10 Must-Visit State Parks to Kick Off the Summer!

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America’s state parks boast stunning mountain vistas, ancient petroglyphs in red sandstone, pristine beaches, and all the flora and fauna you can imagine. Start your summer right with an adventure in one of these 10 incredible parks!

Antelope Island State Park (Utah)

You’ll drive across a narrow causeway to access Utah’s Antelope Island State Park, home to abundant wildlife, a Great Salt Lake and 28,000 acres of natural beauty to explore. Spend the day hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Spot free-roaming bison, pronghorn antelope, and diverse bird species. Kayak the serene shoreline, float in the lake’s buoyant waters and relax by freshwater pools. Check out the unique Fielding Garr Ranch (a barn from the 1920s). At night, enjoy stargazing under the pristine dark skies (you might even see the Milky Way).

Baxter State Park (Maine)

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Baxter State Park in Maine. Why? There are over 215 miles of hiking trails, 300+ campsites and more than 200,000 acres of wilderness to explore. Hike to the cranberry bogs, a unique feature of the park. Rent a canoe and spend the day paddling on one of the many ponds (there are over 50), or cast a line for brook trout, salmon and arctic char. If you’re looking to make a weekend of it, stay overnight at bunkhouses, cabins, lean-tos or traditional campsites.

Custer State Park (South Dakota)

Explore Custer State Park in sunny South Dakota’s Black Hills. Check out iconic sites like Crazy Horse (just 20 miles from the West Entrance) and see Mount Rushmore and the Needles. Climb to the top of Mount Coolidge Fire Tower for a 360-degree view from the park’s highest peak. Wander the Badger Clark Historic Trail to Badger Hole, home of Poet Laureate Charles Badger Clark. Then, rest your legs and enjoy a show at the rustic Black Hills Playhouse. With granite spires and impressive Mount Sylvan, there’s a reason Custer State Park is an adventurer’s paradise!

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Michigan)

Kick off your summer at Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, affectionately known as the Porkies. Discover 60,000 acres of pristine wilderness: hike the scenic Escarpment Trail for panoramic views of the mirror-like Lake of the Clouds, or check out the Summit Peak observation tower. See the roaring Nawadah Falls, fish for brook trout in Lake Superior, and camp under star-filled skies. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot moose, black bears, and porcupines along the trails. At the Visitor Center, check out the exhibit hall and gift shop.

Chugach State Park (Alaska)

Alaska’s Chugach State Park offers everything from short hikes along paved trails to week-long wilderness adventures reserved for the boldest survivalists. Take the South Fork Eagle River Trail to stand on the isthmus between Eagle Lake and Symphony Lake, pick alpine blueberries and black crowberries on Blueberry Hill, and rent a kayak to paddle across serene Eklutna Lake to fish for Dolly Varden char. Drive up the Turnagain Arm to take photos of the mountains across Cook Inlet. Keep your camera ready – you might just spot a moose!

Valley of Fire State Park (Nevada)

In Nevada, Valley of Fire State Park features more than 40,000 acres of breathtaking sandstone in gray, tan, and vibrant red hues. Hike early in the day to beat the heat and catch glimpses of the sun rising through petrified trees and natural rock formations like the iconic Elephant Rock landmark. Take the 1.8-mile loop to see the small slot canyons and petroglyphs at Fire Wave and Seven Wonders, looking out for desert tortoises, chuckwalla, bighorn sheep, and other dry climate critters.

Adirondack Park (New York)

Adirondack Park isn’t actually a state or national park – it’s a National Historic Landmark made up of 6 million acres of “Forever Wild” land in New York. Discover something new every time you visit, whether you’re taking an easy hike to the museum and fire tower lookout on Mount Arab or traversing the challenging peaks of the park’s mountain peaks. Test your balance on a stand-up paddleboard on Lake Placid, or take a boat tour on the Lake George Steamboat Company’s iconic Minne-Ha-Ha.

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park (Florida)

Become one with nature at Florida’s Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park. Dive into the refreshing 69-degree waters of Wakulla Springs from the iconic 22-foot diving tower, or take a scenic riverboat tour to spot manatees, alligators, and an array of bird species. For land adventures, hike or bike the nine-mile Nature Trail, weaving through cypress and maple groves. Watch for deer, wild turkeys, and river otters along the way. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars for prime birdwatching opportunities throughout the park​.

Big Bend Ranch State Park (Texas)

They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that’s especially true of Big Bend Ranch State Park, the largest park in the state. Rent a horse from Lajitas Stables and get the cowboy experience at the preserved 1900s settlement in the Sauceda Historic District. Brave rapids as you pilot a raft on the Rio Grande. Hike along the Fresno Canyon to view the Solitario flatirons, and birdwatchers should keep their binoculars handy to spot Blue Grosbeaks at Ojito Adentro. After the sun goes down, prepare to be dazzled by the star-filled sky.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park (California)

Walk among giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in California – with 17,000 acres of old-growth redwood forest, it’s hard not to feel small. Take the Founder’s Grove Nature Loop to check out the felled Dyerville Giant at more than 350 feet long, or check out a rare albino redwood on the Mahan Plaque Loop. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, trek up 3,100 feet of elevation to Grasshopper Peak, where you’ll have a clear view stretching 100 miles in all directions. Other activities include kayaking, horseback riding and swimming!

Take this guide on the go with Apple Maps on your iPhone!

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