding, and with a landscape that offers everything from wooded paths to open meadows after a long day of exploring the only thing left to do is choose the perfect picnic spot. njparksandforests.org
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Jasperdo

Little Missouri State Park, N.D.

Sightseers are attracted to this rugged North Dakota park for a glimpse of awe-inspiring scenery made up of unusual land formations that were sculpted by wind, water and sand long ago. Most of the park is only accessible by foot or horseback but with more than 47 miles of trails hikers and riders can accomplish plenty of exploration. Aside from electrical hookups for campers, all of the park’s additional facilities are primitive. parkrec.nd.gov
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Ricky Rodriguez

Antelope Island State Park, Utah

In a state synonymous with pristine public lands, Antelope Island is somewhat of an overlooked treasure. Offering access to the Great Salt Lake and Frary Peak, the hiking and biking trails are a key attraction. Antelope Island is home to an array of wildlife, including bison, antelope and many birds. “Primitive” campsites are available for overnight stays. stateparks.utah.gov
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Ron Cogswell

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, West Va.

Noted for its historical significance, this West Virginia state park is nestled among mountain ranges and transports visitors back in time to the era of steam-driven locomotives. Restored company houses now serve as vacation cottages and the best part of your visit will be a train ride through town and up the mountain toward the two switchbacks and Whittaker Station where you can grab a bite to eat, take a tour of a rustic log cabin, or simply enjoy the breathtaking views of West Virginia’s wilderness.  “Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is one of the best examples of early 20th Century industrial history,” said Robert L. Beanblossom, District Administrator for the Parks and Recreation Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. cassrailroad.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/mbarrison

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Fla.

Aquarium mermaids have drawn visitors to Weeki Wachee since 1947, but they’re not the only park dwellers who get to wade in warm waters. The 74-degree springs are open for recreation all year long and the shore’s sandy beaches make for a perfect place to relax underneath the Florida sun. The Weeki Wachee River lends itself to river boat cruises, canoeing and kayaking and starting in April the park also features water slides, flumes and animal shows. floridastateparks.org
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/BlueRidgeKitties

Roan Mountain State Park, Tenn.

More than 2,000 acres of park land is split by the twisting Doe River. Filled with three species of trout, the river is a prime fishing spot and those looking to extend their stay will find cabins, RV and tent camping with access to bathrooms and showers. 12 miles of hiking trails, a 2.25 mile mountain biking course and cross country skiing in the winter round out the park best known for its trout. tnsstateparks.com
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Shawn Beelman

Jockey's Ridge State Park, N.C.

Those on the East Coast looking to experience the desert should head to Jockey’s Ridge. According to the North Carolina Parks Department, the park resembles the Sahara Desert, but is also on the shore of Roanoke Sound. Fantastic sunsets and the tallest sand dune on the Atlantic coast draw visitors from all over. ncparks.gov
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Vincent Parsons

Kanapolis State Park, Kan.

This state park is situated amidst the striking Smoky Hills region of Kansas and is treasured for its many miles of hiking trails that meander through canyons, prairies and wooded creek bottoms. The sublime Dakota sandstone bluffs and craggy Horsethief Canyon decorate the park and its surrounding area presenting pristine views of what's considered some of Kansas’ most stunning scenery. kdwpt.state.ks.us
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/thisisbossi

Long Beach Island, N.J.

Known for swift currents, troublesome sandbars and offshore shoals that wrecked many ships throughout history, Long Beach Island is also home to the infamous Barnegat Lighthouse. Learn about the treacherous history of the lighthouse, the coastal environment and the shifting coastline at the recently renovated Interpretive Center. islandbeachnj.org
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/ Frank DiBona

Hunting Island State Park, S.C.

The “single most popular” state park in South Carolina attracts more than a million visitors annually and was recently named a top 10 beach in the U.S. by Trip Advisor. On the well-preserved, five-mile stretch of South Carolina coast you’ll find a maritime forest, the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state and the white-tipped waves of the Atlantic. southcarolinaparks.com
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Taber Andrew Bain

High Bridge Trail State Park, Va.

