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Top 14 State Parks to Visit in Spring

America’s national parks get lots of attention. And we love them, too! But why not share some love with the 10,336 state parks across the U.S.? Explore the countless state parks scattered throughout each state that are lesser-known and often overlooked, and marvel at acres of natural beauty. Walk in the footsteps of historical figures, and understand their role in protecting some of America's most delicate landscapes. We chose some of our favorite state parks ready for exploration to share with you for their uniqueness in opportunities, beauty, and history. Get your hiking boots on, grab your binoculars and get ready to explore the best state parks in the USA to visit in spring.

Valley of Fire

Frontenac State Park | Minnesota

How many state parks are in the United States? If you’re wondering how many state parks in the USA there are, there are a lot — 10,336 to be exact, according to the National Association of State Park Directors. But if you’re looking for one of the best state parks in the USA, look no further than Minnesota, which is home to Frontenac State Park. 

As one of the top state parks in the USA, Frontenac State Park has a lot to offer. Located near the city of Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota, this state park sits along the majestic banks of the Mississippi River, covering an area of more than 2,000 acres. Here, visitors can explore the many trails within the park, such as the Frontenac Trail, which offers sweeping views of the Mississippi River, or watch some of the migratory birds that go through the Mississippi River Flyway.

With unparalleled natural beauty and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures like camping, fishing, and hiking, Frontenac State Park is one of the top U.S. state parks to visit. At Road Scholar, you can participate in our bird watching in the Mississippi River Valley program, which allows participants to identify some of the hundreds of bird species that migrate through this area in the spring.


Petit Jean State Park | Arkansas

Another one of the top state parks in the USA is Petit Jean State Park, located in Morrilton, Arkansas. This state park covers an area of about 3,471 acres and is one of the oldest state parks in the U.S., as it was established in 1923. Petit Jean State Park gets its name from the legendary French girl who disguised herself as a boy to explore the New World with her love and offers visitors many outdoor recreational activities and attractions.

If you’re looking to explore one of the best state parks in the USA, here’s what Petit Jean State Park has to offer:

  • Hiking trails: Petit Jean State Park is home to endless hiking trails, such as the Cedar Falls Trail or the Seven Hollows Trail, which offer explorers glimpses at rushing waterfalls or unique geological formations and caves.

  • Camping: Several campsites are located throughout the park, offering great stargazing opportunities with water and electric hookups.

  • Boating and fishing: Visitors can also enjoy boating and fishing on Lake Bailey, which is a 100-acre lake located within the park, that is home to bass and catfish, among other species.

If you’re a senior looking to start exploring Arkansas, you might be wondering — do seniors get discounts at state parks? Fortunately, seniors can take advantage of many senior discounts for state parks, including Petit Jean State Park. While there is no entry fee to the park, seniors can score discounts on campground rates.


Humboldt Redwoods State Park | California

Tall redwood trees line the hiking trails as lush greenery climbs up the trunks and cover the rich soil below. As one of the oldest state parks in the US, Humboldt Redwoods State Park was established as a state park in 1921 and is home to the famous Shrine Drive Thru Trees and the 31-mile-long Avenue of the Giants. Fishermen prefer the calmer South Fork Eel River in the early morning, and the sun's rays shine through the walls of Rockefeller Forest at sunset. California's third-largest state park would not be what it is today if it weren't for the Save the Redwoods League in 1918, rescuing these majestic trees from lumber companies. Look inside the Stratosphere Giant and the tallest Hyperion tree with Road Scholar.

Road Scholar Recommends: Sequoias to Redwoods: California State Park Medley


Custer State Park | South Dakota

Walk among the granite stepping stones and gaze at the expanse of thick forestry reflecting in the deep blue water at Custer State Park. South Dakota's first state park is home to unique rock formations like Needles Highway and Pigtail Bridges. Though no wildlife was living here when the park opened in 1919, it’s now populated by 1,300 grazing and curious bison. Watch for them on Wildlife Loop Road. As you explore this beautiful park, walk in the footsteps of past U.S. presidents, and keep a close look out for the bighorn sheep, "begging burros," and prairie dogs.

Road Scholar Recommends: On the Road: Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Grand Tetons


Valley of Fire State Park | Nevada 

Drive through the bright red expanse in search of the elusive Elephant Rock at sunset in the Valley of Fire State Park. Wake up early to watch the yellow sun rays reflect off limestone in Fire Canyon and Silica Dome, just as the Paiute natives did more than 150 years ago, or take a leisurely walk down Rainbow Vista Trail, breathtakingly color-streaked at sunset. The Valley of Fire boasts tremendous views of varying arch formations dropping into deep canyons that end in trickling rivers of light blue water. Join Road Scholar in the Valley of Fire and try to decipher the meaning of the Basketmakers' petroglyphs decorating the rocks.

Road Scholar Recommends: Hiking Death Valley National Park and the Valley of Fire


Snow Canyon State Park | Utah

Snow Canyon State Park has starred in 10 Hollywood movies since the 1950s. Its red-and-white canyons are decorated with spots of lava rock and have been walked on by Anasazi and Paiute natives since A.D. 200. The moon's beams shine down the canyon, making Johnson Canyon Trail and Big West Canyon Road light enough to enjoy a nighttime hike. Leopard lizards hide in the rolling sand dunes, and desert willows are home to prideful peregrine falcons. Visit Snow Canyon State Park to search for Utah's elusive waterfalls.

