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 parkDay Hik­ing

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.

Na Pali coast state parkBack­pack­ing

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.

Green River GorgePad­dling

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.

dupontMoun­tain Biking

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 parkPeak Bag­ging

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.

Want to take your dog onto the trails with you, but chaf­ing under the restric­tions in place at many Nation­al Parks? No worries—we’ve got you covered.

Katy Trail State Park, MO
Affec­tion­ate­ly known to locals as sim­ply “The Katy,” this state park stretch­es 240 miles along the for­mer Mis­souri-Kansas-Texas (or MKT) rail­road cor­ri­dor. Its pri­ma­ry fea­ture? 237.7 miles of rail trail run­ning from Clin­ton to Machens. With 26 dif­fer­ent trail­heads and four ful­ly restored rail­way depots along the route, you and your leashed pup will have plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to stretch your legs and soak in the sights of the Mis­souri Riv­er and its bluffs. Com­bine an easy day hike from the St. Charles trail­head with a pic­nic at scenic river­side Fron­tier Park, or pad around the his­toric dis­trict and learn about the state’s orig­i­nal capital.

Olympic Nation­al For­est, WA
The Olympic Nation­al Park might have rules for would-be Bark Rangers, but the nation­al for­est has far few­er restric­tions: dogs are wel­come through­out the for­est, includ­ing all trails, wilder­ness areas, and camp­sites, as long as they are under your con­trol. Take your blood­hound sniff­ing for vam­pires in the Forks region and camp along the Sol Duc Riv­er, or head into the Buck­horn Wilder­ness toward the Sil­ver Lakes along the Mt. Townsend Trail for a mod­er­ate­ly tough trail through conifer for­est and rugged moun­tain topog­ra­phy. With over 250 miles of trail and more than 88,000 acres of wilder­ness through the wilds of the gor­geous Pacif­ic North­west, noth­ing but hap­py tails await!

Chugach Nation­al For­est, AK
5.4 mil­lion acres of nat­ur­al won­der­land encom­pass­ing por­tions of Prince William Sound, the Kenai Penin­su­la, and the Cop­per Riv­er Delta—and all of it open to you and your leashed dogs, no per­mits or trails required. If the thought of just head­ing off into the wild blue yon­der of griz­zly coun­try seems unrea­son­ably risky, there are plen­ty of devel­oped trails you can explore. Try the Byron Glac­i­er Trail near the Begich-Bog­gs Vis­i­tor Cen­ter in Portage Val­ley for an easy day hike along­side a rush­ing creek right up to the toe of a moun­tain­side glac­i­er, or give your dog the chance to walk in the paw­prints of super­stars along sec­tions of the Idi­tar­od Nation­al His­toric Trail like the chal­leng­ing Crow Pass—which, at 21 miles point-to-point, is often rec­om­mend­ed as a multiday.

Ange­les Nation­al For­est, San Gabriel Moun­tains Nation­al Mon­u­ment, CA
557 miles of hik­ing trails, includ­ing 176 miles of the mighty famous Pacif­ic Crest Trail, right in Los Ange­lenos’ back­yard? Sign us up! You might not be able to com­plete a pure thru-hike of the PCT with your pooch, but if you want to be able to say that you’ve done some miles with man’s best friend, here’s your chance. Dis­persed camp­ing is avail­able through­out the for­est, too, so stuff that back­pack (and con­sid­er one for your canine companion—unless you’d rather pack out their poo in your bag!) before you hit the road to extend your trip. Just remem­ber that every­one with four feet needs to remain on a leash no greater than six feet long and you’re good to explore!

The Appalachi­an Trail
If you just so hap­pen to have your heart set on a nice, long thru-hike, the Appalachi­an Trail is the way to go. With only three regions into which your pup can’t fol­low you (that’d be Great Smoky Moun­tains Nation­al Park, the Trail­side Muse­um and Wildlife Cen­ter in Bear Moun­tain State Park and Bax­ter State Park), that still leaves about 2,000 glo­ri­ous miles of wag-wor­thy trail for you to enjoy togeth­er. And you don’t have to do it all at once! If you’d rather spend a day strolling, try mod­er­ate­ly rat­ed Black­rock trail just out­side of Har­rison­burg, VA for an easy two-mil­er, or Mount Grey­lock State Reservation’s trail The Cob­bles for just over two miles of out-and-back wild­flower view­ing near Cheshire, MA.