Top 10 U.S. State Parks


3 minutes

In addition to the United States' extensive National Parks system, there are also hundreds of State Parks throughout the country. While there are countless parks to choose from, here is a list of our Top 10 State Parks in the U.S.!

Adirondack park
Adirondack park
Image courtesy of Mwanner via Wikimedia Commons

1. Adirondack Park, New York: Adirondack Park was established by the State of New York in 1892. The park itself is larger than most states in New England and even larger than most National Parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and Great Smokies. With roughly 6 million square acres of land, it is the biggest protected wilderness area east of the Mississippi River. Roughly half of that land is owned by the state.

2. Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas: The Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the U.S. (the largest being the Grand Canyon!). This state park opened on July 4th, 1934 and comprises of 29,182 acres of land along the northern portion of the canyon. The park boasts plenty to do, with its own museum, horse stables, and amphitheatre for performances.

3. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan: As Michigan's largest state park and one of the largest remaining wilderness areas in the Midwest, the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is definitely a destination for nature enthusiasts. With 60,000 acres of lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and mountains, the "Porkies" offers plenty to explore. This pristine landscape has changed little since the park's establishment in 1945.

4. Silver Falls State Park, Oregon: Silver Falls is Oregon's largest state park and sits on over 9,000 acres of temperate rain forest. The park gets its name from the ten spectacular waterfalls that it is home to. The falls can be explored through the Trail of Ten Falls or Canyon Trail, which is a nationally recognized trail system.

5. Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada: Valley of Fire is Nevada's oldest and largest state park, sitting on roughly 42,000 acres of desert. It gets its name from the iconic red sandstone formations you can see there, which when reflecting rays from the sun, appear as if on fire. In addition to the landscape, you can also view 3,000-year-old Indian petroglyphs carved into the rocks throughout the valley.

6. Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia: The Tallulah Gorge is a 2 mile long, 1,000 foot deep canyon in northern Georgia. Throughout the gorge are six waterfalls known as the Tallulah Falls. Visitors can choose to hike the perimeter of the gorge or obtain a permit to traverse the rocky gorge floor.  There is also white water rafting and kayaking each spring during the water releases from the Georgia Power hydroelectric dams upstream.

7. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida: Located in the Florida Keys, this park is the first undersea state park in the U.S. Visitors come to the park to see the amazing coral reefs and marine life, which can be viewed through snorkeling, scuba diving, or take a glass-bottom boat tour.  The visitor center is also home to a 30,000-gallon salt-water aquarium for those who don't want to get in the water.

8. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California: Prairie Creek is a 14,000 acre park and coastal sanctuary for old-growth redwoods. The California Department of Parks and Recreation and the National Parks Service jointly manage this park, along with Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and Redwoods National Park.  All of these parks together have been designated as a World Heritage Site.

9. Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah: Dead Horse Point offers incredible views of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park. Resting at a high altitude above desert landscapes of canyons and buttes, it is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world. The point gets its name from the legend that a group of cowboys corralled their horses there. One day, however, the men did not retrieve their horses, and despite the corral being open, the horses did not leave and died of dehydration.

10. Anza-Borrega Desert State Park, California: Just a two hour drive from San Diego, Anza-Borrega is the largest of California's state parks. The park is roughly 600,000 acres in size and contains 500 miles of dirt roads, twelve wilderness areas, and 110 miles of hiking trails. Named after Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza, the park offers a wide variety of flora, fauna, and wildlife to see.

We hope that you will get a chance to visit one of these or any of the hundreds of State Parks while in the U.S.!

Sarah Wadlinger Sarah Wadlinger

A Pennsylvania native, Sarah Wadlinger has a B.A. in International Studies and served as the Participant Services Coordinator for InterExchange Career Training USA from 2011 to 2013.

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