Article Summary: National Parks Near Chicago
National Parks near Chicago. There’s so much more to the Land of Lincoln than the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field.
The beauty of Chicago lies not only in its magnificent architecture, but also in the city’s vast preserved green and open spaces.
There are magnificent pieces of art that are world-renowned, such as this digital fountain in Millennium Park. On many streets in Chicago, there are pieces of abstract art, statues, and murals at just about every corner you turn!Oct 5, 2022
There are also some amazing national parks. Chicagoans have over 580 parks and 8,300 acres of green spaces at their disposal. With beaches, ice rinks and bike paths, there’s no shortage of outdoor recreation there.
So, What Is A National Park?
We get asked that question a lot because there’s a difference between a “national park” and a “national park site.” To help you understand that difference you might want to check out our article titled: What Is A National Park Really?
If you’re planning a trip to the Windy City then one book I highly recommend is:
Now let’s go ahead with 8 reasons why you’ll want to hop in your car and make a day’s drive from Chicago to one of these truly amazing places.
Table Of Contents: National Parks Near Chicago
National Parks Near Chicago
- National Parks Near Chicago
- More National Parks Near Chicago
- Still More National Parks Near Chicago
- National Parks Near Chicago FAQ
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- Map Of National Parks Near Chicago
- List Of National Park Sites Near Chicago
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
National Parks Near Chicago
1. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
Distance From Chicago: Three hours and 8 minutes (210 miles) via I-88 W & I-80 W.
The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site preserves the birthplace, childhood home, and grave of Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States.
The site encompasses over 100 acres and includes several historic buildings, including the Hoover birthplace cottage, a blacksmith shop, a schoolhouse, and a Quaker meetinghouse.
Herbert Hoover was born in a small cottage in West Branch in 1874 and lived there for the first nine years of his life. The cottage, which has been restored to its original appearance, is now open to the public and serves as a museum that showcases Hoover’s early life and his rise to prominence as a humanitarian and statesman.
Learn About Hoover’s Life & Legacy
In addition to the birthplace cottage, the site also includes a Visitors Center that features exhibits on Hoover’s life and legacy, as well as interactive displays and educational programs. Visitors can also take guided tours of the site and learn about Hoover’s Quaker upbringing and his early years in West Branch.
The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site is a unique and historic destination that provides visitors with a glimpse into the life and legacy of one of America’s most important Presidents.
Whether you’re a history buff, a student of politics, or simply someone who is interested in learning about this fascinating chapter of American history, the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site is well worth a visit.
2. Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Distance From Chicago: One hour and 56 minutes (103 miles) via I-94 W.
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a 1,200-mile footpath that follows the path of the last glaciers that once covered much of the United States. The trail passes through some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the country, including forests, prairies, wetlands, and river valleys.
The history of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail dates back to the 1930s, when geologists first began to study the glacial features of the region. In the 1950s and 1960s, a group of hikers and conservationists led by Ronerson R. “Ron” Brunner began advocating for the creation of a trail that would showcase the glacial features of the region and promote public awareness of the importance of preserving them.
It’s A National Scenic Trail
In 1980, Congress passed the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Act, which established the trail as a national scenic trail and authorized the National Park Service to develop and manage the trail.
Over the years, the trail has been developed and maintained by a network of volunteers, with the support of the National Park Service and various state and local organizations.
Today, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, who come to experience its diverse landscapes and learn about the history of the region. The trail is open to the public year-round and offers a wide range of recreational opportunities, from day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips.
3. I & M Canal National Heritage Area
Distance From Chicago: One hour and 49 minutes (103 miles) via I-80 W.
The I & M Canal National Heritage Area is a region located in northeastern Illinois that encompasses the Illinois and Michigan Canal and its surrounding communities.
The heritage area is a unique blend of natural, cultural, and historical resources that tell the story of the canal and the role it played in the settlement and development of the region.
The history of the I & M Canal dates back to the 1820s, when the Illinois General Assembly authorized the construction of the canal to connect the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. The canal was completed in 1848 and was used for nearly 90 years to transport goods and people throughout the region.
In the early 20th century, the canal fell into disuse as railroads and highways became the dominant modes of transportation. However, in 1984, Congress established the I & M Canal National Heritage Corridor to preserve and promote the history and cultural resources of the canal and its surrounding communities.
Today, the I & M Canal National Heritage Area is a popular destination for history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts, and families, who come to experience its rich cultural and natural heritage. The heritage area offers a wide range of recreational opportunities, including hiking and biking trails, fishing and boating, and historic sites and museums.
More National Parks Near Chicago
4. Indiana Dunes National Park
Distance From Chicago: Forty-six minutes (36 miles) via I-90 E.
Indiana Dunes National Park is located on the southern shore of Lake Michigan in northwestern Indiana. The park encompasses more than 15,000 acres of diverse landscapes, including forests, wetlands, dunes, and beaches.
The history of the Indiana Dunes dates back thousands of years, to a time when glaciers covered the region and shaped the land. For centuries, the dunes were used by native peoples for hunting, fishing, and gathering resources.
The dunes became a popular destination for city-dwellers seeking relief from industrial pollution in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1916, the U.S. government established the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which protected the dunes and their surrounding lands.
In 1966, the national lakeshore was expanded and re-designated as the Indiana Dunes National Seashore, and in 2019, the park was officially designated as Indiana Dunes National Park.
Today, the park is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and families, who come to experience its diverse landscapes, rich cultural history, and abundant recreational opportunities.
5. Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Distance From Chicago: Three hours and 39 minutes (200 miles) via I-55 S.
