Did you know there are US states without any national parks? If you’re planning a road trip, chances are you’ve considered visiting a national park. While we love seeing them, there are plenty of reasons to visit states without national parks. Don’t believe us? Let us prove it!
How Many National Parks Exist in the United States?
There are 423 National Park Service units in the United States, including national historic sites, national monuments, national battlefields, national seashores, and more. But, there are only 63 national parks in the U.S., and only some states have them.
National parks are set apart by congress because of their natural phenomena or scenic land features. When people think of national parks, they often think of the most notable ones, like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, or perhaps even Grand Teton or Zion National Park.
Pro Tip: There are many state parks that are really incredible. Read about a few of these parks in our article about state parks we think are just as good as national parks.
How Many U.S. States Have No National Parks in Place?
There are 20 states without national parks. Alternatively, 30 states and two U.S. territories (American Samoa and the Virgin Islands) are home to all 63 national parks.
What States Dont Have National Parks (And Places You Should Visit Instead)
We love a good national park, but there are plenty of state parks, recreation areas, and national wildlife refuges and seashores that offer excellent opportunities for exploring and learning too. Here are some states without recognized national parks. This does not mean they lack historic sites, monuments and other national landmarks.
Pro Tip: Some states are small but mighty. Like how The Smallest State in USA Is Still Larger Than Some Countries.
Home to cities like Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile, Alabama’s in the deep south. It’s the home of soul food and is one of the country’s top producers of poultry and peanuts. And, it’s known for its role in the Civil Rights Movement with Rosa Parks’s stand against segregation.
The state is a mixture of land types. It has hilly areas in east-central Alabama, where you’ll find the tallest mountain in the state, Cheaha Mountain. Alabama also has flatlands, and forests cover all but 30 percent of the state.
Instead of visiting a national park, hit up DeSoto State Park to see a waterfall plunging 104 ft. Or, visit Gulf State Park on the Gulf of Mexico for serene views of the Gulf and 28 miles of trails for hiking and biking.
➡ While you’re near the coast, stay at one of the 7 Best Campgrounds on the Beach in Alabama.
This New England state features steep hills, a central lowland valley, and dense eastern forests. Connecticut is known for its resources: lumber, firewood, and even maple syrup.
While visiting the state, head to Lovers Leap State Park on the Housatonic River and enjoy hiking and exploring the historic ruins. The views at Lovers Leap are majestic, and they’re especially captivating in the fall months. Then, visit Kent Fall State Park in the Berkshires to take in the many waterfalls.
Nicknamed “The First State,” Delaware was the first state to sign the U.S. Constitution. It features hilly terrain in the northern Piedmont area, a low coastal plain, plus sandy beaches along the coast and swamps in the south. Home to three state forests, this state’s top crops include soybeans, corn, and potatoes, thanks to its rich soil.
Consider heading to Cape Henlopen State Park along the Delaware Bay on your visit to Delaware. Here, you can stroll along the six miles of coastline and explore the WWII fort. Then, head to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, also along the Delaware Bay, to enjoy sightseeing on the five walking trails and 12-mile wildlife drive.
Home to over 10 million people, this state might be known for its peaches, but they’re only the third-biggest producer of them. Georgia is, however, the largest producer of peanuts.
Several rocky areas make up Georgia, like in the northeast part of the state with the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Plateau in the northwest. Georgia is also home to the largest swamp on the continent—the 700-square-mile Okefenokee Swamp. And, it offers more commercial forestland than any other state.
While the state of Georgia is without national parks, you shouldn’t miss a visit to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area—a collection of parks along 48-miles of the Chattahoochee River. Next, head to St. Marys to access the Cumberland Island National Seashore, with maritime forests, marshes, and undeveloped beaches.
➡ Also, don’t miss your chance to enjoy the Top 10 Enchanting Georgia Beaches!
