National parks too crowded for you? Try these 10 beautiful state parks


In a year that many national parks are bursting at the seams with record-setting traffic, why not try camping at a state park instead?

“There are about 60 national parks, and about 6,000 state parks. There’s a lot of hidden gems that are just overlooked because they don’t get the media hype,” says Kevin Long, co-founder of The Dyrt.com, a camping website and app, featuring reviews from millions of users.

He shares some favorite state campgrounds with USA TODAY.

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Grayson Highlands State Park

Virginia

Not only are the Blue Ridge Mountain views memorable at this state park, but so are the residents, a herd of wild horses. “They’ll walk through your campsite if you’re lucky. They kind of ignore the people,” Long says. Overnight visitors can choose from a bunkhouse, yurts and camping sites, along with equestrian camping areas.

More information:   dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/grayson-highlands

Goblin Valley State Park

Utah

Utah's Goblin Valley State Park's named for the the eroded sandstone pillars found across the landscape.

Although named for its distinctive, eroded sandstone pillars, the appeal here goes beyond the geological. It’s also a certified International Dark Sky Park, which makes for incredible stargazing. “It’s one of the best spots if you want to see the Milky Way,” Long says. “If you catch it, it will be a lifetime memory.”

More information:  stateparks.utah.gov/parks/goblin-valley/

Monte Sano State Park

Alabama

Huntsville, Alabama's Monte Sano State Park offers easy access to the city’s famed U.S. Space and Rocket Center and other attractions.

Located above Huntsville, this park offers easy access to the city’s famed U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and other attractions. But there’s plenty to see on site too, including a Japanese garden and tea house, planetarium and playground. “If you have a family that gets a little too antsy sitting around, there’s plenty of campsite activities,” Long says.

More information:  alapark.com/parks/monte-sano-state-park

Devils Lake State Park

Wisconsin

Devil's Lake is Wisconsin’s largest and most visited state park

This Midwestern park may get its name from a lake, but its most prominent feature is the 500-foot bluffs towering over the water. “They’re really beautiful and striking,” Long says. The outcrops are part of the ancient Baraboo Range, which is an estimated 1.6 billion years old, meaning they’re older than the dinosaurs.

More information:  dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/devilslake

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Texas

For an epic canyon experience, without the crowds, check out Texas' Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

For an epic canyon experience without the crowds, Long suggests checking out this West Texas park. Its canyon stretches for 120 miles, making it the second-largest after the Grand Canyon. “It’s a totally different foot-traffic level. It’s like being able to have a national park experience at a state park,” he says.

More information:  tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/palo-duro-canyon

Smith Rock State Park

Oregon

If you’re a rock climber, you’ll love Oregon's Smith Rock State Park, one of the country’s top climbing sites with more than 2,000 routes.

If you like scaling cliffs, you’ll love this park, one of the country’s top rock-climbing sites with more than 2,000 routes. But even if you’d rather stay on the ground, you can still enjoy a visit too, Long says. “I love walking around that park and watching those people on cliffs doing things I wouldn’t do myself.” It also has hiking and mountain biking trails.



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