The Most Scenic Parks in Every State You Have To Visit at Least Once

If you love sightseeing in the great outdoors, add these 50 scenic parks to your list of must-see locations.

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Updated June 6, 2024
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From the Grand Canyon to the Blue Ridge Mountains, national parks are well known for their breathtaking views. 

While these sites are well worth the visit, they often overshadow the just-as-spectacular sights and experiences on offer at state and city parks across the country.

Step up your travel game and check out our comprehensive list of the top park in each state for stunning, once-in-a-lifetime views of America’s best natural features.

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Alabama: Desoto State Park (Fort Payne)

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Alabama’s Gulf Coast has plenty of beautiful ocean beaches, but don’t miss out on parks like Desoto in the mountainous northeastern region of the state. Desoto State Park is home to a towering 104-foot waterfall that flows from the west fork of Alabama’s Little River, which sculpted a canyon often called the Grand Canyon of the East.

Alaska: Kachemak Bay State Park (Homer)

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This extremely remote state park stretches for more than 400,000 acres of pure Alaska wilderness. There are opportunities for all types of sightseeing, from whale-watching tours to backcountry hiking with glacier views, mountains, and miles of forests.

Arizona: Slide Rock State Park (Sedona)

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Slide Rock State Park has plenty to offer. On this former homestead, you’ll find breathtaking red rock cliffs dotted with juniper and desert brush as well as opportunities for riverside fun along the Oak Creek river.

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Arkansas: Petit Jean State Park (Morrilton)

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Arkansas’ oldest state park is also one of its most beautiful recreational sites. If you want to enjoy canyon views, consider a stay in one of the park’s 33 cabins that overlook the Arkansas River Valley. If you’re interested in a day trip, visit the 95-foot cascade of Cedar Falls.

California: Crystal Cove State Park (Laguna Beach)

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Orange County isn’t known for its backcountry hiking, but Crystal Cove State Park is a welcome exception. Stroll through backcountry bluffs that fill with morning fog from the nearby coast, or head right down to the long stretch of protected coastline where you can surf, camp, or watch the sunset.

Colorado: Roxborough State Park (Littleton)

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At Roxborough State Park, you’ll see striking fins of red rocks rising from the surrounding prairie. During the winter, a ski trip through the park reveals dramatic color contrasts between the deep red rock and the Denver area’s famous snow.

Connecticut: Silver Sands State Park (Milford)

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With a half-mile of shoreline, an easy boardwalk stroll, and access to a sandbar with plentiful fishing opportunities, Silver Sands State Park perfectly encapsulates the best parts of the Connecticut coast. Check the tide charts before you head out — incoming tides can quickly flood the sandbar.

Delaware: Cape Henlopen (Lewes)

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With over six miles of windswept Atlantic coastline and a WWII-era observation tower, Cape Henlopen is a fascinating daytime park for history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. A three-mile boardwalk gives you a glimpse of the park’s sand dunes and marshy wetlands.

Florida: Highlands Hammock State Park (Sebring)

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Highlands Hammock in Central Florida is home to old-growth oak forests and cypress swamps. It’s also one of the last remaining habitats of the Florida panther. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of one from the park’s elevated boardwalk or tram system.

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Georgia: Cloudland Canyon State Park (Rising Fawn)

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Cloudland Canyon is a relatively large state park with 60 miles of hiking trails, 30 miles of bike paths, and 16 miles of horseback trails. No matter which form of transportation you prefer, you’ll be treated to views of spectacular canyons, quiet creeks, and dramatic waterfalls.

Hawaii: Na Pali Coast (Kauai)

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Choosing Hawaii’s most scenic state park is a near-impossible task — but once you see the magnificent Na Pali Coast on the island of Kauai, you’ll understand. If you can make the challenging 11-mile hike out to the coast, you’ll find the pristine ocean, sandy beaches, and verdant cliffs with tumbling waterfalls.

Idaho: Thousand Springs State Park (Hagerman)

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Thousand Springs State Park is located in an area of Idaho referred to as “Magic Valley.” Photo opportunities include the Malad Gorge, where the Malad River tumbles into the so-called Devil’s Washbowl, and Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve.

Illinois: Matthiessen State Park (North Utica)

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Matthiessen State Park is just a few miles away from the more popular Starved Rock State Park, but it deserves at least as much renown. Old-growth trees, sandstone formations, mineral springs, and salt licks offer fascinating opportunities to learn about Illinois’ unique landscape.

Indiana: Turkey Run State Park (Marshall)

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As part of the Indiana Birding Trail, Turkey Run State Park is an ideal location to spot bluebirds, tanagers, hawks, and turkey vultures. Shaded canyon trails, forest groves, and access to Sugar Creek round out the experience for birdwatchers and other visitors alike.

Iowa: Pilot Knob State Park (Forest City)

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Pilot Knob’s observation tower is the ideal spot to look down at Iowa’s expansive cornfields. It’s also home to Deadman’s Lake, a floating sphagnum bog that sprawls across four acres and is the only highly acidic mossy bog found in Iowa.

