As school kids all across the country begin their summer vacations, parents everywhere are scrambling to plan fun family trips. The national park vacation is a staple of childhood, however, these destinations are becoming increasingly more crowded and congested due to record numbers of visitors in recent years. Luckily there are a plethora of lesser-known state parks offering visitors the opportunity to revel in all of nature’s glory without having to fight throngs of crowds. With more than 10,000 official state parks in America, there is no shortage of choices. Here are just a few of the most splendid, jaw-dropping locations:
Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai, Hawaii:
The beauty of the Na Pali Coast has to be seen to be believed. Even by Hawaiian standards, this venerable state park is unmatched in natural beauty. Most people will recognize the stunning coastline and its roaring waterfalls and emerald green water from the film “Jurassic Park”. Most of the coast is inaccessible by car and can only be reached by boat, helicopter, or via the famous hike along the Kalalau trail.
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada:
Nothing is as far removed from the noise and sparkle of the Las Vegas Strip than this tranquil Mojave Desert park. Located only one hour north of the Vegas metropolitan area, the Valley of Fire State Park offers a myriad of canyons, unique rock formations, and cascading red light shows reflecting off the venerable Aztec sandstone prevalent through the park. The petrified trees date back over 2,000 years, offering visitors the chance to experience natural history.
Chugach State Park, Alaska:
Centrally located in the urban metropolis of Anchorage, Chugach State Park boasts 495,000 acres of diverse topography and numerous opportunities for adventure. As one of the four largest state parks in the country, Chugach encompasses nine distinct ecosystems, offering something for every taste. Visitors can gawk at snow-capped mountain peaks, stunning glaciers, and sparkling lakes. All within a stone’s throw of the conveniences of the city.
Cayo Costa State Park, Florida:
Ocean lovers will delight in this Gulf Coast barrier island park. Located off the coast of Fort Myers, this park is accessible only by ferry or private boat. The remote paradise boasts nine miles of soft white sand, sweeping pine forests, and 2,426 acres of tranquil peace. Plan ahead to snag one of the park’s limited overnight cabin accommodations and revel in the opportunity to view a variety of wildlife including dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and more.
Custer State Park, South Dakota:
South Dakota’s first state park offers the unique opportunity for families to run wild and explore adventure around every corner. Covering an impressive 71,000 acres, Custer State Park is home to buffalo, bighorn sheep, and elk roaming against a stunning backdrop of granite peaks, clear mountain water, and rolling plains. Families can participate in a variety of activities including camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, and biking.
Photo: Vogel State Park, Blairsville, Georgia
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