Five Unique State Park Stays in the South

From cozy Texas cabins to a yurt in Virginia, these lodging options show how state parks have been upping their games

Photo: Louisiana State Parks

Safari-style tents at Fontainebleau State Park in Louisiana.

Eagle Cottages

Gulf State Park, Alabama

photo: Gulf State Park

Named for the eagles that nest in the park each autumn, these cottages stand in the heart of the largest unbroken stretch of protected natural areas along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Visitors will encounter natural dunes, cutting-edge sustainability practices, and twenty-eight miles of hiking and biking trails in this 6,150-acre park that encompasses nine different ecosystems. “We believe in providing an authentic, enriching stay where each guest is immersed in our local, natural, and cultural heritage,” says Chandra Wright, the park’s director of educational and environmental initiatives. “Included with each stay are guided tours with park naturalists so that our guests learn more about our unique ecosystems and what makes Gulf State Park such a special place.” Bicycles are also included at each cottage so that guests have an easy way to explore all the trails.

Barrel Cabins

Unicoi State Park, Georgia

These rustic, barrel-shaped cabins have curves for days and sit near Unicoi Lake, which produces a delightful stream that leads to the park’s nostalgic general store. The park includes twenty-nine cabin options near Helen, Georgia, and all feature easy access to trails and trout streams. Although plenty of outdoor adventure awaits in the park, be sure to take a quick drive to Anna Ruby Falls, a must-see double waterfall up the road.

Safari-Style Tents

Fontainebleau State Park, Louisiana

photo: Louisiana State Parks

Feel like a true explorer in these waterside canvas tents with queen-size beds, heaters, Adirondack chairs, fire pits, and sun showers. Visitors may even see the lake dotted with a rainbow of sailboats while lounging on the sandy beach. The park converted an old railroad track into the Tammany Trace, part of the Rails to Trails program, too. “Each of our twenty-one state parks has its own distinctive identity, and Fontainebleau State Park is no exception,” says Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser. “Visitors can enjoy magnificent sunsets on the sandy beach along Lake Pontchartrain, or explore the nature trails or the twenty-seven-mile Tammany Trace that runs through the park.”


Fairy Stone State Park, Virginia

photo: Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation

These modern adaptations of ancient nomadic shelters are fantastical and functional. A cross between a tent and a cabin, the yurts at Fairy Stone State Park feature a large wooden deck, picnic table, and fire ring. About forty-five minutes from Roanoke, these sites sit next to a 168-acre lake known for the legendary “fairy stones” guests can hunt for during their stay.

The Goodnight Cabin

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Enjoy unmatched canyon views and breathtaking landscapes (especially at sunset) from this cozy historic cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, only twenty-five miles from Amarillo. Known as the Grand Canyon of Texas, Palo Duro has incredible hiking trails and unique flora and fauna, like juniper trees, cacti, Texas horned lizards, and red rock formations. The Lighthouse Trail is considered the must-do trail, and the seasonal Texas Outdoor Musical also brings in crowds. For more primitive camping options, the stone cabins along the Cow Camp trail loop take guests away from the crowds and closer to nature—and bring chances to spot the golden-fronted woodpeckers that call the canyon home.