It comes as no surprise that the centerpiece of this state park is a 125-foot tall, 2,400-foot long bridge that sits above the Appomattox River. Connected to the 31-mile High Bridge Trail, the route is suitable for bikers, hikers and horseback riders alike. As the longest recreational bridge in all of Virginia, as well as one of the longest in the entire U.S., High Bridge has been designated as a Virginia Historic Landmark and is also on the National Register of Historic places, making it a landmark park you won’t want to miss. dcr.virginia.gov
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/ Fritz Liess

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, N.M.

Exhibiting 56 species of animals and countless species of plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert, this unique state park prides itself on providing outreach to thousands of visitors and school children every year. Currently showcasing two internationally endangered species, the Mexican Grey Wolf and the Bolson tortoise, this exotic zoo is a must-see for all animal lovers. emnrd.state.nm.us
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/ Shinya Suzuki

Liberty State Park, N.J.

The proverbial jack of all trades, Liberty State Park provides access to most of the region's natural, cultural and historical resources. Among the many attractions, the park is home to the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey (CRRNJ), the Liberty Science Center, the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial and an outdoor performance area. Situated at the shore of the Hudson River, the park is the only place in the state with ferry service to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. state.nj.us
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Amy Meredith

Hanging Rock State Park, N.C.

With hiking trails, vacation cabins, interpretive nature programs, picnic areas, waterfalls, and priceless panoramas of the piedmont plateau, Hanging Rock lends an endless list of activities no matter what your interests. Cast a line out into the lake or simply relax by the shore, plan a picnic with your family or explore the surrounding mountains, whatever type of adventure you choose you’re sure to learn something new about North Carolina’s grand landscape. ncparks.gov
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/vastateparksstaff

Natural Tunnel State Park, Va.

According to William Jennings Bryan, the namesake of the park should have been the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The 850-foot long, 10-story high Natural Tunnel, which was carved over the course of thousands of years draws people from all over. Guests can stay overnight in this 950-acre park in cabins or at one of two campgrounds with access to a swimming pool. dcr.virginia.gov
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Brent Moore

Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tenn.

Nature-lovers will relish the unique ecosystem of Reelfoot Lake which developed after a series of earthquakes in the early 1800’s. Incomparable to other areas of Tennessee, Reelfoot visitors can expect to spot bald eagles as well as almost any other type of shore-bird year-round, and with about 15,000 acres of lake the park is a popular spot for fishing and boat sports. tnstateparks.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

Lake Scott State Park, Kan.

Named to National Geographic’s list of the country’s 50 must-see state parks, this aptly named “stunning oasis” has everything you could want in a park. Spanning 1,020 acres, the natural features include wooded canyons, rugged bluffs and fresh springs. Lake Scott is large enough to accommodate boating and fishing and the extensive trail system allows horseback riding. With more than 26 archeological sites in the area, the remarkable features are more than just aesthetically pleasing. state.ks.us
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/David Ellis

Prophetstown State Park, Ind.

Prophetstown is one of Indiana’s newest state parks. It proudly preserves the vast prairie farmland of the 1920s and offers visitors with the opportunity to discover what farm lifestyle was like long ago. For those more interested in present day pastimes, hiking, biking, camping, and bird watching are all available and the park also features a family aquatic park and exciting events, like 5K races and wildflower plant sales. in.gov
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Guillaume Capron

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Fla.

One of the more popular state parks, this Florida park saw more than 769,000 visitors last year. With roughly 70 nautical square miles, this undersea park was the first of its kind in the U.S. and remains a rare attraction. Visitors can take a glass-bottom boat tour, scuba dive, snorkel, canoe or kayak and even fish in some areas. On land, there is access to campsites, picnic tables and hiking trails. floridastateparks.com
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Eric B

Assateague State Park, Md.

Maryland’s only oceanfront state park is set just nine miles away from the popular Ocean City boardwalk and sees approximately one million visitors annually. The park itself is set on an island, with access to both the ocean and the Sinepuxent Bay, great for beachcombing, surfing and fishing. Take to the bay for canoeing or kayaking and get a look at the variety of wildlife. Those hoping to stay overnight can reserve one of 350 campsites ahead of time on the park's website. state.md.us
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/J

Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, N.M.

