The Wonders of America's State Parks

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview of places we want to visit My wife and I are building a teardrop camper and, when North America opens up again, we plan on exploring. This is a wonderful guide to many of the state parks we hope to visit. We were almost dissuaded by the negative reviews, but sure are glad we decided to buy the course. Perhaps the 2nd camera on the narrator is a little distracting as he keeps his gaze steady on the one in front of him, but he does a fine job, and there are many pictures and videos to illustrate the parks' features. A great overview that will help us plan our trips. The guide book will live in the camper.
Date published: 2020-11-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Wooden presenter Presenter sits on a bench and reads off a teleprompter. Great Courses program on geology as presented in National Parks was far better.
Date published: 2020-11-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Purchase the book Lecture after lecture an image of a person, same background, seldom making eye contact, except with perhaps the tele-prompter. Other than a few images in color, reading the book has more interest.
Date published: 2020-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from EXCELLENT COURSE This course I really loved, and might watch it again, I really learned a lot!
Date published: 2020-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Wonders of America's State Parks I bought this less than a month ago and viewed chapter after chapter. Usually, I have to take a break. But when each park story ended, I wanted to see where I was going next. The instructor doesn't look at the camera every second, true. But, who cares! He gets a five anyway because he is knowledgeable on so many details, easy paced and you could tell he loves this subject and enjoys sharing it. The parks' history, details, geography are covered so you have so much more to the story. He includes historical brushes with the National Park Service explaining why the NPS didn't pick up the places; answers a lot of questions. There are even side chapters on geocaching and leave no trace principles. Good job! This course will be so valuable for my future travel plans. Please do a The Wonders of America's State Parks Part Two.
Date published: 2020-08-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great information for travel in the U.S. After visiting a number of National Parks, this course offers solid information going to state parks. While the narrator is more blessed as a writer than a lecturer, he is engaging with a blend of local and national historical significance. The itineraries he provides for each lecture are practical, and there is an abundance of cultural activities suggested for most of the parks. Although there are many more state parks that he can not address, this course delivers a great primer for planning.
Date published: 2020-08-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Where are the parks? I have viewed four of the sessions and can tell you what the instructor looks like, but not what one of the parks is like at all. A course about state parks should show the parks, not the instructor sitting, talking about them. I am very disappointed that The Great Courses released this program and made me pay for it. It doesn't live up to the title, it doesn't live up to my expectations, and it certainly is not worth paying for. Don't buy it.
Date published: 2020-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Travels I took copious notes as I "traveled" through these State parks, hoping that soon I will be able to do road trips again and go and visit some of them! During this COVID lockdown, this course is a perfect way to still feel that you are on a trip! I loved the details and history included in the description of the parks. One wish: that the presenter would have been filmed facing the camera at all times.
Date published: 2020-07-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Dull I watched one episode and it had an insight here and there but overall it is pretty boring.
Date published: 2020-07-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wanting to Know More About State Parks This was informative and interesting. I could tell the instructor was reading the text but I didn't mind as there were lots of information including many options once visiting the park.
Date published: 2020-06-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The title is misleading - should read "lectures" I am very disappointed in the selections that I have viewed thus far. More pictures, live shots are needed to be shown instead of viewing the lecturer for most of each program.
Date published: 2020-06-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good information Other reviewers are correct -- Joe Yogerst is ill-at-ease as a narrator. He seems tired, bored, and slightly nervous by turns. The information he provides, though, is great for those wanting to visit the state parks covered, and since this information is what I was looking for, I was satisfied. If you're looking for amazing photography or video, you'll be disappointed. This course is mainly informational, not inspriational.
Date published: 2020-04-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Huge Disappointment I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting but I think it was probably more along the lines of the Aerial America TV series -- an actual "tour" of the parks -- or the quality of National Geographic programming on television. The narrator rarely looked at the camera giving the impression he was just reading from script, the still photographs seemed to be somewhat outdated, it was more a geography lesson than a "come visit us" presentation, and no look into the activities one might expect to encounter if they visited the parks. I was especially disappointed in the Black Hills presentation. Having actually visited that area, there is SO much that could have been presented to make viewers want to visit that area. And the guide book was a disappointment as well. I have several National Geographic books about the National Parks and they are gorgeous; filled with color photographs and more detailed information. This guide book fell considerably short of their usual level of excellence. I am returning everything.
Date published: 2020-04-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from choice of parks, really good I'vr really enjoyed the two state park tours I've seen so far. Very comprehensive. I'm inspired to see them. I would suggest even more images/videos and less of looking at the narrator.
