9 Amazing Midwest National Parks To Visit
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There are approximately 419 unique “national park locations” in the United States. Among these “sites” are the White House, battlegrounds, coastlines, and recreation areas. National Parks and National Monuments are the two most frequented types of attractions.
The Midwest is home to welcoming locals, a laid-back way of life, and vast, open landscapes. However, you must add one or more of the 9 Amazing Midwest National Parks To Visit on your journey. You can experience stunning scenery, important historical sites, and impressive artificial marvels here.
The Midwest boasts various stunning national parks, from Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands to South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore. These parks have some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States, informative materials, and thrilling opportunities for recreation.
South Dakota, United States
South Dakota’s Badlands National Park is an enchanting natural environment. The mountains’ layered look is the product of deposition over millions of years; erosion is responsible for the channels, gorges, and craggy peaks.
This national park has a lot to offer visitors, from canyons to cliffs to spires to buttes to pinnacles. The Badlands are a paradise for individuals who find solace in the company of animals, thanks to the abundance of species and undeveloped natural areas.
The Badlands have vivid mountains, rock formations, and deep canyons, with a grass plain teaming with wildlife in the foreground. If you go, check out the Badlands Loop Road, the Notch Trail, the prairie dogs, and the sunset.
Bighorn sheep graze among the rocks, coyotes run across the grasslands, and mountain lions look for food in the valleys. In this national park, you can find the black-footed ferret, a species on the verge of extinction in North America.
Most people opt for scenic drives on dirt roads, such as the Badlands Loop Road and Sheep Mountain Table Road, to fully appreciate the mountains. The park is also a popular destination for hikers and cyclists who want to reach one of the many scenic vantage points, such as the Yellow Mounds Overlook, Big Badlands Overlook, or Pinnacle Overlook.
The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is a terrific place to stop if you’re interested in the park’s cultural history, ecology, or paleontology. Visit the Fossil Prep Lab to see paleontologists at work if you have spare time or wander the hiking trails or biking routes. The Badlands Astronomy Festival is an annual event at this park. To summarize, Badlands National Park is a must-see for everyone seeking an awe-inspiring outdoor experience.
Summit County & Cuyahoga County, Ohio, United States
With two major highways passing through it, this park is among the most convenient. Both Cleveland and Akron are only a short drive away. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is close to Cleveland and Akron but feels like a completely different universe.
The park is a haven for local flora and fauna and features hiking trails for curious onlookers. Cuyahoga Valley National Park has a wide range of flora and fauna, including dense forests, beautiful waterfalls, undulating hills, and a host of other natural wonders.
More than a hundred routes are available for walking, riding, hiking, and backpacking in this park. The Cuyahoga River is also famous for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. In the winter, the Cuyahoga Valley is a great place to go cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. It’s also great to relax, picnic, and camp for the night.
Brandywine Falls, which drops 65 feet, is the park’s most prominent feature. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad also offers scenic train rides around the valley, allowing you to see many of the park’s stunning scenery without exerting too much effort.
The park is rich in history, with the Boston Store Visitor Center and the Perkins Stone Mansion among its many historic buildings. There is also the landmark Towpath Trail in Cuyahoga National Park, which follows the original route of the Ohio & Erie Canal.
St. Louis, Missouri,
The Gateway Arch in Missouri is well-known throughout the country. People in the Midwest have access to one of the best national parks, but only some know its significance or why it is so well regarded. The Gateway Arch symbolizes St. Louis’ 19th-century Westward Expansion.
The Old Courthouse, the site of Dred Scott’s freedom suit, is now a park dedicated to commemorating Thomas Jefferson’s part in establishing western settlements. Every tourist should make the trip to see this 630-foot-tall memorial to the pioneers and explorers who braved the West.
Inside Gateway Arch National Park, you can see the iconic Arch and other attractions, including the Old Courthouse and the Museum and Visitor Center. Dred and Harriet Scott filed their freedom suit, and Virginia Minor fought for women’s suffrage in the same federal courthouse, now restored to its former glory as The Old Courthouse.
In addition to the ranger-led tours and museum exhibits, guests can enjoy film showings and a festival at the park. From March to November, visitors can take a cruise along the St. Louis River and get a bird’s eye perspective of the Gateway Arch and the city’s skyline aboard one of the many riverboats docked at the Arch.
Guests can take a tram to the top of the arch to get a bird’s eye view of the area and a new perspective. You can take in breathtaking panoramas of St. Louis when you reach the top. Discover the history of the Native Americans, settlers, and explorers who shaped the United States of America at this museum.
