Best State Park (2015)


The earliest state parks in the United States date back to the mid 1800s, and today, the 50 states collectively manage well over 6,000 state park units that draw in over 700 million annual visitors. After four weeks of voting, the polls are closed and the winners of the USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice award for Best State Park have been chosen.

  • Letchworth State Park

    Letchworth State Park

    Nicknamed the "Grand Canyon of the East," New York's Letchworth State Park is considered one of the most scenic areas in the Eastern USA. The Genesee River runs through a gorge cutting through the park, passing over three magnificent waterfalls along the way. Hikers have access to 66 miles of trail, and rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking and hot air ballooning are also on offer.

    Genesee River
    Genesee River

    Photo courtesy of JimVallee

  • Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

    Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

    The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, or the "Porkies" as its known to frequent visitors, encompasses 60,000 acres of lakes, rivers and virgin forest. The park offers camping on the shores of Lake Superior, 90 miles of hiking trails, kayak rentals, mountain biking and, in the winter, access to the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area.
    Photo courtesy of PetrBednarik

  • Watkins Glen State Park

    Watkins Glen State Park

    Located in the scenic Finger Lakes region of New York, Watkins Glen State Park features an amazing 19 waterfalls. As visitors walk along the glen, the stream cutting through the park descends more than 400 feet with 200-foot cliffs to either side, all within the space of 2 miles. The result is some truly breathtaking scenery.
    Photo courtesy of Lamar Gore/USFWS

  • Ha Ha Tonka State Park

    Ha Ha Tonka State Park

    Perched on the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, Ha Ha Tonka State Park is equal parts nature and history. The central landmark of the park is the ruined European-style stone castle, built in 1905 by a local businessman, atop a bluff overlooking the lake. More than 15 miles of trails wind through the park, and picnicking, fishing and camping are also available.
    Photo courtesy of Karen Blaha/Flickr

  • Devil's Lake State Park

    Devil's Lake State Park

    One of the top destinations in the Midwest for rock climbing, Devil's Lake State Park is famous for its 500-foot quartzite bluffs created by glacial activity tens of thousands of years ago.  The 9,217-acre park is also home to a nature center, several American Indian burial mounds, portions of the Baraboo Mountain Range and 41 miles of hiking trails.
    Photo courtesy of Wirepec

  • Fall Creek Falls State Park

    Fall Creek Falls State Park

    Fall Creek Falls, Tennessee's largest and most visited state park, gets its name from the 256-foot cascade – one of the highest in the eastern United States – that numbers among the park's many other waterfalls and gorges. The park encompasses 26,000 acres and more than 34 miles of trails, ranging from short day hikes to two long-distance overnight trails. A nature center, golf course, horse stables, playgrounds and picnic pavilions add to the appeal.
    Photo courtesy of JanetEverhard

  • Indiana Dunes State Park

    Indiana Dunes State Park

    Indiana Dunes State Park on the southern coast of Lake Michigan protects 2,182 acres of Hoosier landscape, including just over 3 miles of beach fronted by large sand dunes, come rising more than 200 feet above sea level. In the warmer months, the park attracts hikers, swimmers and picnickers, while during the winter, cross-country skiing is available.
    Photo courtesy of sheffieldb / Flickr

  • Assateague State Park

    Assateague State Park

    Maryland's only oceanfront state park, Assateague barrier island is sandwiched between the Atlantic and the Sinepuxent Bay. Just nine miles outside of Ocean City, this scenic seaside park offers 2 miles of ocean beaches perfect for swimming, sunning and shelling, as well as kayaking and canoeing opportunities in the bayside coves and marshes, where it's possible to spot waterfowl, deer and the island's famed feral horses.
    Photo courtesy of Jennifer Dodge

  • Custer State Park

    Custer State Park

    Located in the rugged Black Hills of South Dakota, Custer State Park protects 71,000 acres of terrain and a herd of some 1,300 bison – one of the largest publicly owned herds on the planet – who are known to stop traffic along the park's Wildlife Loop Road from time to time. Besides viewing elk, pronghorn deer, mountain goats and other park residents, visitors can summit Harney Peak, the park's tallest point, for sweeping views over the prairies, hills and granite needles that make Custer so unique.
    Photo courtesy of South Dakota Department of Tourism

  • Hunting Island State Park

    Hunting Island State Park

    Hunting Island, South Carolina's most visited state park, attracts more than a million visitors each year. Many of them come to enjoy the 5 miles of pristine sandy beach, others to tour the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state and still others to fish the saltwater lagoon or from the beach fishing pier. In the summer months, loggerhead sea turtles come to nest in Hunting Island State Park.
    Photo courtesy of Jupiterimages


It was neck and neck throughout the voting period between two parks, Letchworth State Park in New York and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Michigan. In the end, Letchworth State Park edged ahead and took home top honors.

The top 10 winners in the category Best State Park are as follows:

  1. Letchworth State Park - N.Y.
  2. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park - Mich.
  3. Watkins Glen State Park - N.Y.
  4. Ha Ha Tonka State Park - Mo.
  5. Devil's Lake State Park - Wis.
  6. Fall Creek Falls State Park - Tenn.
  7. Indiana Dunes State Park - Ind.
  8. Assateague State Park - Md.
  9. Custer State Park - S.D.
  10. Hunting Island State Park - S.C.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Fred Lochner (America's State Parks), Anna Hider (Roadtrippers), Karen Catchpole and Eric Mohl (Trans-Americas Journey), Mike Wendland (Roadtreking) and Diana Gerstacker (The Active Times) were chosen based on their extensive expertise in American travel and state parks.

Other nominees included Hueco Tanks, Stone Mountain (N.C.), Weeki Wachee Springs, Antelope Island, Grayson Highlands, Hearst San Simeon, Valley of Fire, Humboldt Redwoods and Ecola State Parks.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.

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Fred Lochner

Fred Lochner

Fred Lochner

Anna Hider

Anna Hider

Anna Hider

Karen Catchpole and Eric Mohl

Karen Catchpole and Eric Mohl

Karen Catchpole and Eric Mohl

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland

Diana Gerstacker

Diana Gerstacker

Diana Gerstacker