We've been talking about favorite National Parks, but @hikermor mentioned that State Parks are also pretty great. It's hard to say which is my favorite, but here are some contenders:
Grand Mere State Park, MI. It's on the shore of Lake Michigan with big sand dunes and about a mile of unpopulated beach (if it hasn't been covered by the rising lake).
Custer State Park, SD is a gem. A few years ago I camped there in a torrential rainstorm. When the weather cleared I hiked into the National Forest up Black Elk Peak to see the hoop of the world. There's a herd of bison, too.
Goblin Valley State Park, UT is a place my kids absolutely loved when they were little because they could climb on the goblins. It's still pretty cool, though I think the kids have outgrown it somewhat. Also, a scene from "Galaxy Quest" was filmed there.
Wakulla Springs State Park, FL is a place I've only been once, but it was memorable. The spring has mammoth bones at the bottom. You cand swim it it, but don't cross the rope or the alligators will eat you! There was amazing wildlife. If I'm ever in the area, I'd definitely go back.
Herriman State Park, ID has famous (and famously frustrating) trout fishing, but also a wonderful trail system for mountain biking, horseback riding, or XC skiing. There are swans, ospreys, river otters and elk. So nice!
What's your favorite State Park?
It's a toss-up between Giant City State Park and Ferne Clyffe State Park.
Giant City has wonderful rock formations, one group of which is huge, straight sided "walls" that you can walk between, just like walking down a city street with buildings, only with a narrow street. It also has a wonderful selection of trails, plus horse stables, camping, cabins, and one of the best restaurants in the southern half of the state.
Ferne Clyffe doesn't have as many trails, but the ones they have are nicely kept and vary from easy to challenging. It also has cool rock formations (including an arch) and a couple of pretty nice waterfalls in wet weather. It has a nice lake, rv camping, tent camping, group camping, and backpack camping, but no cabins. It's my "gotta get away for a night" place. I also meet a lot of trail runners here.
It also makes a nice 3 night backpacking trip to go from one to the other and back, stopping first and third nights at Panther Den Wilderness Area. Some road walking involved though.
Happy new Year!
Sadly, I have only been to a couple of my state's state parks and forests (at least that I can recall off of the top of my head). So, for Ohio, I will go with those two. Salt Fork State Park (not backpacking) and Zaleski State Forest (backpacking). I would like to get to Shawnee State Forest (backpacking).
Wow! Those look like some really cool places. @SILHiker, I like the idea of backpacking between parks. There are some State Parks in the Denver metropolitan area that are connected by non-motorized bike paths. I once did a 3 day bike trip all on urban bike paths staying at Cherry Creek SP, downtown Denver and Chatsworth SP. The State Parks are really just reservoirs, so noting spectacular, but they do have camp sites and hiking trails. It was a very fun, low stress trip. I've always kind of wondered why I've never seen it written up in any outside-type magazine.
In the state of Texas, Palo Duro Canyon is my favorite as there is so many different options available and if it has been a rainy season, it is completely different and adds that much more beauty to the landscape.