Fordyce Bathhouse on 369 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR.
Southwest Central Arkansas, about an hour west of Little Rock, is home to Hot Springs, a city and a national park named for the natural hot springs that inspired the name of the area. Natural wonders are just as impressive as the grandeur of the medieval bathhouses, which have been luring visitors for centuries.
Hot Springs National Park is a fantastic place to visit because of its combination of ancient thermal springs, mountain views, incredible geology, forested walks, and plentiful rivers all in town. The Native Americans called the valley’s wooded glen Valley of the Vapors, believing it to be a sacred location with curative properties.
The area currently known as Bathhouse Row is home to all the bathhouses that draw on the spring water. The Fordyce Museum and Visitor Center on Bathhouse Row is a great place to start your Hot Springs National Area journey. Here, you can learn more about the park, chat with a park ranger, and look around the beautifully restored rooms.
Both the Buckstaff and the Quapaw Bathhouses feature hot water pools. Natural, warm water is available for tourists to feel at both the Display Spring and the Hot Water Cascade (but not soak in). Everywhere around the National Park, you’ll find drinking fountains where you may enjoy the spring water or fill up containers to take with you.
The park’s 26 paths are perfect for hikers, and visitors may also sleep in Gulpha Gorge Campground or take a scenic drive up Hot Springs Mountain. Hiking in the woods is a popular activity, and tourists may also take in the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding mountains.
If that weren’t enough, there’s also a brewery in the park. This National Park is unique because everything is conveniently placed in a town with other stores and eateries. Anyone with even a passing interest in the culture and history of the Midwest should make the trip to Hot Springs National Park.
Porter County, Lake County, and LaPorte County, Indiana
It’s no secret that the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a favorite with campers, hikers, and other nature lovers. This huge park is on the southwest side of Lake Michigan. It covers about 15,000 acres and has a lot of fun things to do. It’s no surprise that it is one of 9 amazing Midwest national parks to visit on your travels.
The strength of Lake Michigan has been a long-standing factor in the development of Indiana Dunes. The wind and waves change the 15 miles of Indiana’s coastline, creating a diverse patchwork of habitats.
More than 50 miles of paths wind across various landscapes, including wetlands, sand dunes, woods, and prairies. The park’s 15,000 acres have a wide variety of plant and bird life, making it a great place to gather ideas.
Seasons determine Indiana Dunes National Park activities. Sunbathing, swimming, and exploring the great outdoors are all possible when temperatures are higher. If you can, camping at Dunewood Campground is unforgettable. In the winter, this park is perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Additionally, it’s a fantastic spot for nature lovers and bird watchers.
Take a ride on the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Train for a different perspective of the park. You can find historic buildings like the Century of Progress homes inside the national park. Once a year, the public can take a tour of these beautiful homes. The Indiana Dunes Outdoor Adventure Festival is also held in the park.
Keweenaw County, Michigan, United States
Isle Royale National Park encompasses over 400 islands and the surrounding waters of Lake Superior. Backpackers, hikers, birdwatchers, anglers, wildlife observers, campers, boaters, kayakers, canoeists, and scuba divers will all find this place remarkable.
The Greenstone Ridge Trail is a well-traveled path that runs along Greenstone Ridge’s summit from Windigo Harbor to Rock Harbor. You may see moose and wolves on your trip. Ferries, planes, and private watercraft are the sole means of access.
Due to its isolation, Isle Royale National Park receives fewer visitors than any other Midwest national park. Since there are no permanent residents, the island still retains its natural beauty.
Experience the outdoors by hiking, kayaking, boating, fishing, or scuba diving. The island’s lengthy natural history, rich legacy, and rare flora and animals have made it famous.
It’s worth noting that Isle Royale features official camping areas. Wander through several trails; remember your camera to record the stunning scenery. The island’s natural beauty and historical significance have led to the preservation of several antique structures, including huts and lighthouses.
While hiking and camping are popular pastimes, scuba diving is also possible at this national park. Tent camping, glamorous tent camping, and even camping out on a boat may all be amazing adventures here. Incorporate a wide variety of aquatic activities and hiking opportunities, and you won’t have any free time here.
Western North Dakota
There are three sections to this park in the middle of North Dakota, and they are all connected by the Maah Daah Hey trail and the Little Missouri River. The garden bears his name as a tribute to the environmentalist president who protected 230 million acres of public land in Western North Dakota.
