Travel Tips 

The Best State Parks That Rival National Parks

While America’s national parks get most of the attention, some of the most underrated state parks rival even their most impressive and well-known national counterparts. State parks are the outdoor hidden gems that see fewer visitors, meaning more ‘me time’ for you and less jockeying for the best selfie-position. Go for a hike, take your fishing pole or sketchbook, and enjoy some real peace and quiet in some of America’s best state parks.
Prepared By:

Alana B.

Adventurer & Photographer

Check out the best state parks that are so impressive yet underrated, you’ll wonder why they aren’t national parks!

Castle Rocks State Park, Idaho

Mountain Lupines take off during wildflower season in Castle Rocks. If you’re looking for a spring trip, look no further than this state park a few hours outside of Boise. Their wildflower season is brief, but absolutely stunning. The state park also has Dutch oven cooking lessons!

Dead Horse State Park, Utah

While most people head to Utah for Arches or Canyonlands national parks, Dead Horse State Park offers similar views with far less traffic. A certified Dark Sky Park, this spot offers mountain biking, hiking, stargazing, and easy access to iconic national parks nearby. This is definitely a bucket list destination.

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Considered one of the most beautiful spots in South Dakota’s Black Hills, Custer State Park is the state’s first and largest state park. Each November, the park holds a buffalo auction which attracts participants and spectators from all over. You can also find an abundance of hot springs in the area!

Calaveras Big Trees State Park, California

This California state park was created to preserve the North Grove of giant sequoias that grow in abundance there. This park has an incredible amount of educational resources, nature walks, and discussions with rangers to learn about the plants and animals that live there. This is one of the best state parks to visit with kids, as the sheer size of the sequoias will have their imaginations running wild.

Itasca State Park, Minnesota

Itasca State Park is where the Mississippi River begins, making it one of the best state parks in America for its sheer environmental impact. The Mississippi is the second longest river in North America, and here in Itasca visitors can explore the scenic headwaters best by grabbing a paddle and getting on the water.

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Aztec sandstone, ancient petroglyphs and miles of limestone make up 40,000 acres of desert play space in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Enjoy the hiking and camping in this year-round park, and plan your trip for the annual World Atlatl Competition, where participants practice their spear throwing skills. Discover the Indigenous heritage of the area, and remember



The best state parks don’t just compare to national parks, they stand out all on their own. Head off the beaten path to these lesser-visited but equally beautiful outdoor playgrounds next time you crave a little adventure!

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Photo courtesy of @Ronakp967 via Instagram.


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