Many national parks get a lot of attention as being some of the best locations for landscape photographers. Although national parks present great opportunities for photographers, state parks should not be overlooked. There are many amazing state parks throughout the United States, and you probably won’t need to travel as far to reach several great state parks as you would need to travel to reach a national park.
Here you will find a list of the best state parks in each state. Of course, “best” is a matter of opinion and there are many other awesome state parks aside from those listed here. The selections were made from a photographer’s perspective, not necessarily the best overall parks or those with the most to do.
If you are looking for more great places to photograph near you, please see our state guides for each state.
Alabama: DeSoto State Park
DeSoto State Park is located on Lookout Mountain and features forest, rivers, and beautiful waterfalls. The park is home to the tallest waterfall in the state (DeSoto Falls), although it is in a separate section of the park a few miles from the main park.
Alaska: Chugach State Park
At nearly 500,000 acres, Chugach State Park in Anchorage is one of the largest state parks in the U.S. If features amazing mountain scenery, lakes, shoreline, and more. While there are a lot of great national parks in Alaska, several of them are very remote. Chugach State Park’s proximity to Anchorage makes it much easier to access.
Arizona: Lost Dutchman State Park
Lost Dutchman State Park is in the Sonoran Desert east of Phoenix. It is a great place to get photographs of the amazing rock formations and desert landscape of Arizona. Great hiking trails and easy access from Phoenix make this park an excellent option.
Arkansas: Petit Jean State Park
Petit Jean State Park is in central Arkansas on top of Petit Jean Mountain. This popular park features beautiful mountain views, the Arkansas River, wildflowers, and Cedar Falls.
California: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is in the Colorado Desert of southern California. This is a huge park and due to the desert landscape it is not the easiest to travel through, so be sure to plan ahead. There are about 500 miles of rough dirt roads and 100 miles of hiking trails in the park that lead to amazing views.
Colorado: Roxborough State Park
South of Denver, Roxborough State Park is home to beautiful red rock formations that are perfect for photographing. The park features great hiking trails, overlooks with outstanding views, and abundant wildlife.
Connecticut: Kent Falls State Park
At Kent Falls State Park the Falls Brook drops 250 feet over a series of beautiful cascades that make a great subject for photographs. A trail along the brook provides great views of the cascades.
Delaware: Trap Pond State Park
Trap Pond State Park features a landscape that is not typical for this part of the country. The wetlands and baldcypress trees can be photographed from the edge of the pond, or you can take a boat onto the pond to get the best views.
Florida: Long Key State Park
Long Key State Park is in the Florida Keys with amazing beach and water views. There is a campground in the park if you want to stay overnight. Long Key was once home to a luxury resort before it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1935.
Georgia: Amicalola Falls State Park
Amicalola Falls State Park is home to Amicalola Falls, a 700-foot cascading waterfall. You can catch an easy view from the bottom or hike up a more challenging trail to reach the top of the falls. The park is also very close to the starting point of the Appalachian Trail.
Hawaii: Nā Pali Coast State Park
Nā Pali Coast State Park features stunning cliffs along the northwest coast of Kaua’i. These beautiful cliffs reach up to 4,000 feet above the ocean. To see the coast you can hike within the park, or take a helicopter or a boat. The hike is about 11 miles and leads you past many other beautiful scenery along the way.
Idaho: Bruneau Dunes State Park
Idaho may not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of sand dunes, but at Bruneau Dunes State Park that is exactly what you will find. Home to 400-foot sand dunes, this park is a great place for photographers.
Illinois: Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park is a very popular park that features canyons, cliffs, waterfalls, and river views. The beautiful deep canyons (18 of them) and waterfalls make this an ideal location for photographers.
Indiana: Clifty Falls State Park
Clifty Falls State Park in southern Indiana features Clifty Creek, Clifty Creek Canyon, and Clifty Falls. Hiking trails provide access to 4 different waterfalls within the park, all over 60-feet in height.
Iowa: Pikes Peak State Park
Pikes Peak State Park features a 500-foot bluff overlooking the Upper Mississippi River. The beautiful river views make it an excellent location for photographers.
