Outdoor lovers tend to think of national lands first for their pursuits, but state parks can provide as much action as you can handle, regardless of sport. So next time you’re thinking of heading to a National Park or Forest, plug “State” into your browser and see what adventures come up.
Denali State Park, Alaska
A walk in the woods is the most obvious way to spend time in a state park, but Alaska takes it to the next level in Denali State Park. The massive park is 325,000 acres (about half the size of Rhode Island) and boasts three lengthy backpacking trails. In just a day though, you can hike the Cascade trail from Byers Lake to K’esugi Ridge for stunning above treeline views of Mount Denali.
State Forest State Park, Colorado
Rugged and real in the Rocky Mountains, State Forest State Park is as Colorado as any of its more famous brethren. For a short, but gorgeous hike take the one mile trail to Lake Agnes and the craggy peaks which rise above it. If you need more to stretch your legs, the thirteen mile round trip to crystal Kelly Lake will wear you out in a day.
Nā Pali Coast State Park, Hawaii
Four thousand foot cliffs, lush tropical scenery, gorgeous beaches, historic stone wall terraces—and the only way to experience it by land is on the Kalalau Trail. The first two miles can be done as a day hike, but to see it all get one of the limited camping permits for the eleven mile trek which ends at the sheer cliffs of Kalalau Beach.
Jay Cooke State Park, Minnesota
Just outside Duluth lies Jay Cooke State Park on the dramatic St Louis River gorge. With its tightly wound fifty miles of trail, plenty of day hiking abounds, but to escalate your scenery and solitude head out to one of its backcountry camps, like Silver Creek, Lost Lake or High Landing. These are ideal basecamps to follow the Spruce and High trails through hardwood forests to the far-flung and breathtaking canyon viewpoint at the east end of the park.
Kanaskat-Palmer State Park/Flaming Geyser State Park, Washington
The Northwest is a paddling paradise and one of its most epic runs is in the Green River Gorge from the put in at Kanaskat-Palmer to the finish at Flaming Geyser. This Class IV paddle is for the experienced only, and takes you twelve miles through the gorgeous high-walled, moss-covered canyon.
Caddo Lake State Park, Texas
Texas may not be known for its water sports, but Caddo Lake, the state’s largest natural freshwater body, provides 50 miles of water trails to canoe and kayak through a maze of cypress trees draped in Spanish Moss in its bayous. Alligators, along with turtles, snakes, beavers, and white-tailed deer, roam these waters so keep your hands in the boat and your eyes peeled.
Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
Named after its abundance of waterfalls, this park also home to a number of multi-use trails which have been popular with mountain bikers for years. Its newest trails though are purpose built by bikers for bikers. The Catamount trail will send you on a berm and turn filled descent through classic Western Oregon evergreen forest with enough rocky, technical features to require your game face to be on the whole ride.
Dupont State Forest Recreational Area, North Carolina
A slick rock mecca in North Carolina? Absolutely, many of the nearly hundred miles of mountain bike trails weave through pine forests on granite domes, that have been favorably compared to Moab. A highly recommended route is starting on the Corn Mills Shoals trail and following a number of short trails (and there are many) including Bridal Veil and Little River, to finish with a steep downhill from Burnt Mountain.
Baxter State Park, Maine
You’ve heard of Mount Kahtadin, it’s the northern terminus of the Appalachian trail, but did you know it resides in a state park? With numerous routes up and down, all of which are extremely physically taxing, the Hunt Trail is the most popular due to its scenery. For the most intense route take the Knife’s Edge, but watch your step.