In 2021, C-SPAN asked a group of distinguished presidential historians to rank our nation’s presidents from worst to best. At the top of their list, with a total score of 897 points, was Abraham Lincoln. George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt came in second and third respectively.
Why is Abraham Lincoln considered the greatest president of all time? Simply put, he saved the Union. In the process of saving the nation, Lincoln managed to define the creation of a more perfect Union in terms of liberty and economic equality that rallied the citizenry behind him.
Check Out The Lincoln Home National Historic Site
The Lincoln Home National Historic Site was the home of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, from 1844 to 1861. The home is a simple, two-story frame house that provides a glimpse into the personal and family life of one of the most important figures in American history.
The home was built in 1839 and was occupied by the Lincoln family until they moved to the White House in 1861.
Over the years, the home was rented out, and by the turn of the 20th century, it was in disrepair. In 1887, the state of Illinois purchased the home and began a restoration process, which was later taken over by the National Park Service.
Today, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site is a popular destination for history buffs, Lincoln enthusiasts, and families, who come to learn about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. The site offers a range of educational and interpretive programs, including guided tours of the home, exhibits, and special events.
Overall, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site is a fascinating and historic destination that provides a unique window into the personal life of one of America’s most beloved presidents.
Whether you’re a history buff, a Lincoln enthusiast, or simply someone who is interested in learning about this important figure in American history, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site is well worth a visit.
CHECK OUT: 10 BEST Civil War Sites In America
Still More National Parks Near Chicago
6. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Distance From Chicago: Six hours and 16 minutes (380 miles) via I-43 N.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a stunning natural area located along the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The park encompasses more than 40,000 acres of diverse landscapes, including forests, beaches, cliffs, and waterfalls.
The park is named after the colorful sandstone cliffs that line the shore of Lake Superior, which are covered in brilliant hues of orange, red, yellow, and blue, created by mineral deposits. The cliffs rise up to 200 feet above the water and provide breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding landscapes.
In 1966, the park was established as a National Lakeshore to protect and preserve its unique and beautiful landscapes for future generations. Today, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and families, who come to explore its many trails, campgrounds, and recreational opportunities.
Visitors can hike along the park’s scenic trails, including the famous Pictured Rocks Shoreline Trail, which offers stunning views of the cliffs and the lake. They can also take boat tours along the lake, go fishing, and enjoy a range of water-based activities, such as kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
7. Pullman National Monument
Distance From Chicago: 0 minutes – It’s IN Chicago!
The Pullman National Monument was established as a National Monument in 2015 to commemorate the Pullman Palace Car Company, a former industrial complex and one of the largest employers in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Pullman Palace Car Company was founded by George Pullman in 1867, and it quickly became one of the largest and most influential manufacturing companies in the country. The company was known for its luxury railway sleeping cars, which revolutionized train travel in the United States.
In 1880, Pullman established a model company town on the South Side of Chicago to house his employees and their families. The town was designed to be a self-sufficient community with housing, schools, churches, parks, and other amenities, and it was one of the first planned communities in the United States.
The Pullman Strike
However, in 1894, a nationwide economic depression caused a decline in the Pullman Palace Car Company’s fortunes, and tensions rose between the company and its workers. In 1894, the Pullman Strike occurred, which was one of the largest and most influential labor strikes in American history.
The strike had a lasting impact on the labor movement and the country’s political landscape, and it helped to spur the creation of Labor Day as a national holiday.
Today, the Pullman National Monument is a significant historic site that celebrates the history and legacy of the Pullman Palace Car Company and the Pullman community.
The site includes the historic Pullman factory, several historic homes, the Hotel Florence, and the historic Greenstone Church, as well as parks, gardens, and other cultural amenities.
The Pullman National Monument offers a range of educational and interpretive programs, including guided tours, exhibits, and special events, that help to commemorate this important chapter in American history.
8. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore
Distance From Chicago: Five hours and 22 minutes (319 miles) via US-31 N.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore is a protected area located along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in the state of Michigan.
The park encompasses more than 71,000 acres of diverse landscapes, including forests, dunes, lakes, and rivers, and is known for its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural history.
The park is named after a Native American legend about a mother bear and her two cubs who were swept away by a great flood and floated on a raft of fallen trees until they finally reached the shore of Lake Michigan.
The mother bear climbed to the top of a nearby dune to search for food, and when she didn’t return, the cubs climbed the dune to look for her.
It’s A Popular Destination For Outdoor Enthusiasts
Today, visitors can see the shape of the mother bear and her cubs in the dunes, where the winds have carved the sand into the likenesses of these animals.
The park was established in 1970 to protect and preserve its unique and beautiful landscapes, and to provide recreational opportunities for visitors.
Today, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and families, who come to explore its many trails, campgrounds, and recreational opportunities.
Visitors can hike along the park’s scenic trails, including the famous Dune Climb, which offers stunning views of the dunes and the lake. They can also go fishing, kayaking, and swimming in the lakes and rivers, and visit the park’s historic sites and cultural amenities, such as the historic Sleeping Bear Point Coast Guard Station and the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
National Parks Near Chicago FAQ
The national park sites in Illinois are as follows:
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail
Pullman National Monument
Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail
Why Trust Us About National Parks Near Chicago?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
Map Of National Parks Near Chicago
List Of National Park Sites Near Chicago
- Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
- Ice Age National Scenic Trail
- I & M Canal National Heritage Area
- Indiana Dunes National Park
- Lincoln Home National Historic Site
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
- Pullman National Monument
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!
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