Sunday, May 28, 2023


Unleashing the untold wonders of the Midwest’s top state parks

I’m bracing myself for a barrage of comments when I share my best Midwest state park list. I imagine they’ll be along the lines of “You forgot this park! It’s our family’s favorite!” Or “How could you have overlooked this state park? In my opinion, it’s the best of all!” Before you rush to comment, please know that choosing the “best” of anything is difficult and always a matter of opinion.

Difficult criteria

Finding the best state park depends on what you like to do while RVing. The best state park for folks who enjoy fishing will probably be one situated on a lake or near a river. The best state park for avid hikers may be different from, say, the park that has no trails but is off the beaten path and offers total peace and relaxation.

Another issue with choosing a favorite state park is that some RVers want more amenities than others. If you prefer boondocking, you may choose to stay at a rustic park location. RVers who want or need electricity and water may pick a different park as their favorite.

Okay, enough caveats. I now commend to you just a few of the best state parks in the Midwestern United States. These are some of the many highly rated parks in the region that my family has enjoyed. There are undoubtedly many, many more great state parks. I really do welcome you to add your favorite state park(s) to the list. Please use the comments to do so.

Hocking Hills State Park

Located south of Columbus, Ohio, this park has almost everything an RVer might want. There are hiking trails, opportunities for rock climbing, nature programs, and water access for fishing, canoeing, and other water sports. You’ll see waterfalls, amazing cliffs, caves, and so much more! Full hookups and electric-only campsites are available for RVers. A dump station is also onsite. Plan to invite friends and family along. They can stay in one of the onsite cabins and join you for dinner at the camp restaurant or meet up with you for a dip in the campground pool!

Address: 19852 OH-664, Logan, Ohio 43138. Website.

Turkey Run State Park

Photo credit: Turkey Run State Park

Located within easy driving distance from Terre Haute, IN, Champaign, IL, Indianapolis, IN, and even Chicago, IL, this state park is wonderful! Waterfalls and sandstone gorges form the backdrop to this beautiful Midwest state park. Bring your RV and plan to enjoy hiking, picnics, two playgrounds, kayaking, and more. Electricity is provided with fresh water available at numerous places all around the park. You can also buy firewood at the campground store, so get those ingredients for s’mores packed and ready to go!

Address: 1576 IN-47, Marshall, IN 47859. Website.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps, Flickr

This park is definitely worth the drive to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You can hike miles of trails, go fishing, and see magnificent views of Lake Superior, too! With 60,000 acres (the largest state park in Michigan), you won’t run out of places to explore. If you enjoy old-growth forests, rivers, thundering waterfalls, and various interpretive programs, this is the place for you.

Address: Headquarters Road, Carp Lake Township, MI 49953 (Three miles west of Silver City on MI-107). Here’s the website.

Devil’s Lake State Park

Photo credit: Tom Gill, Flickr

This park, located in south-central Wisconsin, is great for everyone. This park has two large lakes, a sandy beach, numerous hiking trails, and interesting rock features. Whether you enjoy fishing, picnicking, paddleboarding, rock climbing, or simply enjoying fabulous views, you will love Devil’s Lake State Park.

Address: S5975 Park Road, Baraboo, WI 53913. Website.

Custer State Park

You may have guessed by the name—this park is located in South Dakota. Nature buffs will delight in seeing antelope, buffalo, and prairie dogs, along with lush vegetation. Several folks who left reviews claim Custer State Park could easily be a National Park because of the abundant wildlife and beautiful vistas. Park your RV quickly! There are trails to hike and bike, horses to ride, and even a lake for fishing and swimming. Put this state park on your “must-see” list.

Address: 13329 US Highway 16A, Custer, SD 57730. Here’s the website. 

Backbone State Park

This park holds the honor of being Iowa’s first state park, dedicated in 1920. Situated on the Maquoketa River, this park welcomes trout fishermen/women, hikers, boaters, rock climbers, and more. The Iowa Civilian Conservation Corps manages an onsite museum where visitors can learn about the unique geological features of the Northeast Iowa Region.

