Dive into some of the lesser known natural wonders the U.S. has to offer with today’s guest blogger Allison from TipsForFamilyTrips.com. Check out other great tips and hotspots at the end of the post in celebration of Travel Tips Tuesday.
State parks are like the 2nd class citizens of parks. I think that’s too bad, but I understand why.
National parks and monuments are nearly always must-see destinations for my family. They preserve natural wonders or important historical sites for the generations to come. On the other hand, state parks are often not as large or showy. Sometimes, their appeal is limited. For example, there are several state parks in my home state of Utah where the top activities are boating, camping and off-roading.
Lots of people love to do those things, but not us.
There are state parks that defy a second-class description. They showcase unique scenery or other features that deserve attention. Here are three state parks in the Western United States that our family has visited. Each of them is special in different ways, and none of them could be mistaken for second-class.
Custer State Park, South Dakota
This park in the Black Hills of South Dakota should not be missed on any trip to Mount Rushmore. It is situated between Mount Rushmore National Monument and Wind Cave National Park. It is a great place to see wildlife, hike, fish or take a scenic drive.
Our family spotted bison, deer, prairie dogs, and the famous Begging Burros on two trips around the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop. We loved the scenic vistas on the Iron Mountain Road, which included a long-distance view of Mount Rushmore. Our drive on the spectacular Needles Highway was made even more dramatic (and a little frightening) by fog on a rainy day.
Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington
There is nothing disappointing about Cape Disappointment State Park in the southwest corner of Washington State. This park on the Pacific Ocean, nicknamed “Cape D”, has two miles of gorgeous ocean views, two lighthouses, several hiking trails and it is home to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
Cape Disappointment State Park overlaps with the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, and several other Lewis and Clark historic sites can be found in the vicinity. Camping is available inside the park. Other lodging, dining and beach activities can be readily found in the nearby cities of Ilwaco and Long Beach, Washington.
Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
My children keep asking when we can return to this remote and other-worldly park in Southern Utah. Located between Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks, Goblin Valley State Park is unique. Why? It is filled with knobby sandstone “goblins” that stretch for miles. They practically beg to be climbed and explored. I have seen few places that ignite imagination and the spirit of exploration in the young and young-at-heart as well as Goblin Valley.
My childhood memories of Goblin Valley include flashlight tag under the stars with my cousins. When I returned to Goblin Valley with my own young children, they pretended to be wild animals prowling the wilderness. Even on the most crowded day, there is plenty of space for families to find their own private playground.
Next time you plan a trip in the United States, consider the state parks in the area. Find out what they have to offer. It can be challenging to fit every worthy attraction into a family vacation, but don’t write off a state park simply because of its status. You could miss something truly special.
Allison Laypath is a family travel writer at tipsforfamilytrips.com, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She and her husband took their first child on a two-week road trip at four-weeks-old and they have been traveling as a family ever since. Allison loves all types of travel, but especially road trips, national parks and travel within her home state of Utah.