From neighborhood playgrounds to awe-inspiring, sprawling state parks, the 50 states have plenty of places for us to explore outdoors.
With this much variety, it might be a bit overwhelming to plan your next adventure in the wilderness. You might also be nervous about calculating just how much it’ll cost to get to — and enjoy — the destination you’ve chosen. Fear not! We’ve found five of the best state parks that dot our great nation (not in any particular order), and we promise that they won’t break your budget.
Most state parks have minimal entrance fees, if they charge fees at all. Furthermore, you can partake in many free outdoor activities, saving your budget for food, lodging and travel. As for the latter, you can find plenty of low-cost, high-excitement ways to traverse the parks we’ve uncovered, too. So, read on to find the one, two, or ten parks that spark your intrigue.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
1. T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
Florida stands as one of the nation’s top destinations for beach lovers, and no coastline is more pristine than the white-sand beaches of this state park.
It’s referred to as the “forgotten coast,” which means you’ll be able to soak up the sun in peace. You can also fish, bird-watch, swim, and snorkel in the bright-blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico — a boat rental will give you ideal access to these activities and more.
2. Chugach State Park
On the opposite side of the country, you’ll find Alaska’s Chugach State Park. It couldn’t be more opposite than the Gulf Shore beach described above. Snow-capped mountains zigzag across the sky, giving way to lush valleys reflected in crystal-clear lakes.
You can camp out or stay in Anchorage and make it a day trip. Be sure to pack your camera, and not just for scenery: visitors often see moose, bears, mountain goats, foxes and more scurrying through the 500,000 acres that this park covers.
3. Slide Rock State Park
There are two things that almost everyone knows about Arizona: It’s hot and it’s home to some truly incredible rock formations.
Beat the heat while experiencing the red sandstone that makes the state’s wilderness so picturesque at Slide Rock State Park. It should come as no surprise that one of the aforementioned red sandstones here acts as a natural water slide, delivering its riders right into a cool creek below.
We can’t imagine a better way of checking out the sites on a scorching day than by water slide!
4. Falls Creek State Park
Hikers, rejoice! Trails hike Falls Creek State Park in Tennessee, where most visitors come to check out the 256-foot waterfall that gives the park its name. Of course, a 26,000-acre expanse like this one has more to offer than a single gorgeous waterfall.
You can find other cascades throughout the park, as well as its hardwood forests. And, with the proper permit, you can rent horses and explore the old-fashioned way.
5. Yellowstone State Park
No best-of list about parks could ever omit Yellowstone State Park. This landmark has certainly earned its pristine reputation, with sites like Old Faithful drawing flocks of visitors every year.
No matter where you live, a nature enthusiast might benefit by taking a road trip to the park. That way, you can cross the 3,500-square-mile park with greater ease, or even stop at some additional state parks along the way.
You might even catch glimpses of the wildlife that call from its canyons, drink from its rivers and rest beneath its trees. Native species include wolves, bison, elk, antelope and bears.
Do you have any other favorite state parks that you think are a must see? Tell us about them in the comments section below!
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