Our Favorite State Parks: East Coast

Part 4 of our 4 part series detailing our favorite east coast state parks.

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With more than 10,230 state parks in The United States, there are exciting destinations to discover regardless of where you live.

In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series, we shared some of the best state parks in the West Coast, Mountain Region and Midwest. This post will introduce you to some beautiful state parks on the East Coast.

Why Visit a State Park?

You might be wondering why you should plan a visit specifically to a state park, rather than a national park. Here are a few reasons:

  • Get off the beaten path. You are probably already pretty familiar with national parks in your area. But state parks might bring you to some places you have never been before.
  • Save money. Entry and use fees can be lower at state parks than they are at national parks on average.
  • Get away from the crowds. National parks draw bigger crowds than state parks usually do. All parks have been more crowded since the start of the pandemic, so it makes sense to visit state parks right now.

Now let’s check out some top parks to consider!

1. Red Top Mountain State Park, GA

Just a little more than a half hour out of Marietta, GA, you will find Red Top Mountain State Park. Even with its close proximity to its urban surroundings, Red Top Mountain State Park feels like a serene escape from the hustle and bustle.

Red Top Mountain State Park

While visiting this park, you will notice that the soil has a reddish tint. That is the root of the name 'Red Top.' There is a lot of iron in the soil, and historically, it was mined here.

Along with wooded paths to explore, Red Top Mountain offers access to Lake Allatoona, where you can enjoy activities like fishing, swimming and water skiing. If you do not have a boat of your own, there are marinas where you can rent.

Those with an interest in Civil War history will also want to check out Allatoona Pass Battlefield.

Why You’ll Love It

It is hard to beat the convenience of the location if you live in Marietta or Atlanta. Plus, there is a ton to see and do, and generous amenities for camping, picnicking, and events. If you want to camp, make sure to call ahead, as spots fill up fast.

2. Monadnock State Park, NH

In the southern part of New Hampshire is Monadnock State Park, named for Mount Monadnock. As you hike, ski, or snowshoe along these highland trails, you will discover tranquil lakes and majestic views.

Monadnock State Park

Note that you not only should reserve your campground space in advance, but also entry to the park. The state places a cap on how many people can be here at any given time. If you show up without reserving first, you will only be able to get in if there is still capacity open.

Why You’ll Love It

It is hard to match the picturesque vistas you can take in when you hike high among the boulders. And if you visit the park during fall, you will be able to take in a spectacular display of colorful leaves.

3. Watkins Glen State Park, NY

At the south tip of Seneca Lake, NY, one of the Finger Lakes, you can visit Watkins Glen. This small town is famous for the nearby Watkins Glen International race track as well as Watkins Glen State Park.

Watkins Glen State Park

The park features some truly distinctive geological formations. A hike up the gorge is an unforgettable one. Along the trails, you can traverse over 800 stone steps, cross the enchanting Rainbow Bridge, and delight in the charm of 19 waterfalls.

Make sure you reserve your campsite well in advance. Even though Watkins Glen is a small town, the Finger Lakes area is a popular tourist destination, drawing people from far and wide to visit.

Why You’ll Love It

It is difficult to capture in words just how beautiful and unique this park is. All we can say is that it if you ever visit here, it is a one-of-a-kind experience that will stand out among your memories of all other parks.

Plus, you will also enjoy everything else that Watkins Glen has to offer, especially if you are into auto racing. Incidentally, do not miss out on the amazing Corning Museum of Glass less than half an hour away.

Tips for Camping at East Coast State Parks

To close out this post, here are a few recommendations to help you enjoy the best camping experience in any of these state parks.

  • Check how booking works. Do not assume that a campground is first come, first served. Check if reservations are required or highly recommended.
  • Plan ahead and have a plan B. East coast state parks can be crowded. Not only do you have tourists to deal with, but also locals from the surrounding areas. Quite a bit of the East Coast is dominated by major metropolitan centers, so even off season you may find parks and campgrounds at capacity. When that happens, have a backup plan ready to go.
  • Social distancing may be in effect in some of the more crowded parks. Check the park’s website for details and follow the rules.
  • Find out about amenities. Know what amenities campgrounds offer and which you need to handle on your own.
  • Pack a pop-up canopy tent. You can use the tent for shade and protection from rain for yourself or your gear. Stacking some of your supplies under the canopy frees up room in your camping tent for more comfortable sleep. A table and a couple of chairs under a canopy tent also can be your own private picnic spot.

Experience These East Coast State Parks

We hope you enjoyed checking out our top recommended state parks on the East Coast. Be sure to also take a look at Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series if you missed them. Have fun planning your next camping trip!