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Best National Parks Near Chicago

May 9, 2022

Chicago is a beautiful city with so much to do. You may like to see some of the amazing surrounding nature when you visit a city. Nearby Chicago, there are great national parks where you can experience the outdoors. Here are the best national parks near Chicago, Illinois.

1. Ice Age National Scenic Trail

  • Price: Free at most entrances, some may charge
  • When Is It Open? All year
  • Distance/Time From Chicago: 103 miles/2 hours
  • Activities: Hiking, camping, biking, snowmobiling, etc.
  • Pet Friendly? Pets are generally welcomed but rules vary depending on where you are in the park
  • Nearby Attractions: Wisconsin Dells
Ice Age Trail sign in woods
Hike and explore the unique offerings of Ice Age Trail.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail is 1200 miles long and contains various state parks, regional parks, and attractions. There is so much to explore along the trail. It weaves into small towns, scenic views, and unforgettable attractions like Balanced Rock, Mirror Lake and Devil’s lake. The trail traces a glaciers edge that formed during the ice age around 15,000 years ago.

2. Indiana Dunes National Park

  • Price: $25 for family vehicle, or $15 per person walk in
  • When Is It Open? Open every day 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.
  • Distance/Time From Chicago: 35 miles/45 minutes
  • Activities: Outdoor adventure festival, beach, kayaking, biking, hiking, camping, horseback riding, etc.
  • Pet Friendly? Pets must be on a leash six feet or shorter
  • Nearby Attractions: Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk
There is so much to do and see at Indiana Dunes, but you can also have a nice time just sitting at the beach!

Indiana Dunes is 15 miles of Lake Michigan’s southern shore. There are 15,000 beautiful acres of dunes, wetlands, prairies, forests, and rivers.

3. Pullman National Monument

  • Price: Free
  • When Is It Open? 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day with a few holiday exceptions
  • Distance/Time From Chicago: 0 miles / 0 minutes – Located in Chicago
  • Activities: tours, exhibits, historical building sites, historical neighborhood
  • Pet Friendly? Pets are allowed in public outdoor areas. Call ahead to see if your pet is allowed inside specific buildings.
  • Nearby Attractions: Millennium Park, Navy Pier, Art Institute of Chicago, Children’s Museum
Experience history right in the heart of Chicago at Pullman National Monument.

Pullman National Monument is a site rich in American History. It’s conveniently located in downtown Chicago. Take a half day to learn about the Strike of 1894 and see the beautiful historical architecture. There is so much to learn and see, and Pullman National Monument works as a time capsule.

4. River Raisin Battlefield Park

  • Price: Free, with fees to view their historical film
  • When Is It Open? 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., closed on certain holidays
  • Distance/Time From Chicago: 267 miles/4 hours
  • Activities: Witness the park commemorate, preserve and interpret battles from the war of 1812, and experience the Heritage trail
  • Pet Friendly? Call ahead to see which areas of the park are OK for pets
  • Nearby Attractions: Hull’s Trace, Springwells
River Raisin battlefield with sign
Stand on historic grounds at River Raisin Battlefield!

River Raisin is a national park dedicated to remembering the Raisin. In 1813, the U.S. experienced its greatest defeat to Tecumseh’s American Indian confederation. “Remember the Raisin” was used to rally support for the rest of the war. Experience the history of this site with the help of park rangers

5. Lincoln Home National Historic Site

  • Price: Free, $2 parking lot fee
  • When Is It Open? 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., closed on certain holidays
  • Distance/Time From Chicago: 200 miles/3 hours 15 minutes
  • Activities: Tour the Lincoln home, watch a historical film, explore the neighborhood
  • Pet Friendly? Call to see which areas are OK for your pet
  • Nearby Attractions: Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, Lincoln’s Tomb, Old State Capitol
Lincoln's family home from outside
Experience the home of a lawyer and family man before he was president of the U.S.

