There are so many great places that we hear about over and over again. Sometimes it feels like you only hear about the same places. And some places are becoming so overcrowded that you have to reserve a permit just to enter during peak season, like Yosemite National Park. Or you have to get a permit to do the main attraction, like Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain or Glacier National Park’s Going to the Sun Road. But there are some great state parks off the beaten path that are worth spending some time in.
These are five state parks that I have visited that are worth checking out. Whether you plan a special trip there or make it a stop on a road trip, they are a great way to see beautiful and unique nature. Exploring state parks off the beaten path can help you find gems that you end up loving.
Babcock State Park, West Virginia
Tucked into the folds of Appalachia is Babcock State Park. Adjacent to the newest national park, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, Babcock State Park has a history and beauty of its own.
The state park has 20 miles of hiking trails and wonderful campgrounds. Cabins are also available within the park. It also has the Glade Creek Grist Mill, which is a replica of the original Cooper’s Mill that once stood on the grounds. It is comprised of parts from other West Virginia Mills and is in operation for visitors to learn how these mills are used.
Black Mesa State Park, Oklahoma
You can hike to Oklahoma’s highest point at Black Mesa State Park and Preserve. You can also see beautiful scenery where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains. The panhandle of Oklahoma at one point was called “No Man’s Land,” but don’t listen to that. The mesas rise out of the plains dotted with black rocks from a layer of lava rock that once covered the area 30 million years ago, making for scenic vistas.
Black Mesa State Park is a smaller state park but has a few hiking trails, including the Black Mesa Trail where you can bag Oklahoma’s high point. It has campgrounds with RV sites and tent sites.
Kohler-Andrae State Park, Wisconsin
The Great Lakes area doesn’t get near enough attention. Kohler-Andrae State Park on the shores of Lake Michigan is a mix of evergreen and deep blue. It has beautiful sand dunes, green waving grasses, whispering pines, and sapphire blue water. You’ll see why Wisconsin is such a beautiful state.
It is one of the last remaining natural preserves along the shores of Lake Michigan and is a great way to see what this beautiful ecosystem looked like before development. The park has campgrounds and cabins. It has several fun activities including swimming, kayaking, and hiking.
Makoshika State Park, Montana
Don’t think of eastern Montana as a boring place with no natural beauty for adventuring. I loved driving through the plains of Montana. Prairies and badlands are extremely beautiful, and you’ll see why they call it “Big Sky Country.”
Makoshika State Park near Glendive is the state’s largest state park and home to some of its badlands. It’s also a place where dinosaur bones hide, including T-rex and triceratops hide.
The park offers scenic drives, hiking trails, and camping. Visiting this park is a great way to see and learn about the Great Plains and paleontology.
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California
Prairie Creek State Park has some of the most magnificent stands of redwoods. The park is combined with Redwood National Park which also connects it to Jedidiah Smith Redwoods and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Parks.
With numerous miles of hiking trails, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park includes the popular Fern Canyon Trail and Cathedral Trees. The Tall Trees Trail is also a great way to immerse yourself in the redwood forest. The park is also home to herds of Roosevelt elk.
Prairie Creek State Park has two developed campgrounds, one being on the Pacific Ocean.
Great state parks off the beaten path
When driving across the country, I always try to find interesting and unique places to check out. Exploring state parks off of the beaten path can lead to some cool places. And you may just find some parks that you’ll want to come back and explore more. Or you might just find a place you’ll want to stay so you don’t have to deal with the crowds.