Best Winter State Parks

Elaine Sutton
• Friday, 20 November, 2020
• 7 min read

Shutterstock Located in northeast Alabama, Cathedral Caverns State Park is named for its massive cathedral-like cave. The park welcomes guests on tours of the cave daily, where you'll catch a glimpse of one of the world's largest stalagmites.

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Galena Anoushka/Shutterstock Denali State Park in Alaska offers spectacular views of the Alaskan Range and untouched wilderness. Madman Photography/Shutterstock The Civilian Conservation Corps used mostly natural materials in the 1930s to build the wood and stone structures found in Devil's Den State Park.

Devil's Den also features a rock dam, as well as trails fit for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. SunflowerMomma/Shutterstock California's Crystal Cove State Park boasts one of the last remaining natural seashores in Orange County.

This Colorado park also offers a variety of snow activities including skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding. The best time to visit Kent Falls State Park is right after a rainstorm or as snow is melting in the spring, which causes the waterfalls to appear especially dramatic.

Keller Photography/Shutterstock You can take a step back in time to learn about the Civil War at Fort Delaware State Park. Rob Gainer/Shutterstock Cloud land Canyon State Park offers a variety of interesting sights to enjoy.

From deep canyons and waterfalls to sandstone cliffs, you won't run out of trails to hike or paths to bike at this Georgia park. Reinhard Fischer/Holstein build via Getty Images Located on the island of Maui in Hawaii, Wainapanapa State Park is famous for its black sand beach.

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(Source: www.onlyinyourstate.com)

Although tourists flock to the park for this reason, you'll want to be sure to check out its native Haley forest, deep caves, and volcanic coastline while you're there. Tonya Kay/Shutterstock With 13 miles of hiking trails that take visitors through moss-covered canyons, plunging waterfalls, and sandstone bluffs, the Starved Rock State Park in Illinois is beautiful and full of history.

With nine lakes connecting to create a chain, there are plenty of opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and other water activities. The dam was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, so that water could be stored for running a mill but has since become a popular tourist destination.

The park offers more than 30 miles of trails made for hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding. Patrick Jennings/Shutterstock Dubbed the “Niagara of the South,” Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Kentucky is home to a 125-foot-wide waterfall that creates a moon bow at night.

Shutterstock Situated on Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, Fontainebleau State Park contains the ruins of an abandoned sugar mill that was built in 1829. After exploring the history of the park, guests can enjoy sunbathing on the beach, birdwatching on the bayou, and hiking one of the scenic trails.

Richard Semi/Shutterstock The Buddy Head State Park is located on the coast of Maine and boasts a bright red-and-white-striped lighthouse. Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson and built in 1808, you can still climb the lighthouse today to take in the spectacular views and spot migrating whales.

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(Source: www.alltrails.com)

Flickr/David Sunshine You can visit the longest single-drop waterfall in Massachusetts at the Bash Fish Falls State Park. Guests are encouraged to start hiking from the Upper Falls in order to take in the beauty of it all, but you'll want to be careful as it's a steep descent.

Check out the Summit Peak observation tower for stunning views of Lake Superior, lush forests, and streaming rivers. Geoff Alexander/Flickr Situated along the Pearl River, Lefter's Bluff State Park provides an oasis from the urban city.

There is a walking loop that connects the three main caves, so visitors can peek at these ancient pieces of art. Zack Frank/Shutterstock This rocky Nebraskan park is home to a diverse set of animals that aren't typically seen in other places in the United States.

Visitors to the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area can spot bighorn sheep, mule deer, and bobcats, among other creatures. Shutterstock The draw to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada is its 40,000 acres of bright red sandstone outcrops that date back to the Jurassic period.

Many of the trails take guests through the sandstone and allow hikers to see petroglyph that were carved into the rocks more than 2,000 years ago. Johnson/Shutterstock The aerial tramway at Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire takes visitors up 4,080 feet to the summit of Cannon Mountain.

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When at the summit on a clear day, visitors can see the mountains of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Canada, and New York. Land erosion over time created the formations which are separated by paths resembling city streets.

Sharon Rollers/Flickr Offering sweeping views of the North Dakota badlands, much of the rugged Little Missouri State Park is only accessible to hikers and horseback riders. See1,Do1,Teach1 / Flickr Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio has a multitude of activities on top of its natural beauty.

