USA Travel

22 Must See Parks in the Northeastern United States

By
Tim Gillespie
on
February 15, 2021

From mountains to coastline, from wild rivers to wetland estuaries, the northeastern region of the United States is home to a diversity of environments that are showcased in state and national parks. Countless opportunities for hiking, biking, paddling, and camping can be found in these parks, most of which are within a short drive from a big city. Next time you are planning a weekend camping and hiking getaway in the northeast, consider one of these parks listed below as your next outdoor adventure destination.

Camping near a lake in the northeastern United States

Best National Park in the Northeastern United States

Acadia National Park

Often referred to as the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast”, Acadia National Park provides stunning landscapes around every corner, spectacular views, and rich cultural history. Visitors have plenty of options to explore rocky coastlines, granite mountains, lakes, ponds, and picturesque harbor villages on the 120 miles (193 kilometers) of hiking trails, plus an additional 45 miles (72 kilometers) of carriage roads.  Hikes in Acadia range from casual strolls along the seaside to strenuous scrambles up summits. There are 4 designated campgrounds inside the park to pitch your tent and reservations are highly recommended.

Best State Parks in Maine

Baxter State Park

With over 200 miles (320 kilometers) of hiking trails, 337 campsites, and more than 200,000 acres of wilderness, Baxter State Park is a premier year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The park is home to numerous mountains, including Mount Katahdin, which marks the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The mountains combine with a wide array of ponds, lakes, streams, waterfalls, and bogs to create a varied and beautiful landscape. Other than hiking and camping, visitors can enjoy paddling on the lakes, rafting whitewater rapids, and mountain biking. 

Mount Blue State Park, Maine

Encompassing 8,000 acres in western Maine’s Lakes and Mountain Region, Mount Blue State Park is a prime, four-season destination with abundant outdoor recreation opportunities.  Climbing Mount Blue 3,187-foot (971 meters) summit is a popular day hike, plus there are numerous trails for all abilities that are open for snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter.  Those looking to enjoy water-based activities will find plenty of options on Webb Lake, including swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.  The campground has 136 wooded sites that are a short walk to the sandy beach and picnic area at the lake.

Explore more of Maine with our Ultimate Guide to Visiting Maine

Best State Parks in Vermont

Little River State Park

Located just 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Burlington is one of the most picturesque parks in central Vermont. From your tent, you will have access to miles of trails and historic self-guided nature walks like the 5-mile (8 kilometers) Stevenson Brook Trail. There are 81 tent/RV sites, including 27 remote campsites along the Waterbury Reservoir shoreline that can only be accessed by boat. Boating, fishing, swimming, and mountain biking are among the recreational activities to keep visitors busy.

Smugglers’ Notch State Park

The famous Smugglers’ Notch is a narrow pass, lined with 1,000-ft (300 meters) cliffs, through the Green Mountains. It’s 40,000 acres have hiking, ice climbing, bouldering, and mountain biking, and provides access to the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States. The campground features 20 tent sites and 14 lean-to sites, which are small cabin-like structures, most of which are walk-in only. Campground amenities include a restroom with flush toilets, hot and cold running water, and coin-operated showers.

Northeastern parks in the United States, Franconia Notch State Park
Mountain range at Franconia Notch State Park, Vermont

Best State Parks in New Hampshire 

Franconia Notch State Park

Located in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest, this park provides a great base from which to enjoy hiking, biking, paddling, fishing, and swimming. Visitors can walk through the old-growth forest to the moss-covered Flume Gorge, a 90-foot-tall granite canyon. Enjoy a swim at Echo Lake, net a trout while fly fishing at Profile Lake, or enjoy a bike ride along the 8.7-mile (14 kilometers) Franconia Notch Bike Path. Lafayette Place Campground provides 97 wooded tent sites, coin-operated showers, and a camp store. Looking for a little more comfort but still in the backcountry? Check out the Lonesome Lake Hut.

Pawtuckaway State Park

With 5,000 acres of various landscapes, this park allows many opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and horseback riding. The Pawtuckaway State Park beach is open for swimming and boating and is a great place to just relax and enjoy a picnic. The campground has 192 wooded sites with many providing views of the lake. Amenities include fire rings, picnic tables, bathhouses with running water, and shower facilities. The park also has a camp store where canoe and kayak rentals are available. Hikers can walk the 2.4-miles (3.8 kilometers) to reach the summit of South Mountain, the highest point in the park, or take a stroll along the Fundy Trail to view beavers, deer, and great blue herons in Burnham’s Marsh.