Date published: 2020-04-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Delivery less than expected The lecturer sat and read the entire course, reading so fast without much interest that it was often hard to understand him and stay interested. The information and few pictures could have been presented with much more antimated delivery. Sure, there is plenty of history and good information but the lecturer's presentation left much to be desired. I would get more out of reading the syllabus. I'm disappointed as it doesn't begin to compare to the previous courses in my collection
Date published: 2020-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Wonders of America’s State Parks This course is wonderful. Lots of fabulous park and historical information that makes me look forward to my next road to trip. I intend to visit more state parks!
Date published: 2020-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very interesting information I bought this about three weeks ago. Since I live in New Jersey, that was the state I checked out first and it was very informative and makes me want to go back to some of the areas that I thought I knew about and re-visit them. I find that after looking at the other states, I want to take on some road trips.
Date published: 2020-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The course was well presented and very interesting. I had no idea that there were so many interesting state parks. I especially appreciated the presenter’s frequent references to climate change and native Americans.
Date published: 2020-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great introduction to State Parks by geographarea. My wife and I have traveled all across the country and were happy to find this course on State Parks. We have visited many locations but did not know of hidden treasures. This will help us plan vacations to areas and parks we havent explored.
Date published: 2020-03-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too much of the narrator I expected to see more of the scenery while the narrator talked. Too much of him without enough scenery in the parks.
Date published: 2020-02-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointed The presenter is not looking into the camera. Clearly looking at written script. There is no video...... Only a series of stills enhanced to simulate movement. If I paid $200 plus for this I would be asking for a refund. I got it for $79.... I guess you get what you pay for.
Date published: 2020-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information We are still watching this, but we are already impressed by the amouont of imformation presented. My husband is from Pennsylvania and he was impressed by the information presented in his part of the country. We can't wait to finish the course.
Date published: 2020-02-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Terribly Done Very little exposure (Videos or Photos) of actual State Parks. Lecturer just keeps on lecturing. And his delivery is horrible, appearing to continually stare at teleprompter. This COULD have been a Great class, alas they totally missed it.
Date published: 2020-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Content is fabulous! Although Mr. Yogerst is not an animated speaker, the information about the state parks - some little known except to locals is detailed and extremely interesting. The photography is great, as well.
Date published: 2020-01-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from State Parks I am returning this set of videos to you - the course is poorly prepared - do not want to look at a bland looking man reading off something behind the camera - a few words over a picture or video is OK - not what is here - needs to be redone with many more pictures/videos - not this guy's face - absolutely do not recommend that anyone buy this - should be avoided until Great Courses has a complete redo of this
Date published: 2020-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well written descriptions of many parks 24 excellent lectures, summarizing historical and natural features, activities, and how to get there. There were more than 100 parks described, many unfamiliar to me. I was surprised to read several negative early reviews. These reviewers seemed disturbed that the lecturer was obviously reading a teleprompter. But many Great Courses lecturers use a teleprompter. I think the difference here may be that the cameraman showed a number of views from the side, as if to dramatize this reading.
Date published: 2020-01-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from State Parks (The wonders of America) Purchased as a Christmas gift for my elderly parents. They didn't like the DVD because there was too much of the instructor and not enough State Parks Videos.
Date published: 2020-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from SO Much I Never Knew! I've been to several state parks near me, but I had NO idea of the breadth and scope of the parks available across the country. This course revealed tremendous insights into the state park system that I would never have discovered on my own. I was familiar with Joe Yogerst through his travel writing, particularly for National Geographic, and this is what drew me to this course. Mr. Yogerst does not disappoint! I think his amazing store of knowledge would have been better utilized with more graphics and perhaps even on-site video, but I appreciate the budgetary considerations observed in the production process. The Great Courses are lectures, not travelogues, after all. But maybe next time when he visits the Galapagos Islands, Africa or the Amazon for Nat Geo? I found the course absolutely packed with information, starting with the first segment; I've been to Niagara Falls several times and wish I'd seen this course segment beforehand. Would have made my visits much more interesting! Thanks to this course, I intend to visit many state parks in the new year!
Date published: 2019-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent for the persons who want to visit. This is only for the traveler who wants to visit these parks. I looked at a few of the many choices such as Niagara Falls and the Michigan parks and each is definitely aimed at the prospective visitor.
Date published: 2019-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Survey of State Parks This was a very informative survey of America's state parks. While it was limited by time available for so many possible parks to consider, it provides valuable information for the family trying to decide where to go and what to expect when they get there. A minor point of contention (perhaps due to Texas pride) was that of 103 Texas state parks, the two chosen for presentation were both from the western part of the state and represented stereotypical arid ranch land while omitting the Piney Woods, the charming Hill Country, and the subtropical Rio Grande Valley, each with unique ecosystems.
Date published: 2019-12-11
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The Wonders of America's State Parks
Course Trailer
Niagara Falls: America’s Oldest State Park
1: Niagara Falls: America’s Oldest State Park