Visitors can enjoy archery, disc golf, and fishing, in addition to hiking through caves, up waterfalls, and under tree-shaded gorges. Thomas & Dianne Jones/Flickr A famous hideout for outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr, Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma is now an outdoor lover's dream.

With sandstone cliffs perfect for climbers and large lakes for trout fishing, guests have many options for experiences. Michael Fatso/Shutterstock Given its remote location on untouched land in Pennsylvania, Cherry Springs State Park is known for its uninhibited views of the night sky.

Beaver tail State Park in Rhode Island offers a variety of marine life education programs for the whole family. With an aquarium and coastline location, the park allows visitors to take a peek into the plants and critters that call the coast home.

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Dave Allen Photography/Shutterstock With streams, mountains, and waterfalls, the natural beauty of Table Rock State Park in South Carolina shines. Hiking trails take guests to the top of the Pinnacle and Table Rock mountains for sweeping views.

Nancy Bauer/Shutterstock Across its 71,000 acres, Custer State Park in South Dakota welcomes guests with its abundance of activities, diverse wildlife, and breathtaking scenic views. Visitors can hike, rock climb, or swim, all while catching a glimpse of wild animals like bison or elk.

In addition to classics like hiking and biking, the park also has a full golf course and a challenging ropes course in the treetops. Shawn Mitchell Photo/Shutterstock Despite its name, Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah used to welcome cowboys herding wild mustangs in the 1800s.

Located on the Pacific Ocean, this park contains two lighthouses, eight miles of hiking trails, and an amphitheater for entertainment. Tony Saving/Shutterstock Lake shore State Park is located in the heart of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Michigan.

With walking and biking trails throughout, the park offers a green oasis to those caught up in city life. Covid-19 Disclaimer: Make sure to check the status of the states, regions, and establishments in which you’re planning to visit prior to travel.

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Many regions continue to see high infection rates and deaths, while many states and counties remain under varying stay-at-home orders. Absolutely slammed in the summer but largely quiet in the winter, Arches is one of the best “driving” parks in the country.

INSIDER TIP Don’t miss nearby Canyon lands National Park, which is just 30 minutes away from Arches by car and is equally stunning in winter. Imagine the biggest trees in the world, dump a bunch of snow on them, and then behold the hauntingly quiet and visual collage of red, green, white, and blue skies all around you.

Four-wheel drive or tire chains are often required this time of year, and hiking, snowshoeing, winter viewpoints, and playing in the snow are all highly recommended. If you catch it on a good day, low-lying winter clouds can sometimes fill the massive chasm, while snow coats the top and many of the crevices in between.

Located over an hour southeast from Grand Junction, popular winter activities in Black Canyon include hiking, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Like so many others on this list, Grand Teton sort of hibernates in winter, as many of the usual summer crowds stay away.

Unlike others on this list, however, there’s also an amazing in-park resort called Triangle X Ranch that’s open in winter and serves as a five-star-rated launch pad for the nearby hiking, cross country skiing, wildlife tours, and outstanding photography opportunities. First, the bad news: if you haven’t already, you will want to visit this park in summer someday as select areas can close in winter due to inclement weather.

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But even with the chance of limited attractions in winter, what remains are a dark sky park where you can actually catch an unobstructed view of the northern lights over popular Lake MacDonald. Better yet, the park is discounted in winter, and you’ll still get to drive the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road and Logan Pass thanks to the help of snowplows.

If you’re tired of all this winter talk and need a break from the cold, here’s one for you: Virgin Islands National Park. Your reward for doing so: fewer crowds and bearable access to all the park’s highlight attractions, including the namesake Dr. Suess-like trees, Skull Rock, Keys View, and Cottonwood Spring.

Like Joshua Tree, White Sands National Park can be downright deadly in summer. White Sands is located an hour and a half north of El Paso and the Mexican border, so don’t forget your sunscreen.

Located on the tip-top corner of the northwestern United States, not far from the Canadian border, Olympic National Park is a beautiful meld of rain forest scenery and the Pacific Ocean. Olympic in winter can quickly devolve from a sunny day in the morning to a monsoon by afternoon and a blizzard by night.

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