Farmland and big city life combine to make Illinois. Nicknamed the Prairie State, Illinois was once covered in prairie grass. Today, Illinois has fertile plains, with some hillier areas along the south.
Its most notable city is Chicago. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 caused significant destruction there, but it also led to the modernization of the city we see today. In fact, Chicago was one of the first cities in the world to feature skyscrapers. Be sure to grab some Chicago-style pizza and popcorn (the state’s official snack food) while you’re visiting.
Although you’ll be in the midwest, visit Ferne Clyffe State Park, and you may just feel like you’re in the northwest with the abundance of ferns and waterfalls. Or, visit the 2,000-acre Castle Rock State Park along the Rock River to get close to the sandstone bluffs.
This midwest state’s claim to fame is its corn—it’s the number one producer in the country. But, Iowa is also known for its role in politics, holding caucuses since the 1800s.
The state features grass fields decorated with corn and soybean fields throughout, and it has some other interesting land features. Up in northeast Iowa, you’ll find bluffs that provide a stark contrast against the mostly-flat land in the state. The northeast is where you’ll find one of Iowa’s famous state parks, Pikes Peak State Park, which has a 500-ft bluff overlooking the Upper Mississippi River.
Further south, there’s Maquoketa Caves State Park. It features towering bluffs and a 6-mile trail system linking the 13 caves throughout the park.
Kansas is home to just under three million people. The state’s known for its native sunflowers and as the largest U.S. wheat producer. It may be a state without national parks, but it does feature the world’s largest continuous area of tallgrass prairie. Although Kansas is primarily plains, you can find some hilly regions in the northeast and a rise in elevation along the western Colorado border.
While visiting, head to Elk City State Park to hike along the many trails and fish in the Elk City Reservoir. And speaking of fishing, visit Wilson Reservoir in the Smoky Hills to try your hand at catching striped bass and white bass.
With influences from African, French, and Spanish cultures, Louisiana is known for its Creole food and Mardi Gras celebrations. Today, many Native American tribes call Louisiana home, too.
You may know the state for its reptiles and amphibians, like the alligators, snapping turtles, crawfish frogs, and salamanders that live in its marshes. This cajun country is the biggest salt producer, and it features an ample supply of natural gas and oil.
Louisiana is home to two state parks. Once a sugar plantation, Fontainebleau State Park is surrounded by water on three sides: Bayou Castine, Bayou Cane, and Lake Pontchartrain. A visit to North Toledo Bend State Park situates you next to one of the largest man-made reservoirs in our country, the Toledo Bend Reservoir.
Maryland is a diverse land, made up of marsh, wetlands, farmland, and mountainous areas along the north. The biggest producer of crabs in the country, you may know this state for its fishing industry.
The state also played an essential part in the Underground Railroad thanks to Maryland native Harriet Tubman’s role in helping enslaved peoples reach freedom. And, it’s home to where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner, our country’s national anthem.
Visit Rocks State Park, where you can see the King and Queen Seat, a 190-foot high rock overlooking Deer Creek. Then, travel to Assateague Island to explore the state’s only oceanfront park, Assateague State Park. Here, you can marvel at its sandy beaches, salt marshes, and maritime forests.
Pro Tip: You’ll love exploring these Top 9 US National Parks for Waterfall Lovers.
Home to the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, and thanks to its role in the Revolutionary War, this state has major historical roots. This New England state protrudes out into the Atlantic Ocean and is home to well-known areas like Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket Island, and Cape Cod.
Cape Cod is where the Mayflower arrived and eventually created the first European settlement in New England at Plymouth. With more than 1,500 miles of coast, this state knows how to produce seafood. And cranberries! Massachusetts makes up a quarter of the U.S. production in their cranberry bogs.
While visiting Massachusetts, go tide pooling at Halibut Point State Park. Here, you can take in the views of nearby Mount Agamenticus and the Isles of Shoals. Then, take in the traditional beauty of Maudslay State Park with its 19th-century gardens and long strands of mountain laurel.
