Fall is in the air, with clear blue skies and cooler temperatures throughout most of the U.S. If you are like me, schedules get busy and traveling slows down a bit. Spending a day or weekend at a state park is the perfect way to get out and enjoy this beautiful weather. While America’s state parks may not get as much media attention as their national park counterparts, their popularity has soared in recent years, recording over twice as many visitors in 2014 versus national parks. This is due largely to the accessibility of many parks, especially for day trips. For inspiration, I’ve reached out to fellow travel bloggers from around the country who have weighed in with some their favorites, each with a link to a blog post with more details. Check out these 8 gems and start planning a day or weekend fall family outing.
Cathedral Gorge State Park, Eastern Nevada
Autumn is the perfect time to explore the American Southwest, and our favorite desert park is most definitely Cathedral Gorge State Park in Eastern Nevada. Families will love exploring the maze of open-aired caves that give this park its name. They're also home to a variety of wild and beautiful critters. The campground at Cathedral Gorge is a quiet oasis, perfect for family camping. This is also one of the darkest places on earth, perfect for stargazing.
Contributed by Tara at Back Road Ramblers
Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming
Thermpolois, Wyoming is home to the world's largest mineral hot spring. A gateway city to Yellowstone National Park, visitors to Thermopolis will appreciate free admission to Hot Springs State Park. Located near downtown, a highlight for cool-weather adventuring is a long, warm, soak in the park's indoor and outdoor pools.
Contributed by Julie at Road Trips for Families
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, Montana
While Lewis and Clark never visited the caverns that bear their name, they traveled just below them on the Jefferson River. Montana’s first state park is a showstopper. Stalactites, stalagmites, columns and cave bacon decorate this large limestone cave. A two-hour guided tour takes visitors through two miles of walkable cave trail.
Contributed by Melynda at TravelingMel.com
New River Trail State Park, Virginia
Head to the mountains of southwestern Virginia, where you’ll find a unique state park, that runs almost 40 miles along the New River. With scenic trestle bridges, tunnels and over 57 miles of trail, you’ll find something for everyone at New River Trail State Park. This year, participate in the 80th Anniversary Geocache Adventure.
Contributed by Kath at familyTravelsUSA
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, California
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is considered California’s birthplace when this area became the state’s first Spanish settlement. History comes alive for visitors through many original and reconstructed buildings and museums that represent early life in San Diego. There are also various restaurants (with some of the best Mexican food), unique shops and a theater to keep the whole family busy.
Contributed by Mary at The World Is a Book
Presque Isle State Park, Pennsylvania
Presque Isle State Park is located on a peninsula in Lake Erie, near Erie, Pennsylvania. Surprisingly, this 3,000 acre state park receives as many visitors per year as Yellowstone National Park. Many people come for bird watching, as it has been named one of the best places in the United States for watching birds by Birder’s World magazine, but in the fall it is also perfect for biking, kayaking, and boating. There are even Segway and pontoon boat tours that will point out the historical significance of the area during the War of 1812.
Contributed by Tamara at We3Travel
Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
In a state often known for being flat, the striking sandstone bluffs, moss-covered canyons and stunning waterfalls of Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois provide a picturesque hiking experience. Hiking up the bluffs is rewarded with spectacular views of the Illinois River, the river's locks and even deep into the gorges. With a range of wildlife and vegetation as well as waterfalls fluctuating according to rainfall, each of our visits has been quite unique!
Contributed by Melissa at A Little Time and a Keyboard
Van Buren State Park, Michigan
Directly off the shore of Lake Michigan, scenic Van Buren State Park offers plenty to do whether you just want to play for a day or camp out on one of the 200+ camp sites. From volleyball to playgrounds to hiking, you won't want to miss out on the sand dunes or the beach, all less than 400 meters from the lake.
The sand dunes are a must-do & see hike. The dunes are surrounded by a forest, making the hike interesting as you sometimes duck under branches and climb over trunks.
Contributed by Brianna at Wandering Educators