Start your tour of some of the most breathtaking state parks in the United States with a look at the nation’s oldest state park: Niagara Falls in Upstate New York. Established in 1885, this state park is home to three majestic falls—American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls—and a rich array of flora and fauna.

26 min
The Pennsylvania Wilds: Wilderness Reborn
2: The Pennsylvania Wilds: Wilderness Reborn

The state parks of north-central Pennsylvania, located within the Pennsylvania Wilds Conversation Landscape Initiative, lure more than 12 million people each year. In this lecture, explore some of the can’t-miss features at Cherry Springs State Park, Leonard Harrison State Park, Cook Forest State Park, Sinnemahoning State Park, and more.

25 min
New York’s Adirondacks: “Forever Wild”
3: New York’s Adirondacks: “Forever Wild”

Stretching more than 6 million acres of Upstate New York, Adirondack Park boasts over 3,000 lakes and ponds; 30,000 miles of rivers and streams; and 5,500 campsites. From the “Great Camps” of the Gilded Age’s rich and famous to Lake Placid, learn what makes this large tract of land just as important as the nation’s federal reserves.

30 min
Exploring New Hampshire’s White Mountains
4: Exploring New Hampshire’s White Mountains

Dive into the adventures within the White Mountain National Forest. There’s Franconia Notch, home to the legendary (and defunct) rock formation, the Old Man of the Mountain; Crawford Notch State Park, founded the same year the White Mountain National Forest was established; and Bretton Woods, which lies at the base of Mount Washington.

29 min
The Yankee Coast: Plymouth to Montauk
5: The Yankee Coast: Plymouth to Montauk

Drive just an hour and a half from Plymouth to Newport and you can visit every single state park covered in this lecture. Start with the Pilgrim Memorial (America’s most famous rock), then journey to the masonry bastion of Fort Adams in Rhode Island, and end up at Montauk Point and Camp Hero State Parks at the far eastern tip of Long Island.

25 min
New Jersey Pineland Legends and Landscapes
6: New Jersey Pineland Legends and Landscapes

A lurking, devilish crypto-creature. A ghost town from the 19th century. Towering coastal lights and undeveloped barrier islands. These are just a few of the many fascinating aspects of the state parks found inside New Jersey’s Pinelands and the famous Jersey Shore, including Wharton State Forest and Island Beach State Park.