Bordered by the Mississippi River on the west, this state has a mixture of fertile soil plains and red clay hills. While the state of Mississippi is without national parks, national forest land covers nearly 65 percent of the state. Additionally, along the Gulf of Mexico to the south, there are 160 miles of Gulf Island National Seashore with sandy beaches and bayous.
Did You Know? Mississippi’s coast is a favorite destination for snowbirds. Find out why: Snowbirds Are Planning: Top U.S. Destinations for Winter Migrators
The state is known for its crops, like soybeans and sweet potatoes, and it’s the home of blues music. Try some of their famous fares during your stay, like boiled peanuts, collard greens, and Mississippi mud pie.
Full of history, Tishomingo State Park gives you a front-row seat to the famous Natchez Trace Parkway running through the park. We think you’ll marvel at the large rock formations as you walk the land once inhabited by the Paleo Indians. De Soto National Forest, a pine forest in southern Mississippi, offers plenty of hiking trails, hunting, and fishing opportunities.
Flat plains make up the majority of the Cornhusker State. But it also boasts the most extensive stretch of sand dunes in all of North America. The Badlands begin at the northwest corner as they stretch north into South Dakota.
Several Native American tribes called Nebraska home over 13,000 years ago—many of which remain in the state. Thousands of years later, white settlers arrived via the Oregon Trail.
Nebraska has nearly 80,000 miles of rivers, including the well-known Platte River that runs through the state. That’s an impressive amount of river water for a state without national parks!
The Platte River State Park sits on the state’s southern bluffs. The state park has water activities like fishing and paddle boating on Jenny Newman Lake.
Plus, there’s kayaking on the Platte River Water Trail. Smith Falls State Park features the state’s highest waterfall and a historic walking bridge across the Niobrara River to access the falls.
New England’s highest point is in New Hampshire, with Mount Washington at 6,288 ft. You can even take a rail ride to its summit. The state is also home to one of the world’s most climbed mountains, Mount Monadnock. While traveling, be sure to try New Hampshire’s maple sundaes and cider donuts.
Located on the Atlantic coast, Odiorne Point State Park features a science center and World War II remains. Seven separate habitats make up the state park, ranging from rocky shores to freshwater ponds and salt marshes.
Picturesque Franconia Notch State Park offers marvelous views in the fall, or any time of year, really. Here, you can walk through the Flume Gorge and even take a tram up Cannon Mountain.
The Garden State is a mixture of hills, pine forests, and salt marshes, and it has some sandy beaches along the seacoast with rocky and mountainous terrain in the northwestern area. New Jersey is also known for its Jersey coast, Atlantic City, and seafood—especially the clams.
➡ Looking for a place to park your RV? We’ve got you covered with the 7 Best Campgrounds in New Jersey Near the Shore.
More than 6,400 acres make up the Worthington State Forest, located in northwest New Jersey. Here, you’ll find both the Dunnfield Creek Natural Area and the Sunfish Pond, one of the state’s natural wonders. Next, head to Wawayanda State Park to hike nearly 20 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
In this state, you can visit one of the most famous cities in the world, New York, and one of the most famous waterfalls, Niagara Falls. Home to nearly 20 million people (8.5 million in New York City alone), this state was the original U.S. capital.
New York has a diverse terrain, ranging from the urban metropolis of the five boroughs to mountains, like the Appalachian and Catskill. There are also lakes, including the 11 Finger Lakes, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. Plus, New York has sandy bays along Staten and Long Islands.
Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park in western New York provides incredible views of a deep gorge and waterfalls in the Genesse River. You can also travel to Robert H. Treman State Park in the Finger Lakes region to check out the Enfield Falls gorge.
Oklahoma offers ten different geographical areas which vary in terrain. The majority of the state is the red sandstone and shale hills. But it also has mountain regions, a large forest, fertile farmland, grasslands, and gypsum hills.
