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Travel Inspiration | National Parks
These 4 State Parks Just Might Be Worthy Of National Status


Visiting the country's national parks has always been a favorite pastime of Americans, with the end of the pandemic only increasing interest levels and attendance. Record crowds have resulted in many parks implementing reservation systems or shuttle bus services, both of which require advance planning.

Whether you've already visited the national parks or are trying to find a less-crowded alternative, state parks are worth serious consideration for your next trip. In fact, many have suggested these four fantastic state parks just might be worthy of national status.
Custer State ParkBalancing Rocks Custer State Park, Black Hills, South Dakota. Photo courtesy of Carlos Wolters/Unsplash


If it were a national park, this favorite spot in the Black Hills of South Dakota would be the 14th most popular, according to 2021 visitor statistics. As a forest and wildlife preserve, Custer State Park draws visitors to its granite peaks, towering ponderosa pines, and spruce forests. It's also well known for animal sightings, including buffalo, elk, and bison, of which there are nearly 1,300.

If you're a first-time visitor, start by taking one of three scenic drives, each expertly curated to highlight the park's assets. Some trails are closed to cars after winter's first snow, but the trails beckon hikers all year long.
Valley of Fire State ParkValley of Fire State Park, Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV. Photo courtesy of Yansi Keim/Unsplash


Known for its casinos, Las Vegas is also a popular spot for exploring the Grand Canyon in neighboring Arizona. However, Nevada offers plenty of its own natural beauty at Valley of Fire State Park, just 45 minutes northeast of Las Vegas.

Valley of Fire showcases over 40,000 acres of bright-red Aztec sandstone outcrops and petroglyphs from more than 2,000 years ago. Another key highlight is Arch Rock, a natural phenomenon formed from centuries of erosion caused by strong winds and rain. First-time visitors might consider exploring the park's two-mile scenic loop that offers fabulous views of the stunning rock formations, including Arch Rock.
Cloudland CanyonViewpoint in Cloudland Canyon, Georgia at dusk. Photo courtesy of Sean Pavone/


Despite its smaller size, nature lovers and adventurers alike will surely be pleased with Cloudland Canyon. Located near Trenton, Georgia, on the western ridge of Lookout Mountain, Cloudland Canyon offers deep canyons, sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, abundant wildlife, and more. There's something for everyone at this park, which boasts to be one of the largest and most scenic in the state.

New visitors should consider the West Rim Loop Trail as a good starting point. According to the park's website, this five-mile loop trail was previously named "one of the top ten hikes in the U.S. by Backpacker Magazine." This hike offers some of the park's best features, including rugged geology and panoramic vistas."
Baxter State ParkBaxter State Park. Photo courtesy of


Located in Millinocket, Maine, Baxter State Park is the state's largest state park, and home to Mount Katahdin, the state's highest mountain. The park, which covers more than 209,000 acres, was created by former Maine Governor Percival P. Baxter through land purchases from 1930 to 1962, and expanded by subsequent donations.

Experienced hikers will enjoy Mount Katahdin's Hunt Trail, which is five miles one way and listed as very strenuous. Ample rewards await, including incredible views of the picturesque Katahdin Stream Falls and views above the tree line.