December 8, 2022

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8 Best National Parks in the Midwest (+ NPS Sites)

There are a few Midwest national parks, but there are also many monuments and other attractions to enjoy. Let’s explore some of these great parks.

Each Midwest national park varies in landscape and hiking. For example, Badlands National Park has buttes and pinnacles, while Apostle Islands has cliff dwellings.

Voyageurs National Park has lakes and forests, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park has prairies and badlands. So, each park offers a different and unique experience for visitors.

If you are looking for an escape from your busy life, a Midwest national park is a great place to go.

national parks in the midwest

The National Park Service Midwest Region covers 13 states. This area is in charge of 57 national park sites and 14 additional locations that vary from less than one acre to more than one hundred thousand acres in size!

Here is a summary of the number of national park sites by category in the Midwest:

Type NPS Units
National Parks 9
National Monument 10
National Preserve 1
National Historical Park 4
National Historic Site 17
International Historic Site 0
National Battlefield Park 1
National Military Park 1
National Battlefield 1
National Battlefield Site 0
National Memorial 4
National Recreation Area 0
National Seashore 0
National Lakeshore 3
National River 6
National Reserve 0
National Parkway 0
National Trail 0
Other 0
Total 57

In 1937, this region was established along with other states as part of the United States, although five further states were added in 1949. The Midwest Region was first called the East-Central region, which is reflected in a lot of the work that has been done here over the years.

National parks and monuments help to preserve our history and culture, as well as provide recreational opportunities for people of all ages.

These parks offer you the opportunity to enjoy nature’s beauty and find peace. In addition, these parks are also a great place to take your family.

So, if you are looking for a great getaway, be sure to check out one of the Midwest national parks. You won’t be disappointed.

TLDR;

Here’s a table of our favorite National Park Service sights in the Midwest.

National Parks National Lakeshore & Historical Parks National Monuments & National Historic Sites National Scenic Byways
Badlands National Park, South Dakota Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin Cahokia Mounds National Historic Site, Missouri Lincoln Highway
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan Lincoln’s Home National Historic Site, Illinois Great River Road
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota Keweenaw National Historical Park, Michigan Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri

Best Midwest National Parks

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park is a stunning natural landscape located in South Dakota. Whether you’re admiring the dramatic canyons, steep cliffs, spires, buttes, or pinnacles, there’s plenty to explore at this national park. With its wide variety of animals and uninhabited wilderness areas, the Badlands is a haven for those who love nature and wildlife.

You can see herds of bighorn sheep grazing among the rocks, coyotes trotting across the plains, and even mountain lions stalking their prey in the valleys below.

The park is also home to one of the most endangered species in North America – the black-footed ferret – which makes this national park truly one-of-a-kind. So if you’re looking for an awe-inspiring adventure in the great outdoors, be sure to visit Badlands National Park.

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Voyageurs National Park is a beautiful park in Minnesota that is known for its canoeing, kayaking, and boating. This is one of the best national parks in the entire country and for good reason too.

This Minnesota national park contains numerous islands that make them appear like mosaics of land and sea. Its breathtaking landscape has resulted from volcanic and earthquake eruptions. This will give you a scenic view as you go fishing.

A further advantage is that the park is re-opened when the sun rises, filled with thousands of stars and sometimes meteoric events. It’s the perfect place to experience the magical Aurora Borealis against an unrelenting starlit sky.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a park you cannot miss during a travel experience. The park is situated in Northern Dakota in three sections and is anchored by the Little Missouri rivers and the Maah Daahhey trail.

The forest has a wide variety of landscapes, including mountains, canyons, and farms. Its famous tourist attractions include scenic trails throughout the horse trail, hiking paths as well as bird watching. It contains four camping sites and several animals live there.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a park you cannot miss during your travel experience. The park is situated in Northern Dakota in three sections and is anchored by the Little Missouri rivers and the Maah Daahhey trail. 

The forest has a wide variety of landscapes, including mountains, canyons, and farms. Its famous tourist attractions include scenic trails throughout the horse trail, hiking paths as well as bird watching.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park also contains four camping sites and is home to several animals making it perfect for wildlife viewing, including bighorn sheep, elk, deer, wild horses, bison, pronghorn, and many more!

See Related: Best Things to Do in Grand Forks, North Dakota

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the perfect destination for anyone looking to get out and explore the great outdoors.

