Recreate by State: Top 10 State Parks


Best of the Rest

More of our favorite state parks, forests, and recreation areas:

Coopers Rock State Forest, Bruceton Mills, West Virginia

How to play: Rope up on the Sunset Wall and The Big Blocks climbing areas. With over 50 routes ranging from 5.2 through 5.12, these walls afford the out-of-town climber a tantalizing taste of the endless climbing Coopers Rock has to offer.

Where to stay: Pitch a tent at the state forest campground for $28 per night. All sites come with electric and WiFi is available.

North Bend State Park, Cairo, West Virginia

How to play: Bring the entire family for a bike ride along the North Bend Rail Trail. This 72-mile multiuse trail takes visitors back in time through historic tunnels and railroad hubs from decades past.

Where to stay: Two campgrounds, River Run and Cokeley Campgrounds, offer out-of-towners plenty of chances to rough it with sites starting at $22 per night. For a few modern-day luxuries, the lodge has rooms starting $60 per night during the week.

Douthat State Park, Millboro, Virginia

How to play: Loop up the 18.2-mile Douthat IMBA Epic. The park’s 40 miles of singletrack here can be fast and dry or rocky and technical, so pick your poison.

Where to stay: Sites at the park campground start at $26 per night for standard sites. A popular option among groups of riders staying for the weekend is to throw down on a cabin, which requires a minimum two-night stay and starts at $62 per night.

New River Trail State Park, Max Meadows, Virginia

How to play: Hike, bike, or ride your horse along this 57-mile linear park. Most of the trail follows the New River as it winds through four southwest Virginian counties and countless historical sites.

Where to stay: You won’t find any cabins here, but there are four primitive campgrounds you’ll encounter along the way. Rates start at $15 per site.

Frozen Head State Park, Wartburg, Tennessee

How to play: Learn firsthand why competitors in the now notorious Barkley Marathons consider Frozen Head’s terrain some of the steepest, and most beautiful, in the region. Hike the Lookout Tower Trail and climb the fire tower for outstanding 360-degree views of the Cumberland Plateau and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Where to stay: Reserve early for one of Frozen Head’s 10 backcountry tent sites along the park’s 50+-mile trail system. Not into backpacking but still want a primitive camping feel? There are two campgrounds here, Flat Fork and Big Cove, offering sites ranging from $13.75-$24 per site, per night.

Pine Mountain State Resort Park, Pineville, Kentucky

How to play: Hike all 12 miles of trails within the park to exotic points of interest like Chained Rock, Hemlock Garden, and Honeymoon Falls.

Where to stay: Two double bed rooms at the lodge start at $53.96 per night.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Corbin, Kentucky

How to play: Take a trek to the 125-foot-wide curtain of water for which this state park was named. If the skies are clear, and a full moon is out, consider hiking at night to catch a glimpse of the moonbow, or lunar rainbow, which appears at the base of the falls.

 Where to stay: Stake out camp at the Cumberland Falls campground. Tent sites run about $17 per night while standard campsites start at $22 per night.

DuPont State Recreational Forest, Cedar Mountain, NC

How to play: Set off on a six-mile hike early. You’ll want plenty of time to take pictures of, and dips in, the six stunning waterfalls you’ll pass along the way, many of which were featured in the hit blockbuster The Hunger Games.

Where to stay: There’s no camping allowed within forest boundaries, but just four miles down the road is Black Forest Family Camping Resort. Basic tent sites run about $31 per night if you bring cash.

Table Rock State Park, Pickens, South Carolina

How to play: Rent a kayak for $5 per half-hour to float-and-fish the scenic, 36-acre Lake Pinnacle.

Where to stay: Visitors can stay at the park’s campground for $25 per night or at one of the park’s six primitive trailside sites for $17 per night per site.

Cloudland Canyon State Park, Rising Fawn, Georgia

How to play: Experience the spectacular 1,000-foot gorge on any number of Cloudland’s 30 miles of trails, which are open to hikers and bikers alike.

Where to stay: On a budget? Backcountry campsites in the park are only $8 per night. For a more unique lodging experience, check out one of the yurts starting at $100 per night.

Amicalola Falls State Park, Dawsonville, Georgia

How to play: Hike to the base of the 729-foot Amicalola Falls, considered the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast, before trekking the 8.5 miles north along the Appalachian Trail to get a taste of thru hiker life.

Where to stay: Campsites at the park start at $40 per night, but for a truly authentic lodging experience, hike to the Len Foote Hike Inn, which requires a five-mile trek in. Single occupancy rates are $122 per night, but include a family-style dinner and breakfast.


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