The sun sets over the fall colors and a lake in the Porcupine Mountains.

7 Underrated State Parks

When it’s time for a break from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, state parks are often the places that are nearby, offering the respite we need.

We know many of them well, even the ones outside the states they reside in (parks like Gulf State Park in Alabama, Redwood State Parks in California, and Custer State Park in South Dakota).

But many state parks are underrated, and these seven may just be in your backyard.

Sunset in the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan.

Don’t Sleep On Your Local State Parks

When it’s time to find a place to get away, don’t sleep on your local state parks. With over 10,000 state parks across the country, there’s plenty for everyone, and bound to be one near you.

You’ll find highly knowledgeable staff offering many opportunities for guided hikes and excursions. Educational opportunities abound throughout the many visitor centers that also accompany many state parks. 

These parks often have some of the best camping spots for all types of camping, including various glamping options. The majority of them will have miles of hiking and biking trails, along with space for equestrian activities. Many of them center around lakes and rivers, providing water sports, swimming, and fishing space.

Whether you’re camping for a week or just spending the day at a state park, these gems will awaken your soul, especially the seven we’ve got listed for you here.

We hate to be the bearer of bad news but… national park camping is dead 💀

7 State Parks That Deserve More Attention

From rock climbing phenomena to otherworldly rock formations, the seven state parks listed here are some of the best in the country. Some are well known, while others may still be unheard of.

There are some with abundant wildlife, and others are more known for their plant life. Additionally, some will have mountains, while others are known for water experiences.

No matter what, they all deserve our attention.

1. Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

About: Near Bend, Ore., you’ll find a rock climber’s dream. Smith Rock State Park has several thousand climbs, with more than a thousand being bolted routes. The river canyons, miles of hiking and biking trails, and wildlife viewing are also highlights of this state park. 

Amenities: Amenities here include showers and restrooms for those spending the night. However, there are no RV sites here or car camping. This is rustic tent camping at its finest. 

Why You Should Visit: It’s known as the birthplace of American sport climbing, and with the campground right next to the climbing access, it’s a given. The reason to visit Smith Rock is for the climbing.

Check out the climbing scene at Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park.

2. City Of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

About:  Located in the Chihuahuan desert of southwestern New Mexico, this state park is one to pay attention to regardless of its size. City of Rocks State Park may be small, measuring at one square mile in area, but it packs a mighty punch with its unique geologic formations.

The rock columns, called pinnacles, formed over 34 million years ago from erosion after a volcano erupted. It left behind a towering city of rock, some standing as tall as 40 ft. 

Amenities: There are plenty of amenities here, including an RV park with electricity and restrooms. There are also educational programs offered and trails for biking, hiking, wildlife viewing, and more. You’ll even find a desert botanical garden.

Why You Should Visit: This park is all about geology. While you may come for biking and hiking, the real reason is the beauty you’ll experience while on the trails. The unique rock formations will make your hiking and biking feel a bit otherworldly.

RVing at City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico surrounded by pinnacle rock formations.
Surround yourself with unique rock formations in the City of Rocks State Park.

3. Catalina State Park, Arizona

About: Catalina State Park is located minutes away from Tucson at the base of the Catalina Mountains and consists of 5,500 acres of natural wonders, including 5,000 Saguaro cacti. Here, you’ll find miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

And with over 150 species of birds calling Catalina State Park home, you won’t be disappointed when it comes time for your birding adventures. 

Amenities: Bring your RVs, tents, and even your horse trailers. Catalina State Park has space for them all, including a staging area for trail riders and space for trailer parking.

The campground offers electricity and water at each site, along with picnic tables, and BBQ grills. There’s even a dump station provided.

Why You Should Visit: The mighty Saguaros are the draw to this state park. And with 5,000 of them, they will capture your attention along any trail. 

4. Moran State Park, Washington

About: Moran State Park in Washington may not be easy to get to — being that it is on an island along the border of Washington and Canada — but it is worth the trek.