Kansas: Mushroom Rock State Park
Mushroom Rock State Park in central Kansas features interesting hoodoos and rock formations that are perfect for photographing. This is a very small park (only about 5 acres) but well worth the visit.
Kentucky: Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is in the Daniel Boone National Forest and features the 68-foot Cumberland Falls. What makes this park very unique is that it is one of the few places in the western hemisphere where a moonbow can be seen at night during full moon. In addition to Cumberland Falls, the park is also home to Eagle Falls, a beautiful 40-foot waterfall.
Louisiana: Chicot State Park
Chicot State Park is a great place to photograph the unique landscape of Louisiana. The man-made lake is popular for fishing, and the wetlands of the park are unique and beautiful.
Maine: Baxter State Park
Baxter State Park is a wilderness park with no paved roads or modern facilities. For those who are willing to make the effort, hiking and camping in Baxter State Park can provide some amazing photographic opportunities. The park features the highest peak in Maine (Mount Katahdin), abundant wildlife, and plenty of beautiful wilderness.
Maryland: Swallow Falls State Park
Swallow Falls State Park in western Maryland is home to several waterfalls, including the 50-foot Muddy Creek Falls. You’ll also find old-growth forest, gorges, and the Youghiogheny River.
Massachusetts: Bash Bish Falls State Park
Bash Bish Falls State Park in the Taconic Mountains of southwest Massachusetts is home to Bash Bish Falls, which cascades for a total drop of nearly 200 feet. The final drop of about 60 feet is split by rocks into twin falls.
Michigan: Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is a beautiful area that includes forest, lakes, and rivers. Because it is a wilderness area, getting around in this large park is not that easy, but well worth the effort.
Minnesota: Gooseberry Falls State Park
Gooseberry Falls State Park is one of several Minnesota state parks along the north shore of Lake Superior. This beautiful park features picturesque waterfalls, Lake Superior shorelines, and a river gorge. Many miles of hiking trails make it easy to find interesting photographic opportunities.
Mississippi: Tishomingo State Park
Tishomingo State Park is in northeast Mississippi in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The park features Bear Creek Canyon and beautiful rock outcroppings.
Missouri: Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park in southeast Missouri has rocks and river that act as a natural waterpark for many visitors. In addition to recreation, the area is also ideal for photography.
Montana: Makoshika State Park
Makoshika State Park is home to dinosaur fossils, but for landscape photographers the beautiful and rugged badlands are likely to be of more interest. Scenic drives and hiking trails make it possible to photograph the badlands.
Nebraska: Fort Robinson State Park
In northwestern Nebraska Fort Robinson State Park features beautiful Pine Ridge scenery.
Nevada: Valley of Fire State Park
Located only about 50 miles from Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park features amazing rock formations and a beautiful, rugged landscape. Valley of Fire Road runs through the park and makes it easy to find plenty of things to photograph.
New Hampshire: Franconia Notch State Park
Franconia Notch State Park is in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. The park includes Cannon Mountain, Flume Gorge, Old Man of the Mountain, lakes, and plenty of hiking trails.
New Jersey: Hacklebarney State Park
Hacklebarney State Park, only about 59 miles west of New York City, features the Black River, boulders, several small waterfalls, and hiking trails that make it possible to explore the area.
New Mexico: City of Rocks State Park
City of Rocks State Park in southwestern New Mexico features rock formations that reach as high as 40 feet. Hiking trails make it easy to access the area. This is also a great place for night photography thanks to its dark sky.
New York: Letchworth State Park
Letchworth State Park is consistently recognized as one of the best state parks in the U.S. It features a deep gorge, the Genesse River, and 3 significant waterfalls. The gorge reaches up to 550 feet deep, contributing to the park’s reputation as the “Grand Canyon of the East”. See our Photographer’s Guide to Letchworth State Park for more details.
North Carolina: Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock State Park includes the 315-foot Chimney Rock. You can take an elevator to the top and get amazing views of the surrounding area. The park also features other rock formations and a 400-foot waterfall.
