western state parks tahoe nevada

11 state parks that will boggle your mind

We live in a country dominated by the National Parks scene. They’re phenomenal, and nearly all are worthy of their federal designation. However, the list of must-see places doesn’t end with National Parks. These best State Parks punch above their weight and are places you can’t miss.

Below are some of the best state parks in the USA and in the western United States.

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A Guide to See the Best State Parks in the USA

Best State Park for Dramatic Landscapes

While I haven’t technically set foot in Denali State Park up in Alaska, I can attest to it’s greatness. It’s probably better than a lot of National Parks, simply due to its proximity to Denali National Park and the Alaskan Range.

If you’re near Talkeetna, make sure to stop by and check it out!

How to find amazing State Parks?

State parks are less publicized, but that doesn’t necessarily make them hard to find. When you’re in an area, search “state parks” and see what you’ll find. Or, as the state tourism board, if they have any suggestions for you.

They will undoubtedly want to get you to visit these local gems and the best state parks in the USA!

The 11 Best State Parks in the USA

Best State Parks for Waterfalls – Silver Falls State Park

Silver Falls State park is surely one of the best state parks in the usa.

If you’re looking for more waterfalls than you can count, head to Oregon and the Trail of Ten Falls. An our outside of Oregon, it’s one of the most magnificent places you can spend time.

Best State Parks for Wilderness – Jedidiah Smith State Park

best state parks in the usa

Full of the tallest trees on earth, I loved the time spent exploring Northern California and the coastal Redwoods. If you can snag a spot at the campsite (first come, first serve), do it. If not, there are other National Forest campgrounds nearby, or you can stay in Crescent City, which is a 15-minute drive. If we’re ranking this, it’s my top western state park to visit.

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Lake Tahoe – Nevada State Park

best state parks in the usa

There’s a reason Lake Tahoe is a favorite of many. The lake’s deep blue and the almost tropical colors near shore mean the view will blow your mind. But, in my biased opinion, the eastern side of the lake is the best for photography. There are a lot of Tahoe area state parks but this is one of the best state parks in the USA.

Best State Parks for Spectacular Flora – Garrapata State Park

big sur california garapata state park

My favorite spot in Big Sur is less than 20 minutes from the town of Carmel. Garrapata State Park has miles of trails up and down the coast, letting you stretch your legs after a long drive and see the fantastic coastline. Garrapta is a phenomenal western state park to visit and one of the best state parks in the USA.

Best State Park for Black Sand Beaches – Waiʻānapanapa State Park

black sand beach hawaii top state parks

Permits are now required to access one of Hawaii’s most visited black sand beaches. Luckily, they don’t seem too hard to get if you do it at least a week out. So enjoy your time hiking along the volcanic ridgelines or in the waters cooling off.

Lost Dutchman State Park

Lost Dutchman Best State Parks Arizona

Under an hour from Phoenix, this is arguably Arizona’s best state park. The numerous saguaros and tons of hiking trails mean you’re in for a treat. So as you’re planning an Arizona trip, make sure to have this high on your list!

Best State Parks That Feel Like National Parks – Deadhorse Point State Park

Near Canyonlands and Moab, Deadhorse Point is underrated but offers one of the best state park views in the country. The sights go on forever, and the snow on the red rock is mesmerizing in the winter.

Best State Parks for Solitude – Humboldt Redwoods State Park

avenue of the giants humboldt state park

Consisting of the Avenue of the Giants, Humboldt is incredible. Make sure to hop off the 101 and do this 35-mile drive, as there’s nothing else like it in the United States. We found stop 7 in the hand guide excellent and enjoyed the short-mile walk in Founder’s Grove. My tip: Plan to spend 3-4 hours exploring this area and do as many hikes as possible!

Want to hike the best trails in the Western US, click here.

Emerald Bay State Park

emerald bay tahoe best state parks

You couldn’t have drawn up a more picture-perfect location! Emerald Bay has one of the best views in Tahoe and allows you to hike down to the shoreline. The moderate 5+ mile round trip hike is excellent and brings you to old historical buildings with a European flair!

Best State Parks for Wildlife – Chugach State Park

virgin creek falls best state parks alaska

Near Alyeska Ski Resort, Virgin Creek Falls is a short walk from the parking area, but the view packs a punch. Now, know that Chugach State Park is one of the largest in the nation, and there are PLENTY of places to see. Unfortunately, this was the only one we got to do during our trip but know you can’t be disappointed if you set off on any hike in the area. This is still one of the coolest state parks in the United States and has tons of potential. 

The Best State Park to make you feel warm – Makena State Park

Makena Beach's lovely white sand makes it one of the best state parks in the usa.

A perfectly pristine and stunning beach located 10 minutes from Kihei, Makena Beach is the spot to watch sunrise or sunset. For anyone visiting Maui, you must check out one of the more underrated state parks in the United States. 

FAQ: Top State Parks in the United States

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How many state parks are in the US? 

There are over 6,600 state parks in the United States, totaling 14M acres of protected public land. These offer tremendous opportunities to connect with our land through hiking, fishing, camping, biking, and more!

Which state has the most state parks?

As you probably assumed, California leads the charge with 270 state parks. My favorites of these include the aforementioned Humboldt Redoods, Emerald Bay in Tahoe, Henry Cowell Redwoods, and Anza-Borrego. 

Wrapping up – Best State Parks in the USA

I hope you enjoyed this list of the Best State Parks in the USA. Even though they may not be national parks, they still hold great value and offer epic views and plenty of room for exploration.

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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