Lincoln Home is where Abraham Lincoln and his family lived for 17 years before moving to Washington. Experience where the lawyer, husband, and father lived before he was the 16th president of the U.S.  

6. Effigy Mounds National Monument

  • Price: Free
  • When Is It Open? Sunrise to sunset
  • Distance/Time From Chicago: 255 miles/4 hours 15 minutes
  • Activities: Hiking trails, visitor center, natural and historical sites, historical mounds
  • Pet Friendly? Pets are permitted on leashes
  • Nearby Attractions: Harper’s Ferry, Pikes Peak State Park, Yellow River State Forrest
Effigy mounds sign in woods
Experience preserved prehistoric sites made by pre-Columbian mound builders.

Effigy Mounds is a historically significant site to 20 associated American Indian tribes. It preserves over 200 mounds built by pre-Columbian mound building cultures. Some are shaped like animals. Most were built in the first millennium AD. You can see preserved history in front of you with a visit.

7. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

  • Price: Sites are free, museum is $10
  • When Is It Open? 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., closed for certain holidays
  • Distance/Time From Chicago: 295 miles/4 hours 30 minutes
  • Activities: visitor center, hiking trails, visit historical sites and read about what Hoover did there
  • Pet Friendly? Pets are OK outdoors on leash, call ahead to see if pets are allowed in indoor spaces
  • Nearby Attractions: Effigy Mounds, Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area
Herbert Hoover's home from the outside
Walk the same streets as the famous orphan president, Herbert Hoover.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site commemorates former President of the U.S., Herbert Hoover. Explore the area that shaped Hoover who was orphaned at the age of nine. Despite this difficult circumstance, he rose above and was eventually president of the U.S.

8. Gateway Arch National Park

  • Price: $3 per person, museum under arch is free
  • When Is It Open? 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., closed on certain holidays
  • Distance/Time From Chicago: 210 miles/3 hours 10 minutes
  • Activities: tours, wellness challenge, sites and views of the arch, reflection ponds, tram ride to top of arch
  • Pet Friendly? Pets are allowed in the outdoor areas on leash, not indoors
  • Nearby Attractions: Aquarium, river tours
gateway arch with St. Louis Skyline in background
The Gateway Arch is of the magnificent architectural marvels the U.S. has to offer.

The Gateway Arch is a classic American monument built near the starting point of Lewis and Clarke’s expedition. Its massive size and ambitious design can be appreciated from many distances in person.

9. I & M Canal National Heritage Area

  • Price: Prices vary depending on what activities you do
  • When Is It Open? Visit their website for specific information
  • Distance/Time From Chicago: 103 miles/1 hour 45 minutes
  • Activities: History, hiking, biking, canal tours
  • Pet Friendly? Call to see if your pets are allowed inside specific areas
  • Nearby Attractions: Pullman National Monument
Boat in canal outside
The I & M Canal is the first national heritage area established by the U.S.

Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Area is the first national heritage area in America. Visit to learn about the significance that this area gave to growth and settlement in America.

10. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

  • Price: Free
  • When Is It Open? All day, every day
  • Distance/Time From Chicago: 380 miles/6 hours 15 minutes
  • Activities: Hike, picnic, boat, see the views, winter activities, etc.
  • Pet Friendly? Some trails and areas are OK for pets on leashes, some are not. Check the website for your specific desired location.
  • Nearby Attractions: Grand Island National Recreation Area, Hiawatha National Forest
beautiful cliffs on the south shore of lake Superior
Experience some of the most magnificent sea-side natural sites the U.S. has to offer.

Pictured Rocks features beautiful multi-colored cliffs on the south shore of Lake Superior. It’s in the name! These cliffs are picturesque. However, a picture won’t do them justice. See these cliffs and the views for yourself.

Help Make Chicago An Even Better Area To Live

The 10 national parks above can take your breathe away with their scenery and experiences. These beautiful parks are just a drive away from Chicago. This makes Chicago a very special, central place to live. You can help make it even better in two unique ways:

Experience national parks, and benefit Chicago children today!

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