Kansas: Lake Scott State Park (Scott City)

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If you know Kansas only for its flat plains, Lake Scott will come as quite a surprise. Lake Scott State Park is home not just to an excellent fishing lake but to canyons, bluffs, springs, and a plethora of historic sites dating back centuries.

Kentucky: Cumberland Falls State Resort Park (Corbin)

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Once you’ve seen the 125-foot waterfall that gives Cumberland Falls Park its name, you won’t question why it’s called “The Niagara of the South.” The park is also the only place in the Western Hemisphere where you can see a moonbow (or “lunar rainbow”) during the full moon.

Louisiana: Cypremort Point State Park (Cypremort Point)

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For fishing, boating, or sailing on the Gulf of Mexico, there’s no better place than Cypremort Point State Park. By all accounts, there’s also no better place to watch a Louisiana sunset — whether from the park’s beach or aboard your favorite fishing vessel.

Maine: Aroostook State Park (Presque Isle)

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Are you fond of brisk, challenging hikes? Get a look at scenic Maine from the top of Quaggy Jo Mountain. Or, if you prefer lakes to mountains, consider relaxing on the shores of Echo Lake, where you can picnic, barbecue, or simply relax in the sun.

Maryland: Seneca Creek State Park (Gaithersburg)

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This 6,300-acre state park is located along the shores of Seneca Creek and encapsulates the scenic Clopper Lake. You can explore Maryland’s woods through 50 miles of hiking trails, which are beautiful any time of the year — but especially glorious in the fall.

Massachusetts: Middlesex Fells Reservation (Stoneham)

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Believe it or not, this 2,500-acre reservation, with its 100-plus miles of hiking trails, is located just six miles away from Boston. From the Skyline Trail, you’ll get a good look at the city’s skyline, but you can explore the reservation’s wetlands, woodlands, and ponds.

Michigan: Lake Gogebic State Park (Marenisco)

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Even in the land of many lakes, Lake Gogebic stands out. As home to the biggest inland lake in the Upper Peninsula, the park also puts you near cascades like Agate Falls and the river rapids of Presque Isle River.

Minnesota: Interstate State Park (Taylors Falls)

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Interstate State Park is the ideal place to explore the St. Croix River area. You can examine lava flows, glacial deposits, and glacial potholes on your hikes. Or, if you prefer canoeing to hiking, enjoy an excursion on the river.

Mississippi: Tishomingo State Park (Tishomingo)

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Tishomingo State Park is your launching-off point for exploring the Appalachian Mountains’ foothills. Wildflowers make stunning appearances in the spring and summer, but you’ll also find mossy boulders, unique rock formations, and unfurling ferns.

Missouri: Ha Ha Tonka State Park (Camdenton)

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From the strange castle ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park, you can see both Ha Ha Tonka Spring and the gorgeous Lake of the Ozarks. There’s plenty to explore on the ground as well, including an interesting natural bridge, various sinkholes, and regional caves.

Montana: Lost Creek State Park (Anaconda)

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From a short walk to a 50-foot waterfall to longer hikes through granite and limestone cliffs, Lost Creek State Park has a lot to offer. If you’re lucky, you might see distinctive Montana wildlife like golden eagles, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats.

Nebraska: Indian Cave State Park (Shubert)

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If you’re looking for a relaxing spot along the Missouri River, Indian Cave State Park is the place for you. From the park’s hills, you’ll get scenic river views, but you can also hike through old hardwood forests.

Nevada: Valley of Fire (Overton)

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Valley of Fire showcases the region’s unique red sandstone and tan limestone rock formations. The striated cliffs are beautiful enough on their own, and the park’s ancient petroglyphs add a touch of intrigue for history buffs.

New Hampshire: Bear Brook State Park (Allenstown)

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The biggest state park in New Hampshire is also one of the most beautiful. Among the park’s forest, you’ll find unique bogs and marshlands, and if you want a break from sightseeing, you can swing by the park’s archery range.

New Jersey: Wawayanda State Park (Hewitt)

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Whether you want a quiet swim in a pristine lake or a challenging Appalachian Trail hike with sweeping, scenic vistas as your payoff, you can find it all at Wawayanda State Park.

New Mexico: Bottomless Lakes State Park (Roswell)

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While the lakes that give this stunning state park its name aren’t actually bottomless, the park’s eight water-filled sinkholes are anywhere from 17 to 90 feet deep — an ideal setting for desert SCUBA diving.

New York: Pelham Bay Park (Bronx)

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The Bronx’s municipal Pelham Bay Park is over three times bigger than New York City’s famous Central Park. While there are plenty of outdoor activities to engage in, from golfing to horseback riding on the park’s bridle trails, the best views are along its 13 miles of Long Island Sound shoreline.

North Carolina: Jockey’s Ridge State Park (Nags Head)

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Home to the tallest sand dunes on the East Coast, Jockey’s Ridge is a must-see for anyone interested in unique sightseeing opportunities. The region’s one-of-a-kind ecosystem makes it a great spot for hang gliding — the best way to enjoy truly breathtaking views.

