Best State Parks for Hiking
These State Parks in the US provide a terrific base for exploring incredible trails for hiking.
These State Parks in the US provide a terrific base for exploring incredible trails for hiking.
Known for its extensive sandstone cave, Indian Cave State Park covers 3,052 acres of the area bordering the Missouri River. It provides sweeping views of majestic hardwood forest and the mighty Missouri river that creates a picturesque show of colors during autumn. The park offers 22 miles of scenic hiking trails, fishing areas, horseback riding, winter skiing, beautiful campsites and picnicking spots. Indian Cave State Park also has 16 miles of equestrian trails.
Home to sandstone cliffs, thousand-foot deep canyons, wild caves, cascading creeks, waterfalls, dense woodland and magnificent wildlife, the park provides ample outdoor recreation choices. The most popular hiking trails include the strenuous Waterfalls Trail and West Rim Loop Trail as well as the short Overlook Trail. Visitors can also enjoy mountain biking at the Five Points Recreation Area and the Cloudland Connector Trail.
Located in scenic Oak Creek Canyon, Slide Rock State Park is the perfect location to relax, enjoy the great outdoors and escape from the mundane cares of everyday life. The park is surrounded by beautiful red rock formations typical of the region and contains a 43-acre working apple farm. There are three hiking trails in the park including the Pendley Homestead Trail (0.25-mile), the Slide Rock Route (0.3-mile) and the Clifftop Nature Trail (0.25-mile).
Kids can enjoy plenty of exciting outdoor activities including Exploring caves, climbing over rocks, hiking to waterfalls and much more in these state parks.
Located in Shannon County, Missouri, Echo Bluff State Park is a favorite family-friendly destination that allows you to create new memories as you experience all the fun activities the Ozarks have to offer. The park's impressive natural setting and the modern amenities make it welcoming for every visitor. Visitors of all ages will enjoy their days with hiking, floating, camping, swimming, and fishing.
This Park offers a myriad range of recreational opportunities in a scenic natural setting. Hocking Hills encompasses 2,356-acres of the area and boasts towering cliffs, hemlock-shaded gorges, and spectacular waterfalls. The park is divided into seven separate sections that include Old Man's Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls, Rock House, Ash Cave, Conkle's Hollow and Whispering Cave. Recreational activities include canoeing, kayaking, hiking, boating, picnicking, camping, hunting, and fishing.
Located on the bank of the Mountain Fork River and Broken Bow Lake, Beavers Bend State Park offers visitors spectacular views and plenty of exciting activities inside the park. Visitors to this state park will enjoy boating, fishing, hiking, biking, water skiing, miniature golf, nature center activities, canoeing, horseback riding and river float trips.
With opportunities for camping, hiking, mountain biking, horse riding and scuba diving, these State Parks are known to be adventure lover’s paradise.
Located on Lake Jocassee's southwestern shore, Devils Fork State Park offers outdoor recreation against the scenic backdrop of the Jocassee Gorges. The park is a popular fishing destination for anglers and excellent habitat for brown and rainbow trout, smallmouth, largemouth, white bass, crappie, and catfish. The crystal clear water of Lake Jocassee is perfect for scuba diving. The Bear Cove Trail is 2 miles in length and passes through the beautiful hardwood forest.
This State Park is one of the most spectacular and scenic outdoor recreation areas in Tennessee. The 256 feet tall Fall Creek Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern US. It has two long-distance trails for adventure-loving visitors. The Canopy Challenge Course includes wobbly bridges, balance beams, cargo nets, rope swings and zip lines.
Nestled at the tip of the San Rafael Desert, Goblin Valley State Park is famed for its hoodoos or goblins (mushroom-shaped rock formations). This State Park offers incredible scenery and a fantastic opportunity for various outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, mountain biking, disc golf and wilderness trips. Mountain Biking trails are divided into five loops, which provide breathtaking views of the region.
The average price for accommodation in the USA is between usually $353 and $466 per night.
You can find 88,759 House rentals and 53,725 Apartment rentals for US State Parks right here on HomeToGo.
Planning a peaceful outdoor escape this summer? Just in time for peak season at many state parks across the U.S. - HomeToGo trekked through miles of data to blaze a trail and help travelers find the best state parks with the fewest crowds and most affordable accommodations.
Featuring 21 parks from 16 states, HomeToGo compares each park's size, number of annual visitors, activities, biodiversity of plants and animals, price of nearby accommodation as well as availability, giving adventure and relaxation seekers the information needed to plan an unforgettable state park trip. So pack in, pack out, and get ready to jump into the State Park Index 2021!
