10 Best U.S. State Parks for Family Vacations
Did you know there are over 10,000 State Parks across the United States? Families don’t have to go too far to explore the great outdoors and make lasting memories.
While we love National Parks, a plus to State parks is that they tend to be less crowded and more affordable. They also offer a wide range of family activities, including hiking, swimming, fishing, camping, and boating. Many parks also have playgrounds, picnic areas, and ranger-led programs. Some parks offer additional amenities such as cabins, lodges, and restaurants.
Here are our picks for the 10 best state parks in the U.S. for a great family vacation adventure, where you’ll find everything from wild horses to waterfalls and buffalo roundups to a natural slip and slide.
Letchworth State Park, New York
Known as the "Grand Canyon of the East," Letchworth State Park in Western New York is a stunning 17-mile-long park with over 20 waterfalls, including the 107-foot-tall Middle Falls and 66 miles of hiking trails.
Families can enjoy nature, history, performing arts programs, guided walks, tours, a summer lecture series, whitewater rafting, kayaking, hot air ballooning, and a pool for swimming.
If you want to stay overnight, you can camp in one of 82 rustic cabins (bring your own bed linen and cooking utensils), or the park’s historic Glen Iris Inn offers overnight accommodations, and the restaurant is open to the public.
Assateague Island State Park, Maryland
Known for its wild horses, Assateague Island State Park is Maryland’s only oceanfront park. Located on Assateague Island, a barrier island bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and Sinepuxent Bay on the west.
Two miles of ocean beaches offer families swimming, beach combing, sunbathing, surfing, and fishing. On the bayside, visitors can explore secluded coves by canoe or kayak. The marsh areas have a variety of wildlife, including deer and waterfowl, and you can watch the wild horses.
Devil’s Ford State Park, South Carolina
Devil's Ford State Park is in the northwestern corner of South Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The park's highlight is the stunning 7,565-acre, 385-foot-deep Lake Jocassee, known for its undeveloped shoreline and crystal-clear water.
The unusually clear water is a haven for scuba divers and swimmers. Four mountain streams and several waterfalls feed into the lake, making it cooler than other lakes and a great trout fishing spot. During the spring months, you can see the endangered Oconee Bell wildflower on the Oconee Bell Nature Trail. You can also book a villa or a campsite for an overnight
stay in the park.
Myakka River State Park, Florida
Located in Sarasota, Florida, the majestic Myakka River flows through 58 square miles of one of Florida’s oldest and largest parks, Myakka River State Park.
Families can experience the beauty of Florida's natural environment by taking a boat or tram tour, hiking, biking, and the Myakka Canopy Walkway treetop trail. The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy. The taller tower soars 74 feet in the air presenting a spectacular view of treetops, wetlands, and the prairie/hammock interface. You can look down on eagles, hawks, vultures, and oak and sabal palm treetops.
The park also features camping facilities, picnic areas, and a variety of wildlife to observe.
The American Alligator is one of the park’s largest and most iconic residents. Florida’s official state reptile, alligators, can often be seen sunbathing along the riverbank.
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Kentucky
Located in southeastern Kentucky, this park is best known for Cumberland Falls, often called Little Niagara. At 69 feet high and 125 feet wide, it’s like a small-scale replica of Niagara Falls.
Cumberland Falls is one of the few places in the world that regularly produces a moonbow. The "moonbow," also called a white rainbow or lunar rainbow, appears on either end of the full moon for two or so days if the sky is clear.
Cumberland Falls has many other attractions for families, like hiking trails where you can spot deer, wild turkeys, and even river otters. Stay in the historic DuPont Lodge, one of the most beautiful state park lodges, or one of 25 cabins and cottages and 49 campsites.
Devil's Lake State Park, Wisconsin
Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, Wisconsin, is the state’s most popular park. Encompassing over 10,000 acres, families can enjoy hiking trails, rock climbing, fishing, and swimming in the park's picturesque lake.
Devil’s Lake State Park is renowned for its stunning rock formations and sweeping views from the Baraboo Bluffs. You can rent a kayak, canoe, paddleboat, or Standup Board (SUP) on either side of the lake. The park has a total of 29 miles of hiking trails to explore.
The nature center is a must-visit destination to learn more about the park’s natural wonders, geology, and history or attend one of its year-round programs.
Custer State Park, South Dakota
Custer State Park, situated in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is the state’s first and largest state park and home to the beautiful Sylvan Lake. Its history dates to 1897.
Encompassing a 71,000-wildlife preserve, it is home to abundant wildlife and adventure; scenic drives, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, or educational programming, there’s something here for everyone. The park is home to bison, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep.
In the fall, you can experience the Buffalo Roundup. Watch cowboys and cowgirls round up and drive the herd of approximately 1,300 buffalo.
Families can camp in the park or stay in modernized cabins and rooms in the historic lodges.
Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
In northwest Oregon near Salem, you’ll find Oregon’s largest state park at 9,000 acres, Silver Fall State Park. It’s a hikers' paradise with 10 different waterfalls.
The park offers over 35 miles of backcountry trails for mountain biking, hiking, or horseback riding. One of the highlights is the famous South Falls and where you can walk behind the 177-foot curtain of water. It's part of the Trail of Ten Falls.
Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab, Utah
A fantastic alternative to the “Big Five” national parks (like Arches and Zion), which can get quite crowded, is Dead Horse Point State Park. It’s been called the Grand Canyon’s long-lost twin and is famous for its breathtaking views of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park.
Families can enjoy great hiking, mountain biking on Intrepid Trail, and incredible stargazing at night. The park was also the location for filming Thelma & Louise’s iconic last scene.
Slide Rock State Park, Arizona
How about a family visit to Mother Nature’s waterpark? At Slide Rock State Park, just north of Sedona, Arizona, you can slip and slide along the all-natural, 80-foot-long red rock water slide that took around 8 million years to form.
Slide Rock is in the middle of Oak Creek Canyon, a scenic wonderland featuring sandstone bluffs and the water of Oak Creek. Enjoy meandering trails through wildlife habitat, where you can spot a Javelina and great trout fishing upstream of the park.
These ten parks and others across the country are an excellent way to spend quality time with your family while enjoying nature and endless activities for everyone.
State Park Adventure Awaits!