Road Scholar Recommends: Rafting, Hiking & Horses: Zion National Park With Your Family


John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park | Florida

Florida's underwater "Grand Canyon" boasts brightly colored yellow and purple coral in iridescent waters. Established in 1972, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park protects and preserves the only living coral reefs in the United States. Get a rare opportunity to look at barracuda and yellowtail snappers through a glass-bottom boat, or snorkel among nurse sharks in search of the famous Christ of the Abyss. Join Road Scholar's voyage into this underwater world.

Road Scholar Recommends: Florida's Fragile Coastal Treasure: Snorkel the Coral Reefs


Red Rock State Park | Arizona

Arizona's red and orange sandstone towers frame the setting sun and the rising moon in Red Rock State Park. Explore the twists and turns of inner canyons or ride horses on the 15-mile Lime Kiln Trail. Escape the heat in cool Oak Creek or the shade of juniper trees scattered throughout flower-filled green meadows. Look for coyotes blending in the cliffs, or guess what types of birds soar in the sky, looking for prey burrowing in the clay rock. Learn with Road Scholar how Gov. Bruce Babbitt established Red Rock in 1991.

Road Scholar Recommends: Red Rock Golf and Exploring the Splendor Of Sedona


Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park | Florida 

The mysterious waters of Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park come alive as manatees break the surface for air. Escape the heat in 70-degree sapphire waters, and look out at the ancient cypress swamps with hanging Spanish moss and purple flowers budding above the greenery. This 6,000-acre wildlife sanctuary is home to the world's largest and deepest freshwater springs and preserves the footsteps of the first European explorers to walk the land. Take advantage of leisurely riverboat rides, and learn how Edward Ball turned an ordinary swamp into a Florida treasure.

Road Scholar Recommends: Florida’s Forgotten Coast: From Tallahassee to Pensacola


Cumberland Falls State Resort Park | Kentucky

Known as the Niagara of the South, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park boasts extravagant views of roaring waters falling on beige-colored stones. Hike up and gaze down on emerald water and multi-colored trees and take the day to kayak on smooth waters before finding the 125-foot-wide curtain of Cumberland Falls and Eagle Falls. Ride horses through Daniel Boone National Forest while butterflies glide through the air or dig emeralds and sapphires in the old mines. Enjoy a nighttime hike with Road Scholar under the only "moonbow" in the western hemisphere.


Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park | California

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park boasts giant trees to the cliff’s edge that drops to the roaring waves below. Once the home of gold mines, this state park is covered in yellow fields and is home to large expanses of desert. Emerald ferns cascade down canyon rocks as mist rises from early morning rains throughout Fern Canyon. Look for Roosevelt elks' peaking antlers among the tall grass along the 19-mile bike loop, or see the hunting birds soaring through the air on Revelation Trail. Redwood trees have been a staple of this park since 1923, but Prairie Creek has many other beauties that must be explored.


Dead Horse Point State Park | Utah

The winding Colorado River cuts into the canyons and continuously changes the scenery of Dead Horse Point State Park. Walk the same paths as mustang herds as you climb the plateaus to see the orange stepping stones that ice, water, and wind have carved over hundreds of years. Bike up and down the canyons of the 17-mile Intrepid Trail System, and swim in the calming parts of the river after a day in the sun. Gaze up at star-studded skies, and learn about the legends of the cowboys with Road Scholar.

Road Scholar Recommends: The Best of Utah's Grand Circle of Parks and Monuments


Lewis and Clark State Park | North Dakota

Walk in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark through the North Dakota of today. Paddle above the sparkling waters of Lake Sakakawea. This state park offers unique viewings of great blue herons, sharp-eyed eagles, and invisible snow egrets that hide in plain sight. North Dakota's largest mixed-grass prairie is perfect for afternoon picnics, backed by yellow and green hills hiding the blazing sun. Spend a little time learning about Lewis and Clark’s epic journey before you visit, so you can fully appreciate what it might have been like to pass through these lands more than 200 years ago.


Amelia Island State Park | Florida

Amelia Island State Park is most known for being the only U.S. site to be under the flags of eight different nations. Hundreds of acres of Sea Island cotton, sugarcane, citrus, and indigo grew here year after year throughout the 16th century. Known historically for its strategic military location, Amelia Island is now a sanctuary for hatching sea turtle eggs and the endangered piping plover. Visit Amelia Island to ride horses along the broad curve of white sandy beaches and keep a lookout for the surfing dolphins and black skimmers gliding through the sky.

Road Scholar Recommends: Amelia and Cumberland Islands and the Okefenokee Swamp

Have any of these state parks sparked your interest? Visit Road Scholar’s State Parks Collection and immerse yourself in these wonders.


Find State Parks in the USA With Road Scholar

In search of the best state parks in the USA? Look no further than Road Scholar. At Road Scholar, we have an expansive collection of state park tours that can bring you throughout the country. With so many United States state parks to visit, you can find an experiential learning adventure that piques your interest.

At Road Scholar, all our state park tours are led by local experts who teach you about the culture, history, geography, and wildlife of the area you’re exploring. Even better, you’ll join a diverse cohort of lifelong learners interested in exploring the world around them. In your travel group, you’ll be able to enjoy spirited conversations as you adventure through the best state parks in the USA and make lifelong memories and friends.

We have learning adventures for everyone, whether you’re a solo traveler, family, couple, or senior. With the ability to filter state park travel experiences by ability level, date, interests, and duration, you can find a program that works for you. Find an adventure today and discover some of the best state parks in the USA to visit in the spring with Road Scholar.