Address: 1347 129th St., Dundee, IA 52038. Website.

Ponca State Park

Photo credit:

This could be named “The Three-State Park” because it’s situated on the Missouri River confluence that forms state borders for Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Hikers and bikers enjoy the trails, and if you love nature photography, Ponca State Park will not disappoint. Recreational and educational programs are offered year-round, and visitors can enjoy canoeing, archery, golfing, and horseback riding, as well.

Address: 88090 Spur 26 E, Ponca, NE  68770. Website.

OK, your turn! Share your favorite Midwest state parks in the comments below.



Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


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2 months ago

Thank you, Gail, for highlighting lovely state parks that don’t get mentioned enough!

2 months ago

You nailed it with my favorite Iowa State Park! 51 years ago Memorial Day weekend my then boyfriend, now husband, were paddle boating on the lake close to shore. We looked up on the hillside to see masses of morel mushrooms. I’d never seen anything like it before or since. We had morels with the rest of our meals that weekend. 🙂

Ray D.
2 months ago

Thank you for mentioning two of my favorite state parks, Devils Lake State Park in Baraboo Wi. and Porcupine Mountain State Park in the U.P. I wrote down a couple of the state parks within the 500 mile radius of our house. We will be researching these parks in the next few weeks.

Mary D
2 months ago

Minnesota: Whitewater SP, no mosquitoes! (southeast MN)

2 months ago
Reply to  Mary D

Returning 3 days ago from the southern states, found MN is alone in charging for state parks locally. MO, IA free! — Got to pay for all the nonsense here.

Calvin Wing
2 months ago

I have no objections to the first several beautiful parks mentioned. My observation is that better dividing lines would be 1) Eastern USA Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River. Mid-West to the Eastern slope of the Rockies and Western to the Pacific coast.
Now select the real Midwest State Park last. Just a side note, the geographical center of the US is about 11 miles NW of Smith Center, Kansas.

Tom A B
2 months ago

Devils Lake: highly recommended. Also highly recommended to visit weekdays.

2 months ago
Reply to  Tom A B

We’ll have to put it on our list. Thanks, Tom.

2 months ago

Hmmm. Itaska State Park in Minnesota (Park Rapids-Bemidji) – headwaters of the mighty Mississippi river; and Fort LIncoln State Park in Central North Dakota (Mandan-Bismark) home of Gen. Geo. Custer prior to the Little Big Horn.

2 months ago
Reply to  DW/ND

I’d love to see the areas you mentioned. Thanks!

Steve H
2 months ago

One of my favorites is Ft. Wilkins SP in Copper Harbor at the very northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula in the UP of Michigan. Great campground, interesting history, beautiful harbor, and, best of all, the ferry to Isle Royale NP.

Neal Davis
2 months ago

Thanks, Gail! They all were news to us. Thank you for sharing so much information about each, so we can better understand what each offers. 🙂

Andrea Schmidlin
2 months ago

I would add Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, IL, less than two hours from Chicago.
There are miles of hiking trails. It’s located on the Illinois River, and there are lots of waterfalls to see. There’s a campground with hookups as well as a lodge for friends and family who don’t camp. The local area offers plenty to do. Ottawa (about 10 miles away) is one of our favorite towns to visit; they have an annual wine festival in June that is great – wine, music and food.

2 months ago

YES! Starved Rock is a must see in Illinois!

Judy G
2 months ago

My canine companion and I have strong relationships with two of your cited parks: Turkey Run and Custer. Before retirement from work in Indianapolis, Turkey Run was a peaceful, refreshing escape on weekends. After retirement, we used Custer, SD, as our homebase and typically spent two or three days per week in Custer State Park hiking, enjoying the bison and other wildlife. Good choices!

2 months ago

We have visited two of these state parks. Gail is right on! Wonderful places. We wish more folks would share their favorites to include the top activities they like to experience there (fishing, photography, hiking, biking, boating, etc.)

2 months ago

Love this list. Thank you! As keen mountain bikers (even if electric these days!) we always look out for parks with great bike trails. It’s our way to explore!

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