25 min
The Tidewater South: America’s Birthplace
7: The Tidewater South: America’s Birthplace

Visit a region of Virginia and Maryland where you can experience more than 400 years of American history, including the Jamestown settlement and the battle of Yorktown. In addition, learn about the unspoiled natural wonders you can find at places like Assateague State Park and the Great Dismal Swamp.

26 min
Georgia and Carolina Islands: Lost in Time
8: Georgia and Carolina Islands: Lost in Time

Get up close and personal with barrier island state parks in Georgia, South Carolina, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Discover the incredible variety of history, culture, and outdoor adventures waiting for you in spots like Reynolds Mansion State Park, Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, and Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

27 min
Southern Appalachian Peaks and Valleys
9: Southern Appalachian Peaks and Valleys

Get a taste of what you can expect from a state park road trip through the southern Appalachians. Mr. Yogerst reveals the scenic jewels you can find within Alabama’s DeSoto State Park, northwest Georgia’s Fort Mountain, northeast Georgia’s Tullulah Gorge (the “Grand Canyon of the South”), and South Carolina’s Mountain Bridge.

28 min
The Florida Keys: Tropical Paradise Parks
10: The Florida Keys: Tropical Paradise Parks

See what is so special about Florida’s state park system—and the archipelago in which they’re found. Here, dive into several state parks in the Florida Keys, including John Pennekamp State Park, Bahia Honda State Park, Curry Hammock State Park, and the San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park.

26 min
West Texas: Where the West Is Still Wild
11: West Texas: Where the West Is Still Wild

Visit two awe-inspiring state parks in West Texas: first, Big Bend Ranch, located on the Rio Grande River and home to a vast backcountry you can only explore on unpaved desert roads, and second, Palo Duro Canyon, a 20-mile-wide canyon that offers the best horseback riding in the Texas Panhandle.

25 min
Adventures in the Ozarks and Ouachitas
12: Adventures in the Ozarks and Ouachitas

What the Ozarks and Ouachitas—two rugged highland areas separated by the Arkansas River Valley—lack in height they more than make up for in the sheer variety of things to do there. Join Mr. Yogerst on an exploration of spots like the Ozark Folk Center State Park, Onondaga Cave State Park, and Lake Ouachita State Park.

27 min
State Parks along the Mighty Mississippi
13: State Parks along the Mighty Mississippi

The vast majority of natural and human landmarks along the 2,320-mile stretch of the Mississippi River can be found at state parks. Here, take a trip down Old Man River and hop from Itasca State Park in Minnesota through Columbus-Belmont State Park in Kentucky all the way to Rosedown Plantation in Louisiana.

26 min
Presidential Parks in the Land of Lincoln
14: Presidential Parks in the Land of Lincoln

Trace the formative years of Abraham Lincoln’s life and learn how history and nature shaped one of the nation’s most iconic presidents. You’ll visit Lincoln Homestead State Park, Lincoln State Park, Lincoln’s New Salem State Park, Brown County State Park, and John James Audubon State Park.

23 min
The Great Lakes: Back from the Brink
15: The Great Lakes: Back from the Brink

In recent years, the state parks in and around the Great Lakes have benefitted from major restoration efforts, making them must-see places to visit. In this lecture, explore Mackinac Island in Michigan, Indiana Dunes State Park near Chicago, South Bass Island State Park in Ohio’s Lake Erie Archipelago, and more.

29 min
The Black Hills: Nature and Native Heritage
16: The Black Hills: Nature and Native Heritage

Attend a riveting buffalo auction where prices range as high as $5,000 per animal. Explore 71,000 acres of woodland, prairie, lakes, and mountains. Visit the renowned boomtown of Deadwood. These are just a few of the many adventures on offer in the Black Hills of South Dakota—all of which you’ll learn about here.

28 min
Parks of the Colorado Front Range
17: Parks of the Colorado Front Range

Despite being one of our national treasures, very little of the Colorado Rockies is protected by the National Park Service. Discover why the best way to explore Colorado’s mighty mountains is by visiting amazing state parks from State Forest State Park in the far north to Lincoln Park in the heart of Denver to the dinosaur graveyard at Garden Park Fossil Area.

