6 great state parks for hiking
Monday, January 07, 2019
Almost all state parks have hiking trails. Many times the trails are great but limited. My ideal state park has multiple trails with variation in the trails so I can hike a longer or difficult trail when I am in the mood or a short and easy trail when I want a short hike.
I am not a hardcore hiker and don’t go on overnight hikes but I sometimes hike a longer hike of several hours. If you enjoy hiking, here are six state parks that are worth a visit.
Lake Superior view at Gooseberry Falls State Park
Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota
The trails in this park have impressive views. The River View Trail (1.25 miles one-way) is easily reached from the campground. One end is a beach on Lake Superior while the other is the Lower and Middle Falls where you can step among the rocks at the falls.
The Gitchi Gimmi Trail (2.5-mile loop) has fabulous views of the lake. The park also has a hiking trail to falls and caves and the park connects to a bike trail along the lake. My favorite hike doesn’t seem to have a name but runs just south and east of the campground along the lake.
Another challenge here is to view all the CCC constructions, which are quite unique in their materials. In the winter the trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. The campsites are nice and private, but there are no hookups at all.
Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio
This used to be a park only known to a few people in Ohio but it has become more popular as more people hear about it. Some of these trails are within walking distance of the campground but most require a drive. They are worth it!
The trails take you to rocky cliffs, waterfalls, and small caves throughout the countryside. Most of the hiking trails are a mile or less. The biking trails are 0.5–7.2 miles long. Old Man’s Cave is the most famous.
However, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Conkles Hollow, Rock House, and Cantwell Cliffs are all fun to visit. The campsites here have water, electric, and sewer.
View at Coopers Rock State Forest
Coopers Rock State Forest in West Virginia
The views of Cheat River and the mountains of West Virginia are gorgeous. Raven Rock Trail takes you to a quiet view. The main view is at Coopers Rock but it can be busy on weekends. It can be reached by a short walk from the parking lot.
This area has several fun trails, including the scary-named Rattlesnake Trail. A secret trail exists in this area called Haystack Trail. It’s a very short trail but requires some crawling on rocks. A ranger may be able to help you find it.
The forest trails take you deep in the woods and along streams. The best here is Clay Run Trail to reach the historical Henry Clay Iron Furnace. The trail distances in this park aren’t marked on most maps but are said to be 1-3 miles long for a total of over 50 miles of trails.
In the winter, you can cross-country ski many of the trails. Camping is excellent with electricity available at many sites.
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas
The hiking trails in this large canyon (2nd largest in the U.S.) are simply superb. I’ve been at the park a couple of times but haven’t been able to hike more than half of the trails.
There are several short trails near the entrance of the canyon that give you an overview of the park. Lighthouse Trail (2.7 miles one-way) has fascinating rock formations along the way that are named or you can make up your own names.
Several hiking trails wind along the stream in the center of the canyon. These trails include historical stops along with interesting rocks. The Rock Garden Trail (2.4 miles one-way) takes you to the top of the canyon.
It’s interesting to see people on their phones at the end of this trail since this is one of the few places in the park with phone service. My favorite hike is the Givens, Spicer, Lowry Trail (3.1 miles).
The coloring of the rocks is wonderful. There are several campgrounds. All have excellent views and most have water and electric.
Canyon Loop Trail
Catalina State Park in Arizona
The Tucson area is great for hiking in general but this is a great place to camp while enjoying hiking within and outside the park. The Romero Ruins Trail (0.75 mile loop) has an archaeological site along with interpretive signs. The Nature Trail (1.0 mile loop) identifies local plants.
The Canyon Loop Trail (2.3-mile loop) has some terrific views of the surrounding hills. My favorite is the Romero Canyon Trail (7.2 miles one-way). The first part to the Romero Pools is challenging enough for me at 2.8 miles one-way but with an elevation gain of 900 feet. The trail after that is even more challenging with an elevation gain of 3,300 feet.
There are several other trails of varied lengths for hiking, biking, or for horses. The park also has some wonderful ranger/volunteer programs. The camping is excellent here with electricity and water hookups.
Hunter Trail view
Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona
The Calloway Trial is short (0.5 miles) but the overlook at the end is well worth the hike. The big trail is the Hunter Trail (1.6 miles one-way). It doesn’t sound like much but the path is steep. Gloves are recommended.
The trail uses steel cables in several places where you need those gloves to pull yourself up. The interesting part of this trail is that you climb for a while to get top of the hill. As you are celebrating, you realize that the trail continues on the back of the hill and on up to the peak.
This second section is even more challenging. Then you have to return. Sunset Vista Trail (3.1 miles) is even longer and the first couple of miles are considered moderate. Gloves are needed on this trail, too. The campground is excellent and the campsites have water.
For all the parks, watch the temperatures. You may want to visit some of these parks in the winter since summer temperatures make hiking unbearable.
Of course, make sure you bring along plenty of water and snacks on these trails and stay safe. What parks do you visit for great hiking?
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