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The Best of the Best State Parks

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This is a feature that I am very excited to display on my web site. I have written five editions of a book entitled Parks Directory of the United States, which has included descriptive information on national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and more than 3,300 state parks, historic sites, and natural areas. In compiling information for the book, I have come to realize that there are a number of state parks that rival the more famous national parks in terms of beauty, cultural and historical significance, and natural resources, though many of these parks are not well known to the general public.

I always had in the back of my mind the idea of compiling a list of the "best" state parks in the United States. Of course, I always knew that such a list would be extremely subjective, since the best parks to a bird-watcher wouldn't be the best parks to a cross-country skier or an off-road biker. Nevertheless, I went forward with my idea and contacted the directors of each of the 50 state park systems and posed the following question:

If you were trying to showcase your state park system, what would be your recommendation to visitors for 2-3 must see" parks and why?

In their replies, many of the directors pointed out how difficult the task had been to select only 2-3 state parks for this project when they had dozens or even hundreds to choose from. Some stretched the rules a little bit and listed 4-5 parks. (I decided to leave these extra selections in.) In many cases, the selections include accompanying text information, which can be viewed by clicking on the "what they said" link that appears just below each state name. Each state name is hyperlinked to the official home page for each state park system.

In a feature that is certainly open to debate, below is a list of the "Best of the Best State Parks."

Alabama

  • DeSoto State Park
  • Joe Wheeler State Park
  • Lake Guntersville State Park
Alaska
  • Chugach State Park
  • Denali State Park
  • Totem Bight State Historical Park
  • Wood-Tikchik State Park
Arizona
what they said
  • Kartchner Caverns State Park
  • Red Rock State Park
  • Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Arkansas
what they said
  • Crater of Diamonds State Park
  • Ozark Folk Center State Park
  • Petit Jean State Park
California
what they said
  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park
  • Hearst Castle
  • Huntington State Beach
  • Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Colorado
what they said
  • Mueller State Park
  • Roxoborough State Park
  • Steamboat Lake State Park
  • Sylvan Lake State Park
Connecticut
what they said
  • Dinosaur State Park
  • Gillette Castle State Park
  • Hammonasset Beach State Park
Delaware
what they said
  • Cape Henlopen State Park
  • Fort Delaware State Park
  • Trap Pond State Park
Florida
what they said
  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
  • Myakka River State Park
  • Paynes Prairie State Preserve
  • St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
  • Wekiwa Springs State Park
Georgia
what they said
  • Cloudland Canyon State Park
  • Providence Canyon State Park
  • Tallulah Gorge State Park
Hawaii
  • Koke'e SP & Waimea Canyon State Park
  • Iao Valley State Park
  • Diamond Head State Monument
Idaho
  • Bruneau Dunes State Park
  • Ponderosa State Park
  • Priest Lake State Park
Illinois
what they said
  • Cache River State Natural Area
  • Chain O'Lakes State Park
  • Pere Marquette State Park
Indiana
what they said
  • Brown County State Park
  • Falls of the Ohio State Park
  • Indiana Dunes State Park
Iowa
what they said
  • Backbone State Park
  • Ledges State Park
  • Waubonsie State Park
Kansas
what they said
  • Cheney State Park
  • Scott State Park
  • Tuttle Creek State Park
Kentucky
what they said
  • John James Audubon State Park
  • Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park
  • Natural Bridge State Resort Park
Louisiana
what they said
  • Bayou Segnette State Park
  • Fontainebleau State Park
  • Lake Fausse Pointe State Park
  • North Toledo Bend State Park
  • Tickfaw State Park
Maine
  • Reid State Park
  • Sebago Lake
Maryland
  • Assateague State Park
  • Elk Neck State Park
  • Gunpowder Falls State Park
  • Swallow Falls State Park
Massachusetts
what they said
  • Mount Greylock State Reservation
  • Nickerson State Park
  • Walden Pond State Reservation
Michigan
what they said
  • Ludington State Park
  • Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
  • Tahquamenon State Park
  • Waterloo Recreation Area
Minnesota
what they said
  • Blue Mounds State Park
  • Itasca State Park
  • Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park
Mississippi
what they said
  • John W. Kyle State Park
  • Percy Quin State Park
  • Tishomingo State Park
Missouri
  • Ha Ha Tonka State Park
  • Meramec State Park
  • Montauk State Park
  • Prairie State Park
Montana
what they said
  • Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
  • Makoshika State Park
  • Ulm Pishkun State Park
Nebraska
  • Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
  • Fort Robinson State Park
  • Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area
Nevada
  • Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park
  • Cathedral Gorge State Park
  • Valley of Fire State Park
New Hampshire
what they said
  • Franconia Notch State Park
  • Mount Washington State Park
  • Odiorne Point State Park
New Jersey
what they said
  • High Point State Park
  • Island Beach State Park
  • Wharton State Forest
New Mexico
what they said
  • City of Rocks State Park
  • Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park
  • Sugarite Canyon
New York
what they said
  • Jones Beach State Park
  • Niagara Reservation State Park
  • Riverbank State Park
  • Saratoga Spa State Park
North Carolina
what they said
  • Hammocks Beach State Park
  • Hanging Rock State Park
  • Morrow Mountain State Park
  • Stone Mountain State Park
North Dakota
what they said
  • Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
  • Icelandic State Park
  • Lake Sakakawea State Park
Ohio
what they said
  • Hocking Hills
  • Hueston Woods State Park
  • Mohican State Park
Oklahoma
what they said
  • Beavers Bend State Park
  • Quartz Mountain State Park
  • Robbers Cave State Park
Oregon
what they said
  • Ecola State Park
  • Shore Acres State Park
  • Silver Falls State Park
  • Smith Rock State Park
Pennsylvania
what they said
  • Ohiopyle State Park
  • Presque Isle State Park
  • Ricketts Glen State Park
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