North Dakota: Lake Metigoshe State Park
Lake Metigoshe State Park is in northern North Dakota along the Canadian border in the Turtle Mountains. Here you can photograph the lake and secluded landscape.
Ohio: Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park is an amazing park that is separated into a few different units or sections. It features beautiful gorges, rock formations, and waterfalls that make it a great destination for photographers.
Oklahoma: Gloss Mountain State Park
At Gloss Mountain State Park (also known as Glass Mountain State Park) in Oklahoma you will find a beautiful, rugged landscape. Cathedral Mountain is one of the highlights of the park and a great subject for your photos. This park doesn’t include a lot of facilities or development, but it does have a great landscape that is ready to be photographed.
Oregon: Silver Falls State Park
Silver Falls State Park is the largest state park in Oregon, but it’s not the size that makes it special. The park includes the 8-mile Canyon Trail that leads you past 10 beautiful waterfalls. If you love photographing waterfalls, Silver Falls State Park should be on your list of places to visit.
Pennsylvania: Ricketts Glen State Park
Ricketts Glen State Park is another park that is home to many waterfalls. There are 24 named waterfalls in the park, along with beautiful old-growth forest and trails for hiking. The Falls Trail Loop, which leads past many of the falls in the park, is known for being an excellent hike.
Rhode Island: Beavertail State Park
Beavertail State Park is a small park (153 acres) but features an impressive shoreline and a picturesque lighthouse. You can photograph from one of several overlooks, or get down to the rocky coast for beautiful scenery. See our Guide to Photographing Beavertail State Park.
South Carolina: Jones Gap State Park
Jones Gap State Park is a forested mountain wilderness that features the Middle Saluda River, wildflowers, abundant wildlife, many waterfalls, and more than 30 miles of hiking trails for exploring it all.
South Dakota: Custer State Park
Just a short distance from Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park is known for its beautiful landscape and amazing wildlife. The 18-mile Wildlife Loop will provide plenty of opportunities for viewing and photographing wildlife, and Needles Highway will lead you to beautiful landscapes. See our Guide to Photographing Custer State Park.
Tennessee: Fall Creek Falls State Park
The most popular state park in Tennessee, Fall Creek Falls features beautiful gorges, waterfalls, and forests. At more than 250 feet, Fall Creek Falls is the largest of the waterfalls, but there are several others worthy of photographing as well.
Texas: Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Texas panhandle allows you to photograph the second largest canyon in the U.S. There are plenty of opportunities to hike and photograph the canyon, and some of the area can be seen from the road as well.
Utah: Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park is home to a unique and interesting landscape that features thousands of sandstone hoodoos. Hiking trails make it easy to explore and experience this park.
Vermont: Smugglers’ Notch State Park
Smugglers’ Notch State Park is located in a beautiful mountain setting. During the winter it can only be accessed by snowmobile or skiis. This popular skiing area offers picturesque scenery throughout the year.
Virginia: Grayson Highlands State Park
Grayson Highlands State Park in southern Virginia provides beautiful mountain views. The park is also noteworthy for the ponies that live within the park boundaries. There are several different hiking trails that provide access to the views.
Washington: Palouse Falls State Park
Palouse Falls State Park is a rather small park (105 acres) but provides great photo opportunities of the 200-foot Palouse Falls. Catching a view of the falls is easy from the trail.
West Virginia: Blackwater Falls State Park
Blackwater Falls State Park is a great place to photograph waterfalls. In addition to the namesake Blackwater Falls, Elakala Falls is a favorite among photographers. There are also great mountain views at Lindy Point and Pendleton Point. See our Photography Guide to Blackwater Falls State Park for details.
Wisconsin: Willow River State Park
In Western Wisconsin, Willow River State Park is home to Willow Falls, a cascading waterfall surrounded by a beautiful gorge. The Willow River, gorge, waterfalls, and Little Falls Lake make it a popular park.
Wyoming: Sinks Canyon State Park
Sinks Canyon State Park features a rugged canyon and an interesting natural phenomenon. The river disappears into an underground cavern called “the Sinks” and emerges 1/4 mile away in “the Rise”.
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