Crawford Notch State Park

Located in the White Mountains, Crawford Notch State Park has 5,775 acres of wooded wonderland to explore. Highlights of hiking or mountain biking in this park tend to be arriving at one of 10 waterfalls that cascade over rock faces. Arethusa Falls is a moderate, 2.8-mile (4.5 kilometers) round trip hike to the tallest waterfall in New Hampshire. Take in the stunning reflection at Willey Pond and enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the picnic tables with a view. Dry River Campground offers 36 wooded sites on a first-come, first-served basis. Flush toilets and showers are available at the campground, as well as firewood for sale.

New to camping? Check out our Camping Tips: A Beginner’s Guide to Their First Trip

Best State Park in Connecticut

Devil’s Hopyard State Park

If you are looking for a quieter, more peaceful park with a bit of a rustic feel, then look no further than this tiny little gem of nature and history. The campground is small, providing 21 wooded sites with composting toilets, grills, and picnic tables. There is a stream nearby that is popular for local fisherman looking to snag a brook trout. Gentle hiking trails criss-cross throughout the 806-acre parcel of land leading to scenic vista viewpoints, historic bridges, and the famous Chapman Falls which drops more than 60-feet (18 meters) over a series of stone steps.  Fox Farm Brewery is located just down the road is a great place for a post-hike refreshment.

Best State Park in Rhode Island

Burlingame State Park

With 3,100 acres of rocky woodland surrounding Watchaug Pond, visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing, and hiking. There are over 30 miles (50 kilometers) of trails for hikers to explore this area and the neighboring Kimball Wildlife Refuge. The spacious campground features over 700 rustic campsites with restrooms and shower facilities. Canoe rentals are available at the campgrounds office and firewood is for sale.

Best State Parks in Massachusetts

Mohawk Trail State Forest

Covering more than 6,000-acres of mountain ridges, gorges, and woods this park is one of the most scenic areas in Massachusetts. The park is open year-round offering plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, swimming, canoeing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Within the park, you will find some of the tallest trees in the northeast and a section of the original ancient footpath used by Native Americans, now known as the Mahican-Mohawk Trail. The 47 wooded campsites include picnic tables, grills, and restrooms, however, they are only open from May through October and require a reservation.

Shawme-Crowell State Forest

If you are looking for a beautiful forested area to pitch your tent while exploring Cape Cod, then look no further than Shawme-Crowell State Forest. Surrounded by endless pines with the beach a short walk away are 285 campsites complete with restrooms, showering facilities, picnic areas, and a playground. There are 15 miles (24 kilometers) of roads and hiking trails to explore, and you can easily connect to the Cape Cod Canal bike trail.  

Best State Park in Delaware

Trap Pond State Park

The incredibly scenic Trap Pond State Park is home to the northernmost grove of bald cypress trees in the United States. The park offers 142 campsites and plenty of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Rowboats, pedal boats, canoes, and kayaks can be rented for use within the park during the summer season. The pond is popular for fishermen as well with a variety of fish and lots of areas to explore. Hike or bike the 4.6-mile (7.4 kilometers) Bob Trail through the park. This trail is an excellent place for birdwatching, and you’ll enjoy pondside views of the cypress swamp. 

Northeastern United States, Ohiopyle State Park
Fall foliage at Ohiopyle State Park

Best State Parks in Pennsylvania

Leonard Harrison State Park

This 585-acre park is located on the east rim of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. The park is open year-round but the campgrounds are seasonal. It’s best to check with the park’s office for official camping availability and to make reservations. Modern facilities including restrooms, potable water, and a visitor center are available. There are plenty of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The 62-mile Pine Creek Trail can be accessed from this campsite.

Ohiopyle State Park

Encompassing approximately 20,500 acres of rugged natural beauty and serving as the gateway to the Laurel Highlands, Ohiopyle State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities. Passing through the heart of the park, the rushing waters of the Youghiogheny River Gorge are the centerpiece, providing some of the best whitewater rafting in the eastern United States. There are 79 miles (127 kilometers) of hiking trails from short day hikes to challenging backpacking trails inside the park. Located in the Meadow Run area are two natural waterslides that provide entertainment for anyone looking for a thrilling adventure. 27 miles (43 kilometers) of the Great Allegany Passage passes its way through this park, which attracts tons of cyclists from all over the United States. Kentuck Campground has 200 campsites, including 27 walk-in only tent sites, available from April through mid-December.  

