Top 3 National Parks To Visit in Indiana (2023)
The beautiful state of Indiana might not feature on your top destinations to visit if you want to check out the major national parks in the United States. However, you will be in for a pleasant surprise at seeing some of the most incredible national park sites that are located in this Hoosier State. Not many people are aware that Indiana is actually home to some of the most exciting and fascinating nationals in the country. It is also home to one of the newest national parks in the US, the famous Indiana Dunes National Parks.
The national parks in Indiana are home to many unique historical sites, stunning monuments, iconic attractions, legendary trails, and of course, years of history associated with the region. Now without wasting any more time, here are the top national parks in Indiana that you must visit.
Top 3 National Parks To Visit in Indiana
Here is a complete guide on the top 3 national parks in Indiana that you must visit.
1. Indiana Dunes National Park
The most incredible national park in Indiana, Indiana Dunes, is one of the newest parks to join the long list of national parks in the US. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was designated as a national park as recently as February 2019. It was designated as the country’s 61st national park. The highlight of this park is that it is known for being home to many of the mesmerizing Lake Michigan beaches as well as some of the world’s biggest lakeshore dunes. The park contains over 70 miles of legendary hiking trails where you can spend hours exploring the park’s breathtaking natural beauty and also indulge in countless outdoor activities.
The Indiana Dunes National Park is unique from other parks in the country because it is actually made up of two separate park systems. One is the Indiana Dunes National Park, and the second is the Indiana Dunes, State Park. What is surprising is that both these parks have strikingly unique and beautiful features that will keep any visitor busy exploring and enjoying for days on end. There is so much to see and do here that spending just one day at the dunes is not going to be enough. In fact, such is the draw of both the parks at Indiana Dunes that it attracts almost as many visitors as the Yellowstone National Park does every year.
When it comes to the national park, the Indiana Dunes National Park is situated on the western and eastern sides of the state park. It is spread out over 13,000 acres and stretches for over 15 miles along the beautiful coastline of Lake Michigan. As mentioned above, the park is home to many hiking trails, and you will be blown away to see the mesmerizing beaches and many amazing historical sites that can be found inside the park.
One of the newest and must-see trails in this national park is the scintillating Diana of the Dunes Dare trail. And as you get closer to this trail, you will really be able to see what makes this worth exploring with some awe-inspiring views all around, surrounded on all sides by lush greenery.
The Indiana Dunes National Park has earned the reputation of being one of the most biodiverse parks in the US, having uncountable animal species and nearly 2,000 plant species living in its ecosystems. The park is also home to over 1100 floral and fern species. The many diverse habitats that can be found in the park include prairies, savannas, marshes, bogs, and of course, dunes. As you explore the park, don’t be surprised to see the many Sandhill cranes and snapping turtles as tree frogs continue singing their unique song through the trees. It is believed that you can spot over 350 bird species here, along with 18 amphibians, 46 mammals, and 23 reptiles. Due to this, birdwatching has become a very popular activity in the park.
Other activities that are equally popular at the Indiana Dunes National Park include camping, swimming, hiking, and in the winter months, you can indulge in a wide range of snow activities, including skiing and snowboarding.
Since every part of the park is so unique, the amenities and parking facilities vary quite a bit depending on the exact location. The larger beaches that are here, such as the West Beach or the beaches at the state park, have a lot of parking space available. However, remember that this park has become a popular camping place in the summers, and parking can quickly fill up over the weekends. The ideal time to visit Indiana Dunes National Park is on weekdays or arrive early in the day. The smaller locations and beaches have far less parking space available. If you want to make your life easier when it comes to parking, it is best to visit the park during the winter, fall, or even springtime. You are bound to get a completely different experience in every season that you visit this fantastic place.
2. George Rogers Clark National Historical Park
Another famous national park in Indiana is the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, located in Vincennes. The park is home to one of the most significant memorials to be dedicated to the capture of Fort Sackville by George Rogers Clark and his men in 1779. In fact, this monument is the largest national monument to be located outside of Washington DC. Due to this, the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is today regarded as the site where one of the greatest moments of the American Revolution took place.
Steeped in history, magnificent structures, and many stories, a visit to the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park should begin at the visitor center. This is where you get all the essential information you need to check out the interesting sites inside the park. Similar to many other historical sites, you can catch a 30-minute movie here called Long Knives that details the life of George Clark and his march to Vincennes to lead the attack on Fort Sackville.
Make your way to the George Rogers Clark Memorial from the visitor center. The Memorial is home to seven fascinating murals that tell visitors the entire story of Clark and his men and their march to capture Fort Sackville. The Memorial is made up of 16 magnificent granite columns that have been placed in a circle. At the center of the circle, you will find a bronze statue of Clark and seven murals that detail the entire expedition story.
The entire park is spread out over 24.3 acres, but beyond the Visitor Center and the Memorial, there is not much to explore or do here. You can, of course, spend time hiking around the park grounds.
3. Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Park
The second must-visit national park in Indiana is located in Lincoln City. The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial has been a National Historic Landmark in the US since the 1960s, and it is synonymous with Abraham Lincoln. This is because the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial is where Abraham Lincoln grew up and spent a good part of his childhood. In fact, it is often regarded as the birthplace of Lincoln.
This national park remains open all year round, and there are many unique and fascinating places to visit inside. Having a living historical farm, a visit to Abraham Lincoln’s mother’s gravesite, and exploring the many hiking trails here, there is much to do and see.
This is the site where you get to discover everything about Abraham Lincoln’s life, right from his childhood to his adulthood. You should start your visit by visiting the Memorial Visitor Center, where you will be greeted and introduced to everything that is there to experience in the park. You should keep at least 45 minutes to an hour’s time for touring the Museum, Memorial Hall and also watch an orientation film on the park. The 14-minute film details the childhood of Abraham Lincoln. The museum that is housed inside the Memorial Visitor Center was built in 1943, and it is home to around 12 exhibits that provide more information about the life of Abraham Lincoln. The visitor center is also the place to have your questions answered, as you will find staff and volunteers eager to solve your queries.
After indulging in these indoor activities, it is time to head on outside and check out what all outdoor activities are available at this national park. For hiking enthusiasts, it is time to begin the tour with a hike along the Trail of Twelve Stones. Hiking this trail is the best way to take in the most significant events that occurred in Lincoln’s life. The trail starts from the eastern side of the Cabin Site Memorial, and as you make your way along the path, you will come across 12 historical stones that have been arranged in a chronological pattern throughout the trail. There are small bronze plates that are situated close to each stone containing information about the various important events that took place in Lincoln’s life. You will find many benches located in well-shaded areas along the trail to take rest if you get tired from all the walking.
Other than the Trail of Twelve Stones, you can also think about hiking along the Boyhood Trail of Abraham Lincoln, which takes you through the same places that Lincoln traveled through while growing up.
From here, make your way to the Lincoln Living Historical Farm, which is a working pioneer home complete with a log cabin, livestock, gardens, fields, split rail fences, and several outbuildings. You will be greeted by rangers all dressed up in clothing from an era long gone as they perform their daily tasks to depict life from the 1820s.
When you are visiting Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, be prepared to be transported back to the era of Abraham Lincoln and take a look at how life used to be when America’s greatest president was growing up.