26 min
Southwest Red Rock and Desert Canyon Parks
18: Southwest Red Rock and Desert Canyon Parks

From the strange serenity of Cathedral Rock to flaming red sandstone formations in the Valley of Fire to a basin named for the famous Kodachrome slide film, tour the desert canyon landscapes of the American Southwest. It’s a grand loop that takes you through 900 miles of scenery and 200 years of geologic history.

24 min
California’s Badlands: Anza-Borrego
19: California’s Badlands: Anza-Borrego

Mr. Yogerst gets a little personal in this lecture on California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park—which he’s been going to his entire life. Explore the melted landscape of the Borrego Badlands, the sandy trails of Coyote Canyon, the majesty of the Salton Sea, and the natural springs of the Vallecito Valley.

29 min
Big Blue: The Beauty of Lake Tahoe
20: Big Blue: The Beauty of Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe holds the title of the largest alpine lake in North America, and it’s a scenic wonder (and recreational treasure) all year round. Spend some time poking around the lake’s iconic state parks, including Emerald Bay on the California side and Sand Harbor on the Nevada shore.

25 min
California’s Coastal Redwood Parks
21: California’s Coastal Redwood Parks

Northern California’s coastal redwoods are among the tallest and oldest living things on the planet. Learn what makes coastal redwoods different from their cousins in the Sierra Nevada, what mobilized federal and state efforts to save the redwoods, and the best ways to see them for yourself at Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith state parks.

24 min
Washington’s Orca Islands: The San Juans
22: Washington’s Orca Islands: The San Juans

Want a fascinating glimpse of quirky American history? Look no further than a journey through the state parks of the San Juan Islands. Tour this mosaic of islands and waterways, home to state parks that reflect the archipelago’s bucolic lifestyles, including Lime Kiln Point State Park and Matia Island Marine State Park.

27 min
Alaska’s State Parks: The Last Frontier
23: Alaska’s State Parks: The Last Frontier

Sprawling across 1.6 million acres of wilderness, Wood-Tikchik is one of the largest state parks in the United States (around the same size as Delaware). Chugach, on the other hand, is an easily reachable state park just miles from downtown Anchorage. Both parks—and their can’t-miss sights—are covered here.

26 min
Hawaii’s Primeval Napali Coast
24: Hawaii’s Primeval Napali Coast

Hawaii’s Napali Coast is a vision of paradise on Earth, with remote beaches, rainforest valleys, 40-story waterfalls, ancient villages, and plenty of wildlife. End this course on a tropical note with a look at spots including Ha’ena State Park, Na Pali Natural Area Reserve, and Waimea Canyon State Park.

29 min

State parks preserve America's natural and human heritage.


University of Oregon

About Joe-Yogerst

Joe Yogerst is a journalist and travel writer. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Oregon. An avid world traveler since his teenage years, Mr. Yogerst has set foot on all seven continents and visited more than 160 countries, colonies, and territories. He has worked as a writer and editor on four continents, including stints in South Africa, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, and his native California.


Mr. Yogerst’s portfolio includes investigative journalism for The Washington Post, celebrity profiles for Prestige magazine, and 35 book projects for National Geographic. He is the author of National Geographic’s 50 States, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do, a national travel bestseller. He is also the author of two additional books in the series: 100 Parks, 5,000 Ideas and the upcoming 100 Drives, 5,000 Ideas, which covers the best road trips in the United States and Canada.


Mr. Yogerst’s other books include his account of a modern-day journey through Vietnam, Land of Nine Dragons: Vietnam Today, which was named the best travel book in the annual Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition. His book Long Road South: The Pan American Highway, which covers his four-month journey between Texas and Argentina, was named one of America’s top travel books by the Society of American Travel Writers. Mr. Yogerst’s articles on travel, business, culture, and sports have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Examiner, The International Herald Tribune, Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue, Travel + Leisure, USA Today, CNN Travel, BBC Travel, TIME, Newsweek, and Forbes.

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