Located right in the heart of Ohio, this 32,000-acre park is home to a variety of beautiful landscapes, including rolling hills, deep forests, and rushing waterfalls. Whether you are an avid hiker, biker, or fisher, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy each activity in Cuyahoga Valley.

The park also boasts miles of scenic trails that are perfect for exploring on foot or by bike. And for those who love snow sports, Cuyahoga Valley offers cross-country skiing and snowmobiling during the winter months.

Additionally, there are several historic sites located within the park grounds, such as the Perkins Stone Mansion and Boston Store Visitor Center.

Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is an incredible area that is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. This sprawling park stretches along nearly 15,000 acres of the southern shore of Lake Michigan, offering visitors a variety of exciting activities to enjoy.

Additionally, it is a great place for bird-watching enthusiasts or those who just enjoy being out in nature. For a more unique experience, you can also hop on the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Train and tour the park from a new perspective. So if you are looking for adventure and natural beauty in one place, be sure to head over to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

This is one of the most popular Midwest national parks due to its close proximity to Chicago. Be sure to plan accordingly for accommodation and visitation as this park gets crowded, especially during the summer months.

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Isle Royale National Park is a US National Park located in Michigan. It’s remote and only accessible by boat or aircraft – the nearest town is Houghton, MI, which is about an hour away by seaplane. Isle Royale consists of one large island and many smaller ones nearby on Lake Superior.

The island is known for its unique flora and fauna, as well as its long natural history and rich heritage. There are 36 camping sites available on Isle Royale, which has 2 hectares of total area. 

If you’re looking to visit Isle Royale National Park, the only way to get there is by seaplane, water taxi, or ferry from Houghton, MI; Copper Harbor, MI; or Grand Portage, MN.

Once you’re on the island, there are plenty of trails to explore – and don’t forget to keep your camera handy to snap a few pictures of the stunning scenery.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Pierre, South Dakota

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

Wind Cave National Park is a beautiful, natural park located in South Dakota. This park is home to the world’s first cave designated as a national park, as well as the world’s longest cave. Wind Cave is also known for its dense box work, which is the most of any cave in the world. 

Visitors to the park can enjoy a variety of tours that showcase the natural beauty of the cave, including different levels of difficulty. You can also reserve tours of undeveloped caves with a guide. Wind Cave National Park is a great place to experience the natural wonders of caves while also enjoying some time in the great outdoors.

This is one of the best national parks in the Midwest for a road trip and to pair it with the many other great tourist attractions in South Dakota.

Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri

Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri

The Gateway Arch National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Missouri. This 630-foot monument pays tribute to the explorers and settlers who journeyed westward and is a must-see for any visitor to the area. The park offers plenty of activities for visitors, including a museum, film screenings, and ranger-led tours.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet day spent strolling through nature, or an adventure-packed weekend of hiking, camping, and sightseeing, the Gateway Arch National Park has something for everyone.

Best National Lakeshore & Historical Parks in the Midwest

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

If you’re looking for a great getaway for you and your family, look no further than Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin. This park offers a wealth of natural beauty and peace to enjoy, and it’s the perfect place to get away from your busy life.

With 21 islands to explore along Lake Superior, there’s plenty to see and do here, and you can marvel at the stunning natural formations found all along the shoreline. Whether you want to camp out for a few days or just visit on a day trip, this area on the lake is sure to be one of your favorite getaways!

Once you step onto an island, it feels like you’re a world away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The islands are home to a variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and ospreys. You can also find plenty of secluded beaches to relax on, as well as hiking trails that wind through forests and along cliffs.

In addition to camping sites and picnic areas, there are also ranger-led programs that you can join. These programs range from guided hikes and kayaking tours to lessons on how to identify different bird species.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a stunning natural landscape located on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Michigan.

This awe-inspiring park is known for its striking mineral marks and kaleidoscopic colors, which are brought to life when the water of the lake glides along its ancient cliffs.

With white beaches, majestic waterfalls, towering sand dunes, and picturesque lighthouses, Pictured Rocks Lakeshore is a must-see destination for all types of adventurers.

Whether you prefer to spend your time walking along its many paths or kayaking through the breathtaking Grande Portal, this stunning park is sure to take your breath away.

See Related: Best & Fun Things to Do in Troy, Michigan

Keweenaw National Historical Park, Michigan

Keweenaw National Historical Park, Michigan

Keweenaw National Historical Park is an amazing site located in Michigan, one of the oldest and most fascinating areas in the United States.

Home to a vast and unique lava flow, Keweenaw is home to over 20 beautiful historical sites, each with its own unique story and contribution to the park’s rich history.

