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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. 

With more 10,000 state parks spanning 50 states, there’s plenty of adventure and sightseeing to enjoy outside of the more popular National Parks. Many are just as striking, budget-friendly, and worthy of a weekend getaway. From the land of giants and bison herds to retro fun, shipwrecks, and desert art, here are 7 of America’s best and most unique State Parks.

RELATED: You don’t really know the Midwest until you’ve had these 26 iconic experiences

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: Crescent City, CA

Redwood National Forest, California

Last in a series of redwood parks along California’s northern coast, “Jed Smith’s” 10,000-acre swath of majestic groves are the most scenic. And though the park’s centuries-old trees might not be the tallest, their unspoiled deity-like stature in a lush, serene setting makes for an otherworldly experience. Howland Hill Road is one of the best redwood viewing drives anywhere. Explore Grove of Titans via the 7.4-mile Mill Creek Trail or wander a tranquil .5-mile trail into Stout Grove, nature’s picturesque cathedral of wonder best viewed on a late sunny afternoon.

STAY Oceanview Inn in Crescent City boasts views of the Pacific.


Custer State Park: Custer, SD

Don’t skip Custer State Park when you’re on your way to Badlands National Park. You’d be missing out on the state’s best opportunity to hike, fish, climb, ride, and swim. But it’s the park’s abundant wildlife, including nearly 1,500 North American bison, that make this park especially amazing. In between your adrenaline-inducing adventures, visit Crazy Horse Memorial, enjoy a chuckwagon cookout, take a Jeep ride in search of wildlife, then watch cowboys and cowgirls roundup and drive the famous herd.

STAY Sylvan Lake Lodge is right near the park.


Weeki Wachee Springs State Park: Spring Hill, FL

Mermaid Camp at Weeki Wachee Springs ©Julie Komenda

Weeki Wachee is so superbly retro and amusement-jammed that it’s hard to believe that it’s a State Park at all. Sitting atop a spring bubbling up from one of the deepest underwater caverns in the country, the park has been entertaining visitors since 1947, making it one of Florida’s oldest roadside attractions. See mermaids, roar down water slides named Cannonball and Thunderbolt in Buccaneer Bay, or take a riverboat cruise along the pristine Weeki Wachee River.

STAY Hampton Inn Spring Hill is only 10 minutes from the fun.


Ecola State Park: Cannon Beach, OR

You can’t visit the charming coastal town of Cannon Beach without stopping at Ecola State Park. It offers remarkable views of secluded coves, a rainforest-blanketed cape, rock formations, and the historic Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. While hiking the trails, you might even see Bald Eagles overhead or whales out in the Pacific. Fans of 1980 film classics will recognize the dramatic 9-mile stretch of beach to Haystack Rock featured in two notable scenes from The Goonies. Picturesque Indian Beach, a popular spot for surfers, was also the backdrop for Bodhi’s (Patrick Swayze) demise in Point Break, and where Bella first learns the truth about Edward in Twilight.

STAY Hallmark Resort Cannon Beach is a 5-minute stroll from the world-famous beach.


Adirondack Park: Saranac Lake, NY

Larger than 50 world nations or National Park icons Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, Adirondack Park blends more than six million acres of both public and private land in Upstate New York. Get comfortable because it takes a while to explore this epic patchwork of 12 distinct regions, featuring adventure, nature, and more than 100 communities. Paddle the Tupper Lake Region; hit the trails of the High Peaks Wilderness; bike to various wineries on the coast and dive to underwater shipwrecks in the Adirondack Seaway. When you’ve had enough, tell everyone you lived “forever wild” in America’s biggest State Park.

STAY Gauthier’s Saranac Lake Inn is a Green Eco Sustainable Property.


Ha Ha Tonka State Park: Camdenton, MO

It’s just as fun to say Ha Ha Tonka’s funky-sounding name, allegedly meaning “laughing waters,” as it is exploring this 3,700-acre park. Check out caves, kayak the lake, walk the 70-foot-wide natural bridge, and visit the Colosseum, a theater-like sinkhole where local lore tells of it being used for tribal meetings and church revivals. It’s the ruins of a turn-of-the-century stone castle overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks that’s most unique here, though.

STAY Take advantage of the greens and marina at The Lodge at Old Kinderhook Golf Resort.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: Borrego Springs, CA

Is hiking your thing? Are you an avid stargazer? A geology buff perhaps? Maybe you love weirdly placed art installations. No matter the case, this stark desert landscape (the largest State Park in California) has a lot on offer. Just 90 minutes from Palm Springs, Anza-Borrego can certainly hold its own when compared to neighboring Joshua Tree, thanks to 12 designated wildlife areas, over 100 miles of hiking trails, 6-million-year-old fossils, and plenty of awe-inspiring brilliance in the night sky. What about those art installations? Over 130 metal sculptures depicting prehistoric animals and mythical creatures are scattered throughout the park.

STAY Borrego Springs Resort & Spa places you next to the park.

Tagged: California, Florida, Midwest, New York, Oregon, Palm Springs, South Dakota

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