There are over 10,000 state parks in the U.S. covering a total of 18.6 million acres of land*
State parks manage over 14,000 trails, totalling 52,603 miles in length*
America's state parks welcome over 813 million visitors every year*
* Source, 2019 Outlook and Analysis Letter; National Association of State Park Directors
Custer State Park is a ‘must see’ since it is the state’s first and largest park encompassing 71,000 acres in the Black Hills. This crown jewel of South Dakota is home to abundant wildlife and is famous for its bison herds, buffalo herds and scenic drives. Adventure awaits at this spacious park where granite peaks and clear mountain waters are waiting to be discovered.
2. Red Fleet State Park, Utah
Adventure seekers can travel back in time when hiking 200-million-year-old dinosaur tracks in the heart of Dinosaurland at Red Fleet State Park. Featuring a 750-acre reservoir and a fossil trackway of dinosaur footprints, this area is Utah’s best kept secret. Natural history fans will be in awe when seeing footprints of up to 17 inches while being engulfed with stunning views of the Unita Mountains.
Governor Dodge State Park is one of Wisconsin’s largest state parks that features a breathtaking landscape of steep sandstone bluffs, glittering waterfalls and rolling hills that are perfect for the adventurous summer-time explorer. Hikers will enjoy the more than 40 miles of various hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult.
Cloudland Canyon State Park is a gem for Georgians. This park is one of the largest and most scenic parks in the state and home to thousand-foot-deep canyons, wild caves, waterfalls, cascading creeks, dense woodland and abundant wildlife. The park straddles a deep gorge cut into the mountain by Sitton Gulch Creek, offering rugged geology and exceptional hiking.
5. Fontainebleau State Park, Louisiana
Located on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, this 2,800-acre park offers chances to see more than 400 species of birds and other wildlife that live or migrate through the park. On a clear day, visitors will see plenty of multi-colored sailboats enjoying the day on the lake and sunbathers will be delighted to take advantage of the sandy beaches.
6. Wilderness State Park, Michigan
Wilderness State Park encompasses 26 miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline with 10,000 acres of wild forested landscapes. With more than 20 miles of trails, a designated swimming and pet-friendly beach, this park is ideal for visitors to enjoy a slice of paradise. At night, the park offers stellar views of the stars and acts as a designated dark sky preserve. For the creative types, the region is well known for metal detecting.
In the southern region of Texas Hill Country is the scenic Garner State Park that features 2.9 miles of Frio River that wind through 1,774 acres of land. Visitors can swim in the Frio River or float its waters on an inner tube or paddle boat, as well as hike 16 miles of scenic trails. There are even jukebox dances held nightly during the summer for the young folks and for the young at heart!
8. Red Top Mountain State Park, Georgia
Located just 40 miles outside of Atlanta, this spacious park offers more than 15 miles of trails that wind through the pine-forested park, providing ample opportunities for scenic photography. With more than 12,000 acres situated perfectly on Lake Allatoona, this park is great for enjoying a day of family fun on land or in the water.
9. Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
People call it the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Parks system, and it’s easy to know why. Silver Falls State Park is the largest state park in Oregon encompassing an area of more than 9,000 acres and is home to one of the most incredible waterfall hikes in the country. The Trail of Ten Falls takes hikers above, behind and around 10 stunning waterfalls, including the magnificent South Falls, which boasts a 177-foot drop.
10. Hayes Lake State Park, Minnesota
This secluded park gives visitors a chance to see a variety of Minnesota wildlife including loons, moose, beaver and more. Families will want to jump into the refreshing lake while capturing the picturesque views of the north fork of the Roseau River. The summertime is perfect to look for wild orchids, gentians and blueberries, as well as to enjoy one of the many hiking trails the park has to offer.
11. Brazos Bend State Park, Texas
Just a 45 mile drive from downtown Houston, Brazos Bend State Park gives visitors a glimpse of Texas' wild side. The park is home to a diverse mix of wildlife including deer, armadillos, birds, river otters, and, most notably, alligators! With nearly 5,000 acres of land, this park has plenty of nature to explore on foot, bike, or horseback.
12. Kickapoo Cavern State Park, Texas
Located in the southern range of Texas Hill Country, Kickapoo Cavern State Park is a quiet and remote park that is ideal for those who are ready to dive into adventure. This park has 20 known caves; the two largest are Kickapoo Cavern and Stuart Bat Cave and chronicle roughly 4 million years of nature’s handiwork.
