Are you an outdoor lover looking to explore some of the best state parks in the U.S.? If so, then you’ve come to the right place. Here we’ll be deep diving into three state parks that are off the beaten path but are sure to amaze and inspire every type of RVer.
From breathtaking views and lush foliage to wildlife-watching spots and access to beautiful water features, there’s something for every RVer in your party. Buckle up your seatbelt. It’s time for a spectacular journey through some of America’s great outdoors!
Guest Post By The Adventure Detour
Custer State Park – Custer, South Dakota
Custer State Park in South Dakota has all the elements of a national park without the crowds. It is an enormous park with two scenic drives, tons of recreational activities, and full of incredible wildlife.
Can’t-Miss Activity in Custer State Park
Do not sleep on the 18-mile Wildlife Loop State Scenic Byway. This incredible drive takes you through the Black Hills landscape with chances to see many of the park’s animals up close. The park has over 1,300 bison roaming around as well as mountain goats, prairie dogs, antelope, elk, and wild begging burros that may come right up to your car! The best time to view wildlife is in the morning and before dusk.
Things to Do:
Sylvan Lake is a beautiful stop in this park to get out on the water or go for a hike. The lake is framed with rock formations that reflect against the water. This area is just gorgeous. If you are looking for a short hike, check out the easy one-mile Sylvan Lake Shore Trail that goes around the lake.
If you want to take a spectacular longer hike with a bit more challenge, then check out the seven-mile Black Elk Peak Trail. This trail offers amazing views overlooking the park. As a bonus, you can also explore the historic Harney Peak Fire Tower at the top of the trail.
There are two additional scenic drives through and around Custer State Park. If you only have time for one, we recommend the Needles Highway. This 14-mile scenic drive takes you past incredible park scenery with winding forests, rock formations, and beautiful mountains.
It also has a couple of very narrow tunnels and is not RV or oversized vehicle friendly. If you have a car though, it is an incredible drive. Note that you do need to pay the Custer State Park entrance fee to drive this road, but the fee is good for seven days of park exploration.
The last breathtaking scenic drive connects Custer State Park to Mount Rushmore and ends at the Iron Mountain Overlook. The Iron Mountain Road drive is free since it doesn’t actually go through Custer State Park and is just as beautiful as the other drives we have mentioned. In fact, the engineering on this road is so incredible that many said it could never be built.
This winding road is 17 miles long and packed with tight tunnels and bridges. Travel Tip: take the road northbound from Custer State Park to Mount Rushmore, which gives you incredible views of Mount Rushmore as you exit two of the three tunnels.
Also, check out these incredible stops near Custer State Park: Badlands National Park, Spearfish Canyon, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Wind Cave National Park, and Jewel Cave National Monument.
Franconia Notch State Park – Lincoln, New Hampshire
The White Mountains of New Hampshire should be on every RVers bucket list. This area is full of breath taking scenery but also numerous activities that the whole family will love. In the middle of the White Mountains sits our favorite state park in the country, Franconia Notch State Park. This gorgeous state park is known for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.
Can’t-Miss Attraction In Franconia Notch:
The Flume. The Flume is a two-mile loop hike through a deep rock gorge that is just jam-packed with beautiful scenery. During this short hike, you will see rock formations, the deep carved granite gorge, waterfalls, mountains, and two covered bridges. There are amazing photo opportunities along the way, great for the amateur and seasoned photographer alike. This is the most popular park activity, so consider hiking early or during the last few hours that the park is open to avoid some of the crowds.
Things to Do:
To get a bird’s eye view of this beautiful park, take a ride to the top of Cannon Mountian on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway. This area is a ski resort in the winter and a scenic ride in the summer. Once at the top, there is a short trail around the mountain rim with many lookout spots to rest and take photos. The trail also leads to a lookout tower to get an even better view across the state park.
At the base of Cannon Mountian is the New England Ski Museum. Most people skip this little building but don’t miss the opportunity to buzz through and view skier Bode Miller’s World Cup and Olympic medals on display.
An interesting stop in the park is the Old Man Of The Mountain Profile Plaza. This is the area where the New Hampshire state symbol, the granite profile of an old man’s face, used to be on the side of the mountain. Sadly it crumbled and collapsed some time ago, but they have created an unusual way that you can still view this beloved rock formation.
By standing on ground markers and viewing metal sculpture pieces, you can see the Old Man Of The Mountain on the side of the mountain just as he used to be viewed. This area also features a beautiful mountain lake.
Valley Of Fire State Park – Overton, Nevada
Choosing between Valley Of Fire State Park and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area was a difficult task, as both of these Nevada parks possess stunning red sandstone rock formations, petroglyphs, and unique desert landscapes. The best part is that each park is within easy reach from Las Vegas for an invigorating day trip surrounded by sublime scenery! Whether you choose one or the other (or both!), you won’t regret your decision; they are simply too beautiful to pass up!
Can’t Miss Attraction in Valley Of Fire:
Don’t miss driving the scenic 11-mile Valley Of Fire Highway. There are many pull-offs for interesting rock formations, including Arch Rock, Elephant Rock, the petroglyphs at Atlatl Rock, and the striped Fire Wave Rock. If you are looking for a great hike in the park, check out the 1-mile loop White Domes Hike, which includes rock caves and a slot canyon among the white-washed rock formations.
Things to Do:
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon, located in close proximity to Las Vegas, is a must-see with its thirteen miles of spectacular scenery. Home to majestic rock formations and canyons, one should not miss the Petroglyph Wall near the Willow Spring Picnic Area for an unforgettable experience! During springtime especially, be sure to embark on the Lost Creek/Children’s Discovery Trail – less than one mile long but worth every step as you stumble upon a beautiful waterfall at its end.
For hikers looking for more of a challenge, there’s also Calico Tanks Trail which will take you along two miles before leading you up to an overlook where magnificent views await. You may even spot Las Vegas from afar!
Additional State Parks
Other incredible US state parks to add to your spring travel bucket list include Watkins Glen State Park in New York, with its 19 cascades adorning a breathtaking rock gorge, Ecola State Park in Oregon – home to rocky cliffside lookouts and intriguing beach rocks formations – all the way down to Florida’s Silver Springs State Park; one of America’s largest freshwater springs where an outdoor aquarium-esque experience awaits on a glass bottom boat ride.
Whether you’re looking for a place to camp with friends or just want to take a break from everyday life and immerse yourself in nature, there is something special about each one of these parks. This list of state parks provides plenty of variety and opportunities to explore what this amazing country has to offer. I hope you feel inspired to go check out one of these top US state parks!
Looking for an RV to get you there? Browse our inventory today or come see us in person at one of our many locations across the country.
Scott, his wife Van, and their 13-year-old daughter have traveled full-time in their RV for 8 years. They have worked and homeschooled on the road through 42 states so far. They blog about RVing tips, travel destinations, jobs for RVing, and the full-time RV lifestyle on their blogs, theadventuredetour and rvnomadjobs. They are also RV content creators @theadventuredetour on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube. They love connecting with RVers, so be sure to reach out to them and say hi!