States of Beauty

With views of the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park in South Dakota has stunning views around every turn. Photo by Jenna Pfingsten.

The first day of spring isnt technically until March 20, but if youre living in the Midwest, it feels like spring has already sprung. With the beautiful weather, you’ll want to go outside and enjoy all the beauty that the world has to offer. These are our state park picks for each state in the Midwest.

Matthiessen State Park, Oglesby, IL

Matthiessen has something to offer everyone who loves the outdoors. From canyons to streams to prairies, the photo opportunities are endless. Less crowded than the neighboring Starved Rock, the park also has features roaming wildlife and even includes horse trails.

Charlestown State Park, Charlestown, IN

Charlestown is an excellent spot for camping and features great terrain for hiking and hot spots for fishing. Sprawling over 15,000 acres, you’ll never run out of places to explore.

Maquoketa State Park, Maquoketa, IA

Maquoketa prides itself on its different caves and strange limestone formations—true geological wonders. With trails linking the caves, Maquoketa offers an endless maze of expedition.

Clinton State Park, Lawrence, KS

Situated on a large lake, Clinton offers boat rentals and is the perfect place for jet skiing, tubing, or taking a simple cruise around the lake. With 383 campsites, this is a great park to get away from it all for a while.

Ludington State Park, Ludington, MI

One hundred miles outside of Grand Rapids, Ludington State Park is a bustling recreational paradise. Featuring everything from boat rentals to lighthouse tours, this state park sprawls over 5,300 acres and includes plenty of gorgeous views of the lake and several different trails. You’re guaranteed to never get bored.

Gooseberry Falls State Park, Silver Creek Township, MN

If youre into chasing waterfalls, youre sure to love Gooseberry Falls. With loud rushing cascades along the Gooseberry River, the beauty of this park won’t be lost on you. If you love it enough, head back in the winter time for skiing.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Camdenton, MO

If you want the experience of exploring castle ruins without making the trip to Germany, then Ha Ha Tonka is an excellent park for you. Right off the Lake of the Ozarks, Ha Ha Tonka has stone ruins of a 20th century castle that sits high up on a bluff. With more than 15 miles of trails to explore, youll never get bored of all the sinkholes, natural bridges, and caves you’ll stumble upon.

Ponca State Park, Ponca, NE

Situated along the Missouri River, Ponca State Park features roaring waters and offers a multitude of activities, including an archery range and mountain bike tracks. Bring along your camper for the night or stay over in one of the park’s rustic—or luxurious—cabins.

Cross Ranch State Park, Center, ND

 Cross Ranch is full of natural beauty, sweeping 7 miles along the Missouri River. With 589 acres of grassland, this park is one of five historic parks officially named as part of the Lewis and Clark Trail.

Salt Fork State Park, Lore, OH

For more of a resort-style experience, Salt Fork State Park is the perfect place for a springtime getaway. This park features a lodge laden with upscale amenities and boasts surrounding woods with plenty of recreational hiking trails.

Custer State Park, Custer, SD

For unexpected wildlife, check out Custer State Park, famous for their herds of bison. This is one of Americas largest state parks, sprawling over 71,000 acres. Additionally, you can take several scenic driving routes, as well as routes for biking, hiking, and horseback riding. You might even spot four famous presidents made of stone off in the distance.

Merrick State Park, Fountain City, WI

Do you like fishing? Look no further than Merrick State Park. The park shares its borders with the waters of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, so you won’t go home without a fish to fry.