10 Amazing State Parks to Explore This Year

Do you crave getting outside and exploring new places? Does your family enjoy activities like hiking, camping, or kayaking? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I highly recommend visiting your nearest State Park!

It seems like National Parks are all the rave right now, but State Parks are just as amazing! Plus, there’s way more State Parks out there to explore than National Parks. Keep reading to learn about our favorites across the US and why we love them!

Dead Horse Point State Park – Utah

Hands down, one of the most beautiful views we’ve ever seen!

Did you know that the vista from Dead Horse Point State Park is one of the most photographed scenes in the world? Once you visit, you’ll totally understand why! In my honest opinion, I prefer this state park over the Grand Canyon. The views are breathtaking, the hiking was easier for the kiddos, and the location in relation to Moab and the National Parks in the area made for an amazing trip!

We visited in March over our spring break and felt like we had the whole entire place to ourselves! I loved the views and the pictures I was able to take of my family here. The boys loved exploring and climbing around on the rocks (not anywhere close to the edge, I promise). You’ll come across this park right before Canyonlands National Park, so we enjoyed the easiness of seeing both places in the same day!

Click here to for my complete Moab, UT travel guide!

Hunting Island State Park – South Carolina

I love visiting unique beaches!

If you have kids that love to run and climb, then take them to this beach! We visited this state park over spring break in March, so the weather was still quiet chilly and too cold to swim at the beach. That didn’t stop any of the fun, though! This is an awesome beach to visit to search for shells and shark teeth, too!

My boys loved climbing on all of the driftwood along the shore. And they also had a blast running through the trees and bushes farther away from the water. They made little forts under the trees and played together for hours while the grownups relaxed to the sounds of crashing waves! It was nice to see how much fun these brothers had playing together and we have the best memories of this day! I loved the Marsh Boardwalk, so be sure to check that out!

  • Website: Hunting Island State Park
  • Address: 2555 Sea Island Pkwy, Hunting Island, SC 29920
  • Phone Number: 843-838-7437
  • Entrance Fees: $5 per person, $3 for kids ages 5-16

Click here for my complete South Carolina travel guide!

Maquoketa Caves State Park – Iowa

So far, this state park is my most favorite!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this state park is AMAZING! I only spent half a day here exploring the caves, but I could’ve stayed for days. Picture it, you’re deep in the forest walking along trails that you know lead to different caves. Limestone bluffs surround you. And then you spot the first cave opening and the true adventure begins!

This state park is considered to be Iowa’s most unique and I couldn’t agree more! There are about 13 caves to explore and inside the caves it stays about 55 degrees, even in the summer! Plan to wear hiking boots, bring a flashlight, and prepare to get dirty! It really is a memorable adventure. I’m not sure who enjoyed this place the most, my kids or myself!

  • Website: Maquoketa Caves State Park
  • Address: 9688 Caves Rd, Maquoketa, IA 52060
  • Phone Number: (563) 652-5833
  • Entrance Fees: We didn’t pay a fee when we visited!

Click here for more information about our trip to Maquoketa Caves State Park!

Emerald Bay State Park – California

Have you ever been to a lake that looked like a beach in the Caribbean?

This is another beautiful state park. We kept saying that it felt like we were at the beach and not at the lake! I really enjoyed the hiking trails, the trees are huge and the views along the way are stunning. The beach area at the lake is also great for relaxing, picnicking, swimming, and renting kayaks, canoes, and SUP boards.

We rented a kayak and explored on the water! It was so much fun. We paddled out to an island and got to hike around it and up to the ruins on top. The weather here is also amazing, not too hot at all and we visited in August. We enjoyed snorkeling here, too and just relaxing along the shore after a day on the water and hiking in the area. California is just so dreamy!

  • Website: Emerald Bay State Park
  • Address: 138 Emerald Bay Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
  • Phone Number: (530) 541-3030
  • Entrance Fees: $5 per vehicle to park

Click here for my complete South Lake Tahoe travel guide!

Custer State Park – South Dakota

The hiking in this state park is a must!

This is one of the most memorable state parks we’ve visited, probably because it was the first long hike we took our boys on! The Black Hills of South Dakota are already pretty fantastic, but add in this state park with lake access, wildlife galore, and rugged hiking trails and the experience is one you’ll remember for a lifetime!

If you’re able to visit, be sure to check out the Sunday Gulch Trail. It’s not the easiest trail, but it is so much fun! Who wouldn’t love hiking over streams and around waterfalls? Seriously, besides driving through the park and taking in the sights, the trail is my most favorite memory here!

  • Website: Custer State Park
  • Address: 13438 US Highway 16A, Custer, SD 57730
  • Phone Number: (605) 255-4515
  • Entrance Fees: $20 per vehicle

Click here for my complete South Dakota travel guide!