Looking for a camping destination in other regions of the United States? Top 20 USA Camping Destinations For Your First Trip

Best State Parks in Maryland

Assateague State Park

If you are looking for a truly unique experience where you can camp on the beach, explore miles of sandy dunes, and observe wild horses, then Assateague State Park is your place. Located on the 37-mile-long-barrier island, beachside activities include swimming, surfing, and fishing, as well as chances to explore secluded coves by canoe or kayak on the bayside. There are lots of different camping options available on the island, though the state park offers the best amenities for those who are not looking to rough it. For a great spot to view and photograph birdlife, check out the Life of the Marsh Trail. 

Rocky Gap State Park

These 3,000 acres of rugged mountains are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts in western Maryland and an ideal destination for those looking for a unique adventure. Campers can swim and kayak in the 243-acre Lake Habeeb, which is known for having the “bluest water in the state”. The lake is fed by Rocky Gap Run, which winds its way through an impressive mile-long gorge, displaying sheer cliffs, overlooks, and a hemlock forest dense with rhododendron and mountain laurel. Circumnavigate the lake by hiking the Rocky Trail Loop and explore secluded swimming holes along the way. There are plenty of camping options with 278 individual campsites found within the park.

Best State Parks in New Jersey

Wawayanda State Park

Forested hills surround Lake Wawayanda creating a restful backdrop for canoeists, boaters, and fisherman, while steep mountains challenge casual, as well as serious, hikers. There are more than 60 miles (96 kilometers) of marked trails, including 20 miles (32 kilometers) of the Appalachian Trail, located within the park. For a challenging hike that offers an incredible view, check out the Stairway to Heaven trail. Four main campgrounds offer modern facilities within the park that are all pet-friendly, and a few backcountry sites located along the Appalachian trail, for a more primitive experience.

Round Valley Recreation Area

One of the few parks in New Jersey that offers complete wilderness camping, Round Valley gives visitors a genuine rustic experience. All 85 campsites are walk-in (or boat-in only) with no vehicle access, located 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from the parking lot. Amenities include fire rings, pit toilets, drinking water within walking distance, and access to swimming in the 2,000-acre Round Valley Reservoir. The reservoir is approximately 180 feet (54 meters) deep, and aside from swimming, fishing, and boating, scuba diving is permitted for certified divers who obtain a permit from the park office. Three marked multi-use trails are open year-round with the 9-mile (14.5 kilometers) Cushetunk Trail being the most rugged and rocky. 

Letchworth State Park camping and hiking
Upper falls at Letchworth State Park in New York

Best State Parks in New York

Robert H. Treman State Park

Located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, this park is an area of wild beauty, with winding trails leading past multiple waterfalls including the 115-foot (35 meters) Lucifer Falls. There is a total of 9 miles (14 kilometers) of hiking trails inside the park. The Lower Falls are less than a mile from the parking lot and lead to a spectacular swimming hole that draws a crowd on a hot summer day. The Lower Falls area is where you will find 70 campsites with restrooms, showering facilities, and picnic tables. Reservations are recommended as sites fill up quickly.

Watkins Glen State Park

Known for its natural beauty, this park features a series of waterfalls and an extraordinary gorge along Glen Creek. A hike along the two-mile (3.2 kilometers) Gorge Trail will bring you past 19 waterfalls and up over 800 stone steps, as mist sprays from the falls cooling you off on a hot summer day. Several smaller trails lead off from the main trail as well. There are 305 campsites with restrooms, showers, firewood for sale, and food concessions. The park is located at the south end of Seneca Lake which is a popular destination for boaters and fishermen, and home to a few of New York’s finest vineyards.

Letchworth State Park

Renowned as the "Grand Canyon of the East," Letchworth State Park is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern United States. The Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs, reaching as high as 600 feet (182 meters) in some places. The choppy waters are off-limits for swimming here, but white water rafting and inflatable kayak trips let visitors brave a stretch of the lower rapids. More than 60 miles of hiking trails navigate forested areas and lead to all three waterfalls and other scenic lookouts. Trails are also available for horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. A wide variety of accommodations are available including cabins, fully-equipped lodges, and 257 campsites.  


Interested in joining other like-minded individuals on a camping and hiking trip to one of the United States National Parks, check out our hiking trips at Under30Experiences.

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Tim Gillespie
Tim is U30X's Thailand Manager & Community Builder, and has been living, traveling and accumulating experiences in SE Asia since 2009. He loves being in the outdoors, immersing himself in local cultures, and tasting exotic foods.

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