The effects of natural resource depletion on people became clear to him after he lost half of his herd to overgrazing and wildfires. The North and South Units’ paved scenic drives offer great badlands views and wildlife viewing.
In addition to canoeing, kayaking, and fishing on the Little Missouri River, other popular activities in this park include hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping. And while there’s plenty of excitement during the day, the nighttime is magical.
In addition to being home to the Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival every year, this park is also home to many other events. If you want to look at the stars in the Midwest, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a great place to go. In the forest, there are mountains, canyons, and even farms. You may also enjoy riding horseback, walking on trails, and watching birds.
You can also see different kinds of wildlife, such as bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, elk, deer, wild horses, bison, and pronghorn, at the park, which is also home to four different camping areas. Elkhorn Ranch, Maltese Cross Cabin, and other historic buildings once owned by Theodore Roosevelt are all within the park’s boundaries for visitors to explore.
Custer County, South Dakota
The Black Hills of South Dakota is home to Wind Cave National Park, which contains one of the world’s longest caves. The park protects two worlds that couldn’t be more different: the underground world of the caves and the surface world of abundant resources.
The wind cave is the main attraction at Wind Cave National Park, also the park’s namesake. The unusual wind phenomena are the main draw for visitors to the Wind Cave. Depending on the pressure difference between the cave’s interior and exterior, the cave’s openings can either let out or pull in powerful gusts of air.
Combined with South Dakota’s other fantastic tourist destinations, this is one of the best national parks in the Midwest for a road trip. If you ever find yourself in this national park, don’t miss the chance to take a cave tour and get an up-close look at an incredible geological feature.
On the surface, there are miles of routes perfect for hiking or equestrian adventure. One of the oldest national parks in the United States is home to bison, elk, and a variety of other species that roam the park’s rolling prairie grasslands and forested hills.
The park offers visitors a selection of tours, some easier than others, that highlight the cave’s natural wonders. You can also schedule guided tours of natural caverns. There are more boxes per square foot in Wind Cave than in any other cave on Earth. Experience the natural beauties of caves in full in Wind Cave National Park, which also features plenty of open space to enjoy.
International Falls, MN 56649, United States
Exposed rock ridges, cliffs, wetlands, woodlands, streams, and lakes make Voyageurs National Park’s 218,055 acres an adventurer’s dream. The French-Canadian fur traders, known as voyageurs, brought the first permanent European settlers to the area, hence the park’s name.
It is one of the few locations in the Americas with rocks up to half as old as the Earth and has a unique geological history. Canoes, kayaks, houseboats, and tour boats are the preferred means of transportation into the park, but visitors are welcome to use any watercraft of their choosing.
Voyageurs National Park in the Midwest is a must-see if you enjoy being on or near the water. Canoeing, kayaking, and fishing are all possible in many spots around this stunning national park. Among these are the lakes of Kabetogama, Ash River, and Rainy.
The lakes are the three entrances to the park’s three visitor centers. However, Kabetogama Lake is highly recommended as it provides a tranquil atmosphere with its crystal blue lake and 100 miles of forested shoreline.
In addition to these bodies of water, there are a few other noteworthy locations in Voyageurs National Park, such as the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, the brainchild of artist Jack Ellsworth, where visitors can marvel at the artist’s abstract works atop a terraced rock.
Many look forward to the colder months to engage in activities like lake driving, snowmobiling, snowshoe trekking, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and winter camping. Even though summer is not the most fantastic time to observe the northern lights, it is possible to catch a glimpse of this spectacular natural phenomenon.
An additional perk is that when AM comes, the park reopens, this time with thousands of stars and, on occasion, meteoric phenomena. The northern lights, or Aurora Borealis, stand out against the inky darkness of night.
The geology and waterfalls of Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota are well known, but the park’s animal species have gotten less attention. In contrast, Voyageurs is home to more than 150 black bears. Bears are a common sight for canoeists and houseboaters along the lake edges.
The various islands in this Minnesota park provide the impression of a patchwork of land and sea. Due to volcanic and earthquake activity, the scenery is stunning. A scenic view awaits you on your next fishing trip.
Final Thoughts on 9 Amazing Midwest National Parks To Visit
Any outdoor enthusiast can find what they’re searching for in a national park in the Midwest, whether for hiking, biking, or camping. These parks are great places to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and see some of the most breathtaking scenery in the United States. So do yourself a favor and journey to the 9 amazing Midwest national parks to visit.