10 great New England state parks

It’s never too early to start thinking about summer vacation, especially if your getaway includes an overnight visit to a state park. Many are already accepting reservations and fill up fast. No wonder: New England states are dotted with some of the prettiest state parks in the country, with top-notch scenery and abundant recreation. Some favorites:

Mount Greylock State Reservation

  • Whether you hike the strenuous trail or drive to the top of Mount Greylock, the crowning gem of this mountain preserve in Western Massachusetts, you’ll have sweeping views that can stretch into five states. This was the first state park in Massachusetts. Hike along some 50 miles of trails, following in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau and Herman Melville, who came here for inspiration and adventure. There is primitive, walk-in camping at Greylock Campground. The rustic stone and wood Bascom Lodge at the summit also has private rooms ($125-$150) and co-ed bunk rooms ($40 per person). Roads reopen late May. 30 Rockwell Road, Lanesborough, 413-499-4262,, tent sites $6-$8, group sites $25

Nickerson State Park

  • You’ll find 1,900 acres of deep woods and meadows, dotted with gurgling brooks and freshwater ponds, at this shady retreat on Cape Cod. The park has eight glacier-formed lakes with some great swimming holes, and a network of hiking trails. There’s fishing in stocked trout ponds, and the 8-mile bike path connects to the Cape Cod Rail Trail. The campground has 400 sites. Camping Memorial Day to Labor Day. Route 6A, Brewster, 508-896-3491,, tent sites $15-$17, group sites $25, yurts $30-$40

Justin Lajoie/Vermont State Parks

Burton Island State Park

  • Take the ferry from Kill Kare State Park; the 10-minute ride will drop you at this unspoiled spot off the southwestern tip of St. Albans Point in Lake Champlain. It’s accessible only by boat and no cars are allowed, which adds to the beauty of this northern Vermont gem. Spend time exploring 3 miles of beaches, walking the trails leading to pretty Eagle Bay on the island’s north shore, and paddling the lake’s pretty inlets and coves (boat rentals available). Consider bringing fishing gear to catch bass, bluegill, perch, and pike off the campground dock. There are 17 tent sites, 26 lean-tos, and 15 boat moorings. Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. 2714 Hathaway Point Road, St. Albans, Vt. 802-524-6353,, campsites $16-$20, lean-tos $35-$37

Dennis Curran/Vermont Dept. of Tourism

Elmore State Park

  • Lake Elmore is the centerpiece of this 700-acre forested park in the Hogback Mountain Range. And, Elmore Mountain, rising 2,608 feet from the shoreline, serves as the perfect scenic backdrop. On summer days head to the swimming beach. There are boat rentals too. Save time to hike the half-mile, interpretive nature trail, and then climb to the fire tower, one of the last remaining ones in Vermont. The park has 45 campsites and 15 lean-tos. Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day weekend. 856 Route 12, Elmore, Vt. 802-888-2982,, tent sites $16-$20, lean-tos $23-$27

Umbagog Lake State Park

  • Wild and remote Umbagog Lake, straddling the northern New Hampshire-Maine border, is one of the finest places in New England to kayak or canoe. Adventurous families can rent boats and paddle to one of the rustic campsites scattered around the nearly 11-mile-long lake. Watch as osprey dive for fish, moose feed in the shallows, and bald eagles soar above. The lake, surrounded by the protected Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, is one of the most pristine in New England. There’s a base camp with 27 sites and three cabins, and 33 remote campsites. Boat rentals and shuttles to campsites are available. Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Route 26, Cambridge, N.H., 603-482-7795,, base campsites with water and electric $35, remote sites $30, cabins $80

Pawtuckaway State Park

  • This park, in southeastern New Hampshire, is loaded with activities and scenic beauty. The lakeside beach is a popular hangout, but you can easily escape the crowds. Rent canoes or kayaks to explore the lake and to reach quiet bays and inlets, and hike the extensive network of trails that crisscross the 5,500-acre park, leading to a fire tower and to several lookouts. Kids and rock climbers love to play among the giant, Ice Age boulders. There are five cabins and 192 campsites tucked along the shoreline of Big Island, Horse Island, and Neal’s Cove. Reopens on Memorial Day. 128 Mountain Road, Nottingham, N.H., 603-895-3031,, campsites on Big Island $25, other sites $30, cabins $65

Baxter State Park

  • Mount Katahdin, the state’s highest peak, dominates this vast, 204,700-acre preserve in the heart of Maine’s northern wilderness. There are more than 200 miles of hiking trails leading to mountain ponds, streams, waterfalls, swimming and fishing holes, open summits, and spectacular views. The park offers Saturday morning programs for children throughout the summer, and camping at 11 designated campgrounds, some with lean-tos, bunkhouses and cabins. Memorial Day to Columbus Day. 64 Balsam Drive, Millinocket, 207-723-5140,, lean-to and tent sites $30, bunkhouse $11, two- to six-person cabins $55-$130

Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld/M aine Office of Tourism

Sebago Lake State Park

  • This popular 1,400-acre, lakeside park, with stunning views, is one of the original five state parks in Maine, nestled along the shores of its deepest lake. Water activities reign, but there’s also horseback riding on forest trails, hiking, and biking. The campground has 250 sites. Camping season May 19 to Sept. 9. 11 Park Access Road, Casco, 207-693-6613,, campsites $15-$35

Hammonasset Beach State Park

  • If vacation to your family means a day at the beach, consider this bustling Connecticut state park on Long Island Sound. The shell-strewn beach stretches about 2 miles, flanked by a boardwalk for strolling and biking. The Meigs Point Nature Center offers programs and guided activities throughout the summer. Expect crowds on summer days; this is the state’s largest public beach park, and one of its most popular. The campground has 558 sites. Mid-May to mid-October. 1288 Boston Post Road, Madison, 203-245-2785,, tent sites $20-$30, sites with water and electric $35-$45, cabins $70-$80

Colt State Park

  • It doesn’t get much prettier than this: acres of lawns, groves of fruit trees and flowering bushes, and sweeping Narragansett Bay views. Bike the four miles of paths straddling the bay, which also connect to the 14.5-mile East Bay Bike Path, stretching from Providence to Bristol. There are several walking trails weaving through the 464-acre oasis, a fishing pier, lots of shaded picnic tables, and a swimming beach. Alas, there’s no camping or lodging in the park, but downtown Bristol and Newport are both close by. Route 114, Bristol, R.I., 401-253-7482,

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at
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