This renowned nature hub is home to a wildlife rescue center, excellent bird watching opportunities and exciting hands on activities for families and school children. With both indoor and outdoor wildlife viewing areas and trail access to Rio Grande, the park offers a wide variety of entertainment for all types of nature lovers. emnrd.state.nm.us
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Jane

Katy Trail State Park, Mo.

Hikers and bikers will find themselves right at home in this state park. Katy Trail spans most of the state and is the longest Rails-to-Trails project in the country. Rails-to-Trails is an organization which creates new trails out of old rail lines, and this particular route could keep you occupied for days in both mileage and sightseeing opportunities. mostateparks.com
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Scott Miller

Island Beach, N.J.

The word park tends to conjure images of green grass, wooded forests and sandbox playgrounds, but New Jersey’s Island Beach state park breaks this stereotype by being comprised mostly of sandy dunes and coastal beaches. Although mostly made of sand, the park still boasts a unique environment with over 400 plant varieties and the state’s largest osprey colony. While lounging by the beach, keep an eye out for peregrine falcons and migrating songbirds, too. njparksandforests.org
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Dave Thompson

Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Mo.

One of Missouri’s most cherished outdoor areas, Ha Ha Tonka sits near the Lake of the Ozarks and is home to the remains of a late 20th century castle. Not only will this state park leave you in awe of its architecture, but with more than 15 miles of trails that wind through sinkholes, natural bridges and caves, you can indulge your more adventurous side, too. mostateparks.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Sarah Altendorf

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Ky.

Like with most parks whose names feature the ‘F’ word, visitors at Cumberland Falls can expect to encounter a tall chute of rushing rapids. Known as the “Niagara of the South,” Cumberland falls is 125 feet wide and according to the park’s website, is the only place in the Western Hemisphere where you can spot a “moonbow” during a full moon. A few other attractions include a rustic lodge, the Cumberland River, hiking trails, cottages, and camping accommodations. parks.ky.gov
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Nguyen Nguyen

Swallow Falls State Park, Md.

Flowing water falls and rushing rapids lie at the heart of Swallow Falls. Hikers can expect to encounter rocky gorges, rippling rapids and unbelievable views of Western Maryland, including the 53-foot Muddy Creek Falls waterfall. “This is a mountain park with old growth forest, Maryland's highest waterfall and a rich history,” says Maryland State Parks Superintendent Nitta Settina. maryland.gov
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Ed Schipul

Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park, N.M.

One of the first to honor Vietnam Veterans in the U.S., this memorial park serves as “a place for reunion, reflection, healing and sharing of experiences,” according to the park's website. The park was built in honor of Lt. David Westphall, who was killed in battle along with 16 other Marines in Vietnam in 1968. Westphall’s parents opened the memorial in 1971 and it's still a well-attended place of remembrance. 
vietnamveteransmemorial.org​
—Diana Gerstacker

Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism

Wilson State Park, Kan.

This 18,086-acre park is tucked away in the center of the Smoky Hills and is well attended for the scenery its location affords. Hiking trails offer unrivaled views of native Kansas prairie and the Wilson Reservoir. Camping accommodations and cabins are available throughout the park and land is dedicated to mountain biking, fishing and hunting (in season only). state.ks.us
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Tom Check

Johnson's Shut-ins State Park, Mo.

Described as a “jewel of the system,” this state park is a geologist's dream. Hiking trails, campsites and natural swimming spots all prominently feature rock formations, some of which are well-preserved and are more than a billion years old. mostateparks.com
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Mr

Kartchner Caverns State Park, Ariz.

A 550-acre stretch of land at the base of Arizona’s Whetstone Mountains, Kartchner Caverns is home to the world’s longest stalactite formation and according to Kansas State Parks Division Director Linda Lanterman, it’s also recognized as one of the top ten caves in the entire world thanks to an extensive array of mineral formations that exist in both the upper and lower caverns. azstateparks.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

Stunning State Parks