Dinosaur Valley State Park – Texas

Kids love hunting for dinosaur tracks here!

We come to this state park for the dinosaurs! Where else can you go hunt for dinosaurs tracks? Here, you can find them in different places along the riverbed of the Paluxy River and walk right in them if you choose to! After all, Glen Rose is known as the Dinosaur Capital of Texas!

We’ve always enjoyed bringing our boys here on warm summer days. The river is a great place to cool off and we all really enjoy hunting for those dinosaur tracks! You can also camp, hike, and look for wildlife here. Glen Rose has a lot of other options in the area, from a drive through wildlife park, to campgrounds, river floats, and more!

  • Website: Dinosaur Valley State Park
  • Address: 1629 Park Rd 59 Glen Rose, TX 76043
  • Phone Number: (254) 897-4588
  • Entrance Fees: $8 per adult, age 12 and under are free

Click here for my complete Glen Rose travel guide!

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

I have never seen trees so tall and forest trails so quiet and serene!

There’s not a lot of words that describe just how magical these groves of trees are. And the pictures I took definitely do not come close to showing the massive size of them. Truly an unforgettable day of hiking and exploring and a place that I personally feel everyone should visit if given the chance!

I’ve never seen my boys so happy out in nature. They were impressed with the views, but loved exploring the most. They ran, played, climbed on tree logs, crawled through downed trees, and just acted like kids. It made my mama heart so happy. The Redwoods are unforgettable and this park is a place that we all want to visit again!

Click here for my entire Pacific Coast travel guide!

Robbers Cave State Park – Oklahoma

We felt like outlaws on the run here at this park!

Nestled in the San Bois Mountains of Oklahoma sits Robbers Cave State Park. The landscape and hiking trails are just as legendary as the infamous outlaws that used to flee to the caves to hide.

We find ourselves going back time and again because it’s fairly close to us and it’s just such a fun and easy getaway. The kids love exploring the caves in the area and climbing all the rocks that dot the landscape behind the cabin rentals. We enjoy sitting around the fire pit roasting marshmallows and watching our kids doing all the things that kids like to do when out in nature!

  • Website: Robbers Cave State Park
  • Address: 2084 NW 146th Rd, Wilburton, OK 74578
  • Phone Number: (918) 465-2562
  • Entrance Fees: $3 per person

Click here to my complete Robbers Cave travel guide!

Smith Falls State Park – Nebraska

Short hike to an impressive waterfall, yes please!

This was a surprisingly wonderful stop on our road trip from Texas to South Dakota! We happened to see this state park sign off the road in Nebraska and decided it would be a great place to get out and move around after driving all day. It ended up being so much more than we had expected!

We were utterly shocked at the size of the waterfall we found at the end of a fairly easy walk. Even more surprising though, was that nobody else was there! This is a place that I hope to explore more of one day!

  • Website: Smith Falls State Park
  • Address: 90165 Smith Falls Rd Valentine, NE 69201
  • Phone Number: (402) 376-1306
  • Entrance Fees: $12 nonresidents, $6 residents

Monahans Sandhills State Park – Texas

Being a kid is so fun!

This is another state park that my boys give two thumbs up to! I don’t know your thoughts on sand, but my kids love it! So, can you imagine their delight when we pulled up to a park full of sand dunes for miles and miles? This is a great stop if you’re driving through Texas towards New Mexico. We stopped here along the route to Carlsbad Caverns!

If you visit, bring a sled or something to slide down the dunes on and let the kids run free! There are great facilities to shower off in after a day of playing in the sand. Trust me, it will be everywhere, but totally worth it!

  • Website: Monahans Sandhills State Park
  • Address: Exit 86, 2500 I-20, Monahans, TX 79756
  • Phone Number: (432) 943-2092
  • Entrance Fees: $4 per day for ages 13 and up

As you can see, there are so many amazing places out there to explore! If you find yourself on an adventure, look to see if there are any state parks in the area. I promise you won’t be disappointed! We love adding state parks to our itinerary. They are typically very inexpensive and offer a wide range of activities for all the different interest levels in our family.

Be sure to check back in on the blog to see just which state parks we add to our list this year! We have some fun plans in the works that I can’t wait to share with you all. If you have a favorite state park, I’d love for you to share. As always, happy travels!


2 thoughts on “10 Amazing State Parks to Explore This Year

  1. What a great list. We did almost all the National Parks in Arizona and Utah last October. It was wonderful. Will add some of these to my lists of parks to visit.


    1. That’s amazing! We have plans to visit Zion & Bryce soon!! And thank you so much. We’re excited to add more parks to this list!!

      Liked by 1 person

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