At Keweenaw, you will find many must-see sites, including the AE Seaman Museum, a museum boasting an incredible collection of minerals and copper as well as interactive exhibits for visitors. Also not to be missed is the Delaware Coal Mines, where you can take a guided tour into some of Keweenaw’s oldest and most impressive copper deposits.

And finally, be sure not to miss Fort Wilkins historical state park – a newer addition to Keweenaw that offers visitors an opportunity to explore the fascinating story of Keweenaw through cycling tours, local events, and more.

National Monuments & National Historic Sites in the Midwest

The Midwest is full of stunning natural beauty, from rolling prairies to towering mountains and crystal-clear lakes. But what many people don’t realize is that this area is also home to a number of fantastic national parks, national monuments, and national historic sites.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet getaway for the whole family or an exciting adventure into the great outdoors, these places to visit have something for everyone. As the National Park Service manages not just national parks, but also national scenic byways, lakeshores, national historic spots, and national monuments.

Cahokia Mounds National Historic Site, Missouri

Cahokia Mounds National Historic Site, Missouri

One of the most popular national parks in the Midwest is Cahokia Mounds, located just outside of St. Louis, Missouri.

This park is home to the remains of the largest Native American city north of Mexico, which was inhabited from about 700 AD to 1400 AD. Today, visitors can explore the mounds, see archaeological exhibits, and learn about the people who once lived here.

Lincoln’s Home National Historic Site, Illinois

Lincoln's Home National Historic Site, Illinois

Lincoln’s Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois is another great stop for history buffs. This site allows visitors to tour the home that President Abraham Lincoln and his family lived in for 17 years and learn about Lincoln’s early life and political career.

Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota

Pipestone National Monument is a fascinating place to visit, as it is the only place in the world where you can find red pipestone.

This stone has been used by Native Americans for centuries to make ceremonial pipes, and the monument is home to a number of cultural and historical exhibits that tell the story of the native peoples.

See Related: Best Things To Do in Pipestone, Minnesota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota

If you’re looking for an unforgettable family vacation, be sure to check out Mount Rushmore National Memorial! This incredible monument is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota and is home to one of the most iconic American landmarks. Here, you can see the faces of four American presidents carved into the side of a mountain.

There’s plenty to do at Mount Rushmore, even beyond just admiring the monument. You can explore the many hiking trails that wind through the area, learn about the history of the presidents at the on-site museum, or take a scenic drive down one of the most beautiful roads in America.

And if you want to extend your stay in the area, there are plenty of other attractions to explore. You can visit the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is still under construction and will one day be the largest sculpture in the world. Or you can go rafting or kayaking down some of South Dakota’s beautiful rivers.

Other national historic sites in the Midwest include Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Scotts Bluff National Monument, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Pullman National Monument, and Effigy Mounds National Monument.

National Scenic Byways in the Midwest

The Midwest is home to some of the most beautiful National Scenic Byways in the country. These roads wind through stunning landscapes and offer travelers a unique view of America’s heartland. Here are some of the best byways in the Midwest:

Lincoln Highway

Lincoln Highway

The Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental highway in the United States.

This historic road runs from New York City to San Francisco and passes through thirteen states, including Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The Lincoln Highway is a great way to see the country and learn about its history.

Great River Road

Great River Road

The Great River Road is a national scenic byway that runs along the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana.

This scenic route offers stunning views of the river and its many tributaries. Travelers can also explore small towns and historic sites along the river, making this trip a great way to experience the diversity and culture of the Midwest.

Grand Rounds Scenic Byway

Grand Rounds Scenic Byway

The Grand Rounds Scenic Byway is one of Minneapolis‘s best-kept secrets located along the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area.

This fifty-mile route winds through the city and offers spectacular views of lakes, parks, and gardens. The byway also passes by some of the city’s most popular attractions, such as the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway is another amazing Minnesota scenic drive. This byway follows the Saint Croix River for over 200 miles and offers stunning views of the river, its cliffs, and the surrounding wilderness.

Final Thoughts

National parks in the Midwest are a great getaway for travelers looking to enjoy nature’s beauty and find peace. These parks offer an escape from your busy life and a chance to explore some of America‘s most beautiful landscapes.

Whether you’re looking for a place to hike, bike, or camp, there’s a national park in the Midwest waiting for you.

FAQ

How many National Parks are in the Midwest region?

There are nine National Parks in the Midwest region of the United States.

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