Best Public Park - 2013
Lone Elk Park
WARNING: There are a lot of warnings at Lone Elk Park. WARNING: Elk mating season. Use extra caution. WARNING: Tick and chigger infestation. WARNING: Bison area. Remain in vehicle. But that's nature, baby, and Lone Elk Park, in all its messy, bisony, unpredictable, tick-infested glory, is the best place to get up close and personal with it. Be a pal and drop a buck or two into the donation box on your way in, and weave your way down into the canopy of trees so thick that it makes you forget that there's a White Castle a few scant miles from here. From your car, you can take in a herd of bison huddled in the shade, lazily flicking away flies, as the sweet calves are flopped over in the scrubby grass, natural as can be. But should you venture from your vehicle, be sure to stop by the visitors' center with its helpful guides to the park's history — including how the park got its name (all because of one scrappy little elk that could), as well as information on the state's snakes, songbirds, fishes and frogs. And Lone Elk's got an immaculate bathroom to boot. Outside, you'll find picnic tables aplenty and a 3.2-mile hike that is ranked "difficult." Oh, and one final word of WARNING: Leave the hogs (as in the two-wheeled) and dogs (as in four-legged) at home.