6 Lesser Known State Parks That are Just as Cool as National Parks

6 Lesser Known State Parks That are Just as Cool as National Parks

The United States is home to some of the most beautiful national parks in the world. Every year millions of people flock to these parks to discover the country’s natural and diverse beauty.

To add even more destinations to your bucket list, there are lots of state parks worth visiting, too. And they're often less crowded (and less expensive, or free) than our more popular national parks.

Here are 6 lesser known state parks that offer hiking, camping, climbing, snowshoeing, bird watching, photography, and more. Perhaps your next trip is to a park you've never heard of -- yet. 

1. Palo Duro Canyon State Park

You’ll find the second largest canyon in the country, nestled in the heart of the Texas panhandle. While many people drive right through the region in favor of other destinations, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is truly a gem.

You can explore the canyon by foot, mountain bike, horse, and car. The park’s 30 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails inspire visitors to explore deeper and further into this expanse of wilderness.  Live out your wild west fantasies with a guided horseback riding tour from Old West Stables. It’s perfect for the whole family.

Camping at Palo Duro Canyon State Park is available year-round. 

2. Baxter State Park

Home to Maine’s tallest mountain, Baxter State Park marks the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail -- but it's much more than an end to this popular thru-hike. It's an adventure all its own. 

Mount Katahdin, standing at 5,267 feet is the centerpiece of the state park. The park also offers 215 miles of hiking trails, 337 campsites, and 209, 644 acres to explore. From fishing to boating to climbing and more, you’ll never get bored in Maine’s wilderness. Plus, you might spot a moose! 

3. Adirondack Park

While Adirondack Park is not technically a state park, it is the largest publicly protected area in the continental US. Covering over six million acres, it’s larger than Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined.

Half the Adirondack Park is designated “forever wild” while the other part is privately owned meaning there are tons of towns, shops, and restaurants throughout the region. With over 3,000 lakes, mountains, and rivers, you can stay busy skiing, hiking, paddling, and more -- then reward yourself with dinner on the town. 

4. Itasca State Park

As the second oldest state park in the country, Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota attracts more than 500,000 visitors a year. The wooded 32,000-acre state park is home to Lake Itasca, the source of the Mississippi River which flows over 2,500 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Itasca State Park is a favorite amongst kayakers, cyclists, and hikers. 

5. Custer State Park

Surrounded by South Dakota’s Black Hills, Custer State Park is a 71,000-acre state park, home to an abundance of native wildlife.

The 18-mile Wildlife Loop is the perfect drive to see pronghorn antelope, donkeys, bighorn sheep, elk, and more. Every September, thousands of people gather for the annual Buffalo Roundup where volunteers gather the herd for vet checks and branding. 

6. Franconia Notch State Park

Once home to the famous “Old Man of the Mountain,” Franconia Notch State Park offers year-round adventures for outdoor lovers. From skiing at Cannon Mountain during the winter months to hiking the popular Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop in the summer months and discovering the infamous Flume Gorge, there is tons to do and see in New Hampshire. And, no matter where you go, there are always incredible views of the nearby White Mountain National Forest.


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