Totally Unique State Parks Worth a Visit
If you need a vacation that’s not a theme park and you want nature, but not all the crowds of the National Parks, we have some great suggestions. Among our top picks for the best state park, you’ll find a ghost town, amazing waterfalls, giant metal sculptures, alligator sightings, warm beaches and breathtaking views. It’s enough to make you want to load up the car and hit the road ASAP. Keep reading to see them all.
Just 45 minutes away from Houston, Brazos Bend State Park is considered by many as a nature lover’s paradise. There are 37 miles of trails (some which are even wheelchair-friendly) including the short half mile Creekfield Lake Nature Trail which is outfitted with various exhibits and touchable bronze sculptures of wildlife, a boardwalk and observation deck. Other trails wind back and forth from the lakes and the hardwood forest and are good for those walking, biking or even horseback riding. You’ll learn about the three ecosystems in the park at the Nature Center and the stars at the George Observatory. Nearby you’ll find the Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site and the George Ranch Historical Park—both worth a trip. You can stay at the park at a campsite, screened shelter or cabin.
Red Fleet State Park is one of the nation’s youngest state parks with some of the world’s oldest “residents.” Opened in 1988, Red Fleet’s 1,963 acres are home to a number of dinosaur tracks which are said to be over 200 million years old. A short 1.5-mile trail will lead you to them, but head's up—the path has a few large hills and dips along the way. It's a little tense, but you’ll be rewarded with great finds along the three-mile loop. The park is a great place to hike, mountain bike or go off-roading. Water-lovers will enjoy the swimming, boating and fishing, and the park rents out canoes, kayaks, pedal boats and paddle boards at reasonable rates. Finally, you’ll want to get your overnight reservation in early to rent out one of the two authentic teepees for just $30 a night. How cool is that?
It’s no wonder why the Amicalola State Park is a popular spot for weddings—it's beautiful and probably more upscale than what you would normally expect from a state park. There is a lodge on the premises that not only offers a comfortable place to stay but lots of activities as well. Here you can learn how to paddle board, fly fish, or take a guided wilderness hike. You can also try your hand at 3-D archery, brace yourself for the many zip lines, go on a GPS scavenger hunt or check out the nearby Amicalola Falls. You can also camp in one of the 24 wooded campsites available.
Did you know that Niagara Falls State Park is the country’ oldest? While the spectacular falls are probably enough reason to visit it, you might be surprised by how much else there is to do here. The 400-acre park is surrounded by 15 miles of hiking trails and gardens including the observation tower which is not only your best bet for unobstructed views of the falls but also offers a way to the “Crow’s Nest” and the base of the gorge. While there, you’ll want to allow time to discover the new multimedia experience, “The World Changed Here” located near the Cave of the Winds. If getting drenched is not your thing, the Niagara Scenic Trolley offers a fun and comfortable way to learn the history of the area (and it’s cheap too!).