North Dakota: Beaver Lake State Park (Wishek)

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At Beaver Lake, you can enjoy lakeside views and then stroll through North Dakota’s well-known prairie landscapes. On the park’s five miles of hiking trails, you can wind through forested hills, glacier-carved moraines, and grasslands that support a diverse ecosystem of birds.

Ohio: Maumee Bay State Park (Oregon)

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Maumee Bay State Park might be located in the city of Oregon, but it’s a uniquely Ohioan experience. Along the shores of Lake Erie, this charming state park is home to a host of interconnected lakeside ecosystems: Marshland, grassland, meadows, forests, and beaches.

Oklahoma: Black Mesa State Park (Kenton)

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At 4,973 feet above sea level, Black Mesa is the highest point in Oklahoma, which makes it the prime spot from which to view the surrounding prairie. The view is even more impressive in contrast with the black volcanic rock that gives the mesa its distinctive name.

Oregon: Oswald West State Park (Manzanita)

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Located just off the Oregon Coast Highway, Oswald West State Park is the perfect place to experience Oregon’s coastal rainforest. 200-foot-tall Sitka spruce trees tower over hikers on the park’s 15 miles of trails, but there are lovely ocean views as well.

Pennsylvania: Ricketts Glen State Park (Benton)

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With 22 named waterfalls (and plenty of smaller unnamed cascades), old-growth forests, and a spectacular display of mountain wildflowers in the spring, Ricketts Glen State Park is easily one of the most gorgeous areas in Pennsylvania.

Rhode Island: Mohegan Bluffs (Block Island)

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Whether you get there by bike or by climbing the 141-step staircase that stretches up from the nearby beach, the view from the Mohegan Bluffs is well worth the effort. This Block Island trail leads you 200 feet up for panoramic views of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean.

South Carolina: Caesars Head State Park (Cleveland)

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From the distinctive granite overlook that gives Caesars Head State Park its name, visitors can take in views of South Carolina’s pristine forests. You can also hike to seven distinct waterfalls, including the 420-foot-high Raven Cliff Falls.

South Dakota: Custer State Park (Custer)

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Custer State Park is located in South Dakota’s distinctive Black Hills. You can kayak and paddleboard in the beautiful blue waters of Lake Sylvan, which is surrounded by the region’s fascinating granite outcroppings. During the fall, visit for the awe-inspiring buffalo roundups.

Tennessee: Rock Island State Park (Rock Island)

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Within the 833-acre Rock Island State Park, you’ll find the Caney Fork River Gorge, home to waterfalls, miles of hiking trails, and plenty of opportunities for swimming, though Great Falls might be the park’s most popular sight.

Texas: Inks Lake State Park (Burnet)

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Texas’ diverse landscape offers a range of natural beauty, but Inks Lake State Park is in a league of its own. With nine miles of trails, the park makes it easy to explore the region’s unique pink granite hills, which offer views of the surrounding Hill County.

Utah: Escalante Petrified Forest State Park (Escalante)

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Most nature enthusiasts visit Utah to see the Big Five national parks but don’t overlook this hidden gem of a state park. You’ll enjoy wandering through ancient lava flows and viewing the gorgeous red rock the area is known for.

Vermont: Smugglers’ Notch State Park (Stowe)

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This narrow mountain pass was once a route used to smuggle goods from Vermont to Canada and, later, as a passageway for enslaved people fleeing to freedom. Now, it’s a state park with one-of-a-kind mountain trails lined by the Green Mountains’ 1,000-foot cliffs.

Virginia: Fairy Stone State Park (Stuart)

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Fairy stones — small, oddly shaped rocks found in this part of Virginia — gave Fairy Stone State Park its eclectic name. Take a hike to Little Mountain Falls, go kayaking on the quiet lake, and glimpse the iconic Blue Ridge Mountains from the Philpott Lake Dam overview.

Washington: Battle Ground Lake State Park (Battle Ground)

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At Battle Ground Lake State Park, you’ll enjoy lakeside views of an ancient volcanic lake and the evergreen forests the Cascades are known for.

West Virginia: Coopers Rock State Forest (Bruceton Mills)

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Coopers Rock State Forest stands out for its incredible overlooks and ancient sandstone cliffs. Although the park is often bustling, visitors report easily finding solitude on any of the forest’s 50 miles of trails.

Wisconsin: Brunet Island State Park (Cornell)

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Brunet Island State Park is located where the Fisher and Chippewa rivers converge. Staying at the park’s campground puts you right alongside the riverbank, providing easy access to multiple lagoons by kayak or canoe.

Wyoming: Hot Springs State Park (Thermopolis)

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Hot Springs State Park is a picturesque alternative to Jackson Hole. Along with soaking in the hot springs at the park’s free bathhouse, get a unique look at the 100-degree-plus water from the springs as it pours into the Bighorn River.

Bottom line

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Every state is home to at least one utterly unique, breathtakingly gorgeous state park. Whether you favor wide-open plains, sunlit mountain vistas, or sweeping seaside views, there’s an affordable (or even free) park out there for you. Stop wasting money on crowded, over-priced tourist traps and enjoy what nature has to offer.

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Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.