More than 30 Native American tribes call Oklahoma home today. The annual Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival held every summer in Oklahoma City brings in people from all over the world.
Visit Oklahoma’s Salt Plains State Park for an expansive view of salt flats where you can fish, swim, and boat in the lake. Then, head over to the dig area to look for selenite crystals with hourglass-shaped inclusions. This is the only place in the world where you can find this type of selenite.
While the Sooner State is without national parks, it does have Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Chickasaw is Oklahoma’s oldest National Park Service unit, which provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures, like boating, skiing, sailing, and hiking.
William Penn founded Pennsylvania, which later became our second state in the U.S. This state is full of historical significance. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, and the founding fathers signed it in Pennsylvania. Additionally, Pennsylvania is home to Gettysburg National Battlefield.
Full of diverse terrain, a large forested area covers nearly half of the state. Pennsylvania is also known for its mountains: the Appalachian, Pocono, and Catskill mountains. While visiting, don’t forget to try a Hershey bar from Hershey, PA, a handmade pretzel, and a Philly cheesesteak!
Ohiopyle State Park offers activities for the most adventurous travelers, like whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and zip-lining. There’s even a natural waterslide for the kids and kids-at-heart.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area has a 40-mile stretch of river sitting between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And it features over 100 trails and three beaches for swimming.
The Ocean State is home to over one million people and has more than 400 miles of coastline. If you travel here, you’ll always be within a half-hour drive of the ocean, no matter where you are in the state.
It’s the smallest state in the union at only 48 miles long and 37 miles wide. Of course, Rhode Island is also known for its clams, including fried clam cakes, steamed clams, and clam chowder.
Did You Know? You can camp on three miles of undeveloped beach at East Beach State Park in Rhode Island. It’s one of the 12 Best Campgrounds on the East Coast Near the Ocean.
North of Providence, Lincoln Woods State Park offers nearly 630-acres to enjoy freshwater swimming, fishing, hiking, and kayaking. Formerly an amusement park that opened in 1847, Rocky Point is now the site of Rocky Point State Park. It offers 120 acres of land just 10 miles outside of the city of Providence.
Forests cover over three-fourths of Vermont, and mountain areas are also prominent. People harvest sap from the state tree, the sugar maple, and use it to make pure maple syrup.
In fact, Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the country. Be sure to try the array of foods sweetened with their maple gold: maple cream (their form of ice cream), lollipops, and sugar candy.
While visiting this state, stop at the famous Smugglers Notch in Smugglers Notch State Park. Here, you can see the Green Mountains up close. Camel’s Hump State Park is another top state park choice for camping and hiking up Camel’s Hump mountain.
The Badger State is home to people who love their cheese, professional football, and lakes—in no particular order. But seriously, the state has more than 15,000 lakes and a cheese museum. Wisconsin’s fertile soil produces corn and is also a top producer of green beans.
A trip to this state without national parks wouldn’t be the same without visiting Devil’s Lake State Park north of Madison. Devil’s is Wisconsin’s most popular state park, and it features 500-foot quartzite bluffs, a 360-acre lake, and plenty of opportunities for hiking and swimming.
Another well-known park is High Cliff State Park. It sits on Lake Winnebago, the state’s largest lake. Its limestone cliffs are full of historic sites tied to Native Americans.
➡ If you visit Wisconsin in July, don’t miss the EAA Airventure Airshow in Oshkosh. Learn more here: 11 Unique Events You Should Add to Your RV Travel Calendar.
National Parks Aren’t Everything
We’ll just go ahead and say national parks aren’t everything. While they’re certainly worth visiting, there’s so much more out there you might miss if you only stick to what you know.
Some state parks and recreation areas surpass national parks in beauty, diversity, and culture. That said, we hope this list gives you the urge to tour each of these states without national parks—they’re more than worth it!
Have you visited any of the parks on this list? Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.
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