Visit a state park

Visit Your State Park

I don’t know about where you live, but Indiana State Parks are crazy busy right now. Last weekend, two of them were at capacity at 11:00 in the morning! I do get it though. We are all tired of being cooped up inside, and a state park is a terrific option. They are inexpensive, fun to explore and it’s fairly easy to keep a safe social distance. But, how do you make the most of your visit to a State Park?

Pick the right state park

The first step to making the most of your visit to a state park is picking the right park. Most state parks offer hiking trails, but some offer other amenities such as a swimming pool, horseback riding, a nature center, playgrounds, and even Inns. So a simple visit to a state park could easily turn into a weekend adventure!

State Parks often offer nature centers - this one is at McCormick's Creek State Park in Indiana
McCormick’s Creek State Park Nature Center

Before you decide which park to visit, think about what you want to do. If a little bit of hiking is all you are after, perhaps visiting a less popular park or one with fewer amenities is a better choice. You’ll enjoy your day with fewer crowds.

However, if your goal is a full day of activity, pick one with many things to do (although call ahead to make sure the amenities you are interested in are open). Although hiking is typically our main goal when visiting a state park, we’ve learned some pretty cool stuff at the various nature centers too!

Figure out food

A few of the Indiana state parks have an Inn with a restaurant, but in general, state parks aren’t known for their food. Therefore, planning ahead for what you’ll eat is important.

Definitely pack a small cooler with drinks, and maybe throw a few snacks in your car as well. After that, there are two options – pack a picnic or look for a nearby town with a restaurant. Both can be fun – you could even do carry-out at a local restaurant and bring it into the park for a different adventure!

Why not order a local pizza and enjoy a pizza picnic at your State Park.

The easiest way to decide is to do a little research to see what towns are near where you are headed. Then hop on Yelp and look for local restaurants with at least a 4-star rating. If you don’t see any, you know to make a few sandwiches at home and plan on a picnic at the park.

Make sure that you have enough time

There is nothing worse than heading out for the day and realizing you have to rush back home midway through your fun. So be sure to map out how long it will take you to get to your destination, add in some time for whatever activities you plan to do and make sure you allow yourself the time you need.

Make sure you have enough time to enjoy hiking at your local State Park
Enjoy hiking at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois

We always try to pad our time too as you just never know what you’ll find on the way there or back. You might run across a cute little winery and wish you had an extra half an hour to stop and check it out. Or a quaint little town perfect for an hour of strolling and window shopping. If you’ve given yourself a bit of wiggle room you can take full advantage of these extra finds.

Pack the right stuff

In addition to being hungry or running out of time, there is nothing that will ruin your day at a state park more than not having the right equipment. No one wants blisters so make sure you all have shoes that are good for hiking yet don’t hurt your feet. If you think you’ll want to play in the streams or creeks at the park, pack some water shoes too. Having a clean pair of shoes to change into is also key – if the park is muddy the last thing you want to do is drive home in dirty, muddy shoes. Plus, forget stopping anywhere else if that is the case.

Be sure to have shoes to change into if you plan on exploring a muddy cave!
If you are exploring a muddy cave – make sure you have clean shoes to change into!

Planning on swimming or taking advantage of any other activities? Double-check that you have everything you need for whatever you plan to do. Also, don’t forget bug spray and sunblock! These two items can be lifesavers if the bugs are out or it’s a sunny day.

Do you need ideas for other things to have on hand? Check out my post on Everyday Adventure Essentials for a complete list as well as a downloadable .pdf. You’ll be prepared for this trip as well as any others you enjoy!

*This post contains affiliate links – if you purchase anything through the link, we receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) which we are super grateful for!*

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Make the most of your visit to a state park with these ideas and things to consider. It can be the perfect everyday adventure if you are prepared! #ouradventureiseverywhere #stateparks #indianastateparks
Visit a state park for the perfect everyday adventure. Just keep these tips in mind to ensure you have the best possible experience! #ouradventureiseverywhere #familyfun #stateparks

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39 Comments

  1. We love visiting State Parks too – it’s great to get out and explore nature a bit, especially these days. You share some great tips too, thanks!

      1. I’m so thankful that our parks have opened again. We will definitely be exploring more of them this summer.

  2. We love visiting state parks! These are great tips. It’s best to be prepared. In general, I’m a planner, so I would definitely call ahead and see what’s open, just to be sure.

    1. So smart – I know things are opening up for us here in Indiana, but not everything and I wouldn’t want to be disappointed!

    1. Unless you scout ahead to make sure there is something right for your diet, that’s the smartest move – least expensive too!

  3. Ours are just starting to open. We have one right near our house that we visit weekly in the summer.

  4. Great tips! I’m working on visiting more state parks as Minnesota has 75 of them (including recreational areas) and I’ve only been to 8. So lots of hiking adventures coming this summer.

  5. Great tips! We always like to get sandwiches from a local grocery store or Jersey Mike’s or whatever is like that in the area to have as our lunch when we go out to parks for a day trip. We definitely always bring lots of water and some snacks like chips or protein bars. I hope some parks in southern California start opening back up soon!

  6. Great post that pertains to everyone! Each state has so many beautiful state parks to choose from! We’re big fans of the Indiana Dunes State Park.

  7. I am so happy the parks are opening back up. I totally agree with packing the right stuff. I will never forget being at the Everglades National Park and only having one bottle of water…in June. Hard lesson. Great tips!

  8. Great suggestions for sure and I can smell the park as I read through your post. And taking the pizza didn’t hurt either. That looked pretty amazing. Thanks for your post.

  9. This is such great advice! The fact is that so many state parks are underutilized but have great sites and amenities. I am sharing this with others so that more can experience what is right in their own backyards. Adventuring doesn’t have to take you halfway around the world!!

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