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Seven State Parks to Visit Instead of the National Parks

By Katie Rosenbrock
October 10, 2013; 11:37 PM

In case you hadn't heard, the federal government is still shut down and access to all 401 of our national parks is pretty limited. So, what's an adventurer to do? Some small parts of the most popular national parks may still be accessible. But travelers on the hunt for a full-fledged outdoor adventure might find a more exciting open-air experience by visiting a nearby state park instead. Take a look at our list below to find out what state parks are located on the outskirts of some of the more famous, most visited national parks.

Panther Creek State Park

Just 45 miles south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Morristown, Tennessee, Panther Creek State Park expands across 1,435 acres along the shores of the Cherokee Reservoir. Park activities include, camping, horseback riding, fishing, boating and swimming, and nearby attractions include Pigeon Forge, Dollywood and Gatlinburg.

Fort Loudon State Park

This historic state park is about a 37-minute drive west of Great Smoky Mountains and is home to one of the first British forts of the early Western frontier. With five miles of hiking trails, a lake for boating and fishing, and nearby attractions like The Lost Sea and the Ocoee River Whitewater Center, vacationers should find Fort Loudon State Park a fun alternative to the Great Smokies.

Flickr/Al_HikesAZ Slide Rock State Park is a fun alternative to Grand Canyon National Park.

Slide Rock State Park

Grand Canyon visitors looking for adventure during their ill-timed vacation might find more fun just an hour and a half south of the Big Ditch. Slide Rock State Park is famous for (not to mention named after) a slippery stretch of the park's creek. And, yes, visitors are welcome to slide down it. The surrounding area is home to several other state parks and tourist attractions like the Montezuma Well and Sunset Crater Volcano.

Wassama Round House State Historic Park

Another state park that's deeply connected to our nation's roots, Wassama is a 30-minute drive south of Yosemite National Park and is still used by local Native Americans as a ceremonial meeting place. On Oct. 19, it will host Gathering Day, a celebration featuring dancing, crafts and basket weaving. Whether or not the government is up and running by then, it's a worthwhile stop for anyone in the area.

Related Links:

The National Parks: Ranked!
The World's Ten Best Hikes
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5 Great Fall Hiking Boots

Henry's Lake State Park

You were aiming for Wyoming, but why not say hello to Idaho? Henry's Lake State Park is just 22 minutes west of Yellowstone National Park, and is best known as a fisherman's paradise. The park, which is home to moose, antelope and (surprisingly) pelicans, has camping and boating facilities, as well as an extensive network of hiking trails.

Harriman State Park

Also notable and near to Yellowstone is Harriman State Park. With popular activities like horseback riding, cross country skiing and hiking, you'll hardly find yourself wondering what to do. Harriman visitors planning a stay within the upcoming weeks can celebrate an old-fashioned Halloween on October 26th with the park's 13th Annual Haunts of Harriman "Outlaws and Petticoats"-themed festivities.

State Forest State Park

Just west of Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, in a huge basin called North Park, lies 71,000 acres of pure Colorado ruggedness in (the sort of repetitively named) State Forest State Park. This park runs alongside the Medicine Bow Mountains, and in addition to sharp peaks and miles of trails, offers campers, hikers and visitors of all kinds the beauty of its alpine lakes and diverse wildlife. Plus, travelers looking for a unique outdoor camping experience can rent a Mongolian-style yurt.

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