Unexpected Adventure

Don't Just Fly Over These 6 Midwest Parks

The so-called "flyover states" composing America's Midwest don't always get the credit they deserve.

The site of roaring rivers, lush forests, abundant wildlife, and miles of untamed Great Lakes shoreline, the Midwest is home to spectacular hidden gems among America's national parks. So, if you're thinking about just passing through, take a little extra time to visit these six outstanding Midwest national parks.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Ohio
The Crooked River

Located in northeastern Ohio, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a refuge for native plants and animals despite being only a short drive from the urban areas of Akron and Cleveland. Hiking and biking trails, bird-watching sites, picnic areas, and campgrounds are nestled among more than 50 square miles of forests and meadows along the banks of the Cuyahoga River. The park also offers a lot of history, from the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad to the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.

Things to Do

  • Biking
  • Arts & Culture
  • Canoeing
  • Children's Programs
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Fishing

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Ohio
Flying through History

This park commemorates the birthplace of three Americans whose influence will live on for generations: flight pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright, and African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park spans five National Historic Landmarks — including Huffman Prairie Flying Field, the 1905 Wright Flyer III, and the Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial — that tell the story of these remarkable innovators.

Things to Do

  • Children's Programs
  • Biking
  • Historical
  • Shopping
  • Tours

Badlands National Park

South Dakota
Rugged Beauty

Few landscapes evoke the Wild West like that of Badlands National Park. This historical homeland of the Oglala Sioux people also includes some of the world's richest fossil beds, where paleontologists have discovered the bones of ancient rhinos and saber-toothed cats. Badlands is the domain of the modern-day bison, bighorn sheep, and endangered black-footed ferret. Its 244,000 acres of untamed prairie and mind-bending geological formations draw nearly 1 million visitors from all over the world every year.

Things to Do

  • Birdwatching
  • Biking
  • Camping
  • Children's Programs
  • Geocaching
  • Hiking

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Michigan
Breathtaking Beauty

Michigan's Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore preserves 40 miles of pristine Lake Superior shoreline that look much as they did when the first explorers laid eyes on them hundreds of years ago. The National Lakeshore also includes sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, lakes, rugged hiking trails, and remote backcountry campsites. Lake Superior provides a haven for experienced kayakers, but its deep and unpredictable waters are not to be taken lightly. Anyone venturing out onto the lake must be prepared for sudden fogs, high winds, cold temperatures, and rough waters, all of which can occur at any time.

Things to Do

  • Boating
  • Biking
  • Camping
  • Canoeing
  • Children's Programs
  • Climbing

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

Indiana
A President's Childhood

The Great Emancipator grew from youth to manhood in southern Indiana, and his childhood home is remembered at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. The future president lived here from ages 7 to 21, and the memorial's forested landscape and recreated 1820s homesteads make it easy to imagine yourself in Abraham Lincoln's young shoes. During your visit, be sure to hike the Trail of Twelve Stones, which leads from the Lincoln Living Historical Farm to the Pioneer Cemetery, where Abraham Lincoln's mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln was buried in 1818.

Things to Do

  • Historical
  • Arts & Culture

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Missouri
Rivers Galore

The Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, preserved together as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, meander slowly through the hills of Missouri, providing some of the best floating conditions anywhere in the United States. The rivers are also home to outstanding bass and trout fishing opportunities. Canoeists, kayakers, and fishermen flock to these idyllic waterways every year, but there's more to Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Outdoor enthusiasts can also visit caves, springs, historical sites, hiking trails, and campgrounds both modern and primitive.

Things to Do

  • Boating
  • Arts & Culture
  • Camping
  • Canoeing
  • Caving
  • Fishing

If you're planning on flying over the Midwest this summer, do yourself a favor and drive instead. Leave yourself a little extra time to visit these awesome parks along the way. 

Woman holding a camera walking in a field
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