Come play on over 5400 acres of nature with miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Or jump in the water or go boating on one of the five freshwater lakes. Simply enjoy the majestic views from Mount Constitution.

Amenities: And when you’re done exploring and eating snacks from the snack shack and have returned your rental boat, check out the many camping options to give your day the perfect ending. With RV boondocking sites, tent sites, bike camping, and glamping opportunities, there are amenities for everyone.

Why You Should Visit: With five lakes calling this state park home, the water is why you visit Moran State Park. Rent a boat, bring your own, head out on your kayak or paddleboard, or simply jump in for a swim. Whatever you choose, the water is waiting for you!

The sun rises over the Mount Constitution and the Crow Valley.
The sun rising over Mount Constitution and the Crow Valley.

5. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan

About: Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is Michigan’s largest state park, with 60,000 acres along Lake Superior’s shoreline. And within those 60,000 acres, you’ll find waterfalls, rivers, more than 90 miles of trails, and a 35,000-acre old-growth forest.

But this isn’t any normal state park. This state park also has an 18 hole disc golf course and the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area.

Amenities: Along with those unique amenities, you’ll also find RV camping sites with electricity, restrooms, and a camp store. There are also several rustic camping sites with no amenities, and glamping options, including cabins, yurts, and tiny homes.

Along with those, there are several educational nature programs and bike and water rentals to keep you exploring and learning.

Why You Should Visit: It’s not every day you get to a state park with access to a ski area and an 18 hole disc golf course. Those two are reasons enough to visit, but if you need more, there’s plenty of stunning scenery surrounding you no matter what you do while spending time here.

A wooden hiking path through the dense forest in the Porcupine Mountains State Park.
Enjoy the hiking paths through dense forest in the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan.

6. Boyd Lake State Park, Colorado

About: In need of a quick respite from the city? Boyd Lake State Park in Colorado is just south of Fort Collins and has something for everyone. It lies at the base of Longs Peak, a 14,259-foot mountain on the Continental Divide. It’s a well-known haven for watersports enthusiasts, hikers, bikers, and more.  

Amenities: The best amenity here is the water itself, where you can find ski boats, jet skis, sailboats, and kayaks on the water at any moment of the day. There’s also a sandy beach for swimmers.

And when the day is done, there’s plenty of room for all-sized RVs with electric capabilities and even a dump station on site. Restrooms, showers, a playground, and horseshoe pits round out the plentiful amenities at Boyd Lake State Park.

Why You Should Visit: Boyd Lake is the star of this state park. There’s no doubt that people come here from all over Colorado and beyond to enjoy the cool refreshing waters of Boyd Lake.

Birds in the sand along Boyd Lake State Park in Colorado.
Birds along the shoreline of Boyd Lake in Colorado.

7. Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia

About: Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia is located a mere eight miles from the world-renowned Appalachian Trail and encompasses over 800 acres of wilderness. Home to Amicalola Falls, a 729-foot waterfall, along with the Amicalola Falls Lodge, this state park has stunning nature and exquisite resort-style amenities.

Amenities: A few resort-style amenities include a zipline, an archery field, guided hikes, and upscale dining. There are plenty of RV sites with hookups and onsite laundry, along with tent camping, rustic camping, and lodge rooms. All the amenities are at Amicalola Falls State Park. 

Why You Should Visit: It’s those amenities that match up with the beauty of nature here that provide the many reasons to visit this stunning state park.

Views from along a hiking trail overlooking the mountains in Amicalola Falls State Park.
Views from hiking through the mountains in Amicalola Falls.

Check Out One of These Underrated State Parks

From the west coast to the south and every terrain in between, these seven state parks offer the perfect respite from the go, go, go of our daily lives. Whether you’ve chosen the swim beach at Boyd Lake State Park in Colorado or the rock climbing adventures at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon, you’ve chosen exactly what you need to re-energize.

Others may view these parks as underrated, but you? You know differently. These state parks are some of the best in the nation.

When you check out these underrated parks?

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