14. High Point State Park, New Jersey
Rising 1,803 feet above sea level — the highest elevation in the state of New Jersey, High Point State Park offers unrivaled views of three states and a scenic landscape. Atop the mountain’s summit is the High Point Monument, dedicated to New Jersey’s veterans. The view from High Point Monument offers a spectacular panorama of rich farmland and forest, soft hills and lush valleys in the states of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
15. Caddo Lake State Park, Texas
While at Caddo Lake State Park, visitors can explore Caddo Lake’s grand maze of slow-moving bayous, wetlands and backwaters. The fishermen in the family will enjoy the more than 70 species of fish that the lake is home to. Visitors are also welcome to rent a canoe in the park or bring their own canoe or kayak to paddle through the waterways underneath towering bald cypress trees.
16. Blue Spring State Park, Florida
Manatee lovers, look no further than Blue Spring State Park in Florida. A designated manatee refuge as well as the preferred winter home to a large group of the gentle giants, Blue Spring State Park encompasses 2,600 acres of lush Florida landscape. With 73 degree spring water flowing, swimmers, snorkelers, and, yes, manatees, can enjoy a dip year round.
Known for its distinct landmark, used for centuries as a navigational guide, Pilot Mountain State Park’s dramatic rock formation and mountain top treat visitors to a natural landscape that really stands out. Over 2,000 feet above sea level, the park’s peak holds an extensive trail network for hikers, and plenty of rock climbing opportunities for those seeking a grand adventure.
18. Sky Meadows State Park, Virginia
Sky Meadows State Park is all about the scenic views, both during the day and at night as it’s a certified International Dark Sky Park. With 1,860 acres of woodlands and rolling pastures, this area is an ideal getaway to the peaceful eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains and away from the bustle of the nation’s capital. Nature and history fans will enjoy the programs offered year-round that tell the story of the area’s nearly three-hundred-year-old history. Hike 22 miles of trails that include portions of the Appalachian Trail and after, enjoy a bite to eat at one of the delicious eateries nearby.
As the name suggests, Calaveras Big Trees State Park is a densely forested area of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. Its giant sequoia trees are so thick that even the most brutish 4x4 could fit through the middle. Its natural beauty easily contends with the world-famous Yosemite not far away, but Calaveras’ smaller size makes it more manageable for visitors.
Among the mountains to the west of the iconic Hudson River, Bear Mountain State Park’s lakes, fields, and picnic groves can be found. Families flock for the expansive pool and unique Merry-Go-Round that features 42 hand carved seats in the form of animals found at the park. Go for a ride on a black bear, turkey, or even a skunk (!) and enjoy the lush natural surroundings as you merrily go around.
21. Vogel State Park, Georgia
Vogel State Park is one of Georgia’s oldest and most beloved states parks and is located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Hikers can choose from a variety of trails, including the popular four-mile Bear Hair Gap loop or an easy lake loop around the Trahlyta Falls. For the hikers that like a challenge, there’s the 13-mile Coosa Backcountry Trail, which escapes deep into the Blue Ridge Mountains.
We used HomeToGo’s own search data to identify the top 100 most popular state parks across the nation for 2021. Next, we created a shortlist of 21 of the highest-rated state parks. In order to rank these parks, we researched 6 data points: The number of annual park visitors, the size of each park in acres, the number of activities on offer, the species diversity of plants and animals, the number of offers available nearby on HomeToGo and the average nightly price for accommodation. After obtaining the raw data, we assigned each data point a representative numerical value between 5 and 10, with 5 representing the lowest data point and 10 representing the highest data point. The hypothetical "perfect score" would be 40 out of 40. We used the following equation in order to calculate this for every factor:
Score(i) = 5 · (x(i) - xmin ) / (xmax - xmin ) + 5
Solitude Score: We used data provided by state park websites and year-end economic impact reports to compare the number of annual visitors in 2020 and the size of area managed under each park. When data was not available for 2020, we used the most recent year available. The park with the lowest number of visitors per acre was given a solitude score of 10, and the remaining parks were awarded a score of 5 or higher.
Activities Score: We used the official websites of the respective state parks in our ranking to find out whether the parks offer visitors the chance to partake in the following activities: Hiking, boat tours, rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, swimming, canoeing and kayaking, scuba diving, bouldering, golfing, surfing, cycling, horse riding, hunting, fishing, snorkeling, and tubing. The park that offers the most activities was awarded a maximum score of 10, and every other park was awarded a score based on the equation above.
Wildlife Score: We used data provided by iNaturalist.org for the number of observed species in each park. The park that boasted the highest diversity of plants and animals were given a score of 10, and the remaining parks were awarded a score of 5 or higher.
Accommodation Score: HomeToGo's search inventory data to find the number of accommodation offers within a 30 mile radius of the park as well as the average accommodation price per night. Parks with most nearby accommodation offers were awarded a maximum score of 10, and every other park was awarded a score based on the equation above. Data was collected in April 2021, prices and availability are subject to change.
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