Whether you’re after a rich expanse of natural landscapes or a trip back in time through American history, Indiana’s national parks and sites have something for everyone. Indiana Dunes, George Rogers Clark, Lincoln Boyhood, and a stretch of the Lewis & Clark Trail are all national parks, historic parks, memorials, and trails located in Indiana.
Indiana may not be synonymous with national parks the way
Utah are, but a little tour around the state will present swaths of biodiverse beauty and immersive dips into the past.
To help you plan your Indiana adventure,
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Jerry has put together this guide to national sites in the Hoosier State. From where to go and when to visit to how to best insure your car at a low price, we have your road trip covered.
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Indiana Dunes National Park
Location: Porter, Indiana
Hours of operation: 6:00 am - 11:00 pm for general areas of the park, year-round. West Beach Park Entrance hours are 7:00 am - 9:00 pm, year-round. Hours for other individual areas may vary
Admission price: $15 per person arriving by foot, bicycle, or boat, $20 per motorcycle, $25 per family-sized vehicle (good for seven days)
What makes Indiana Dunes National Park special
If you’ve taken a look at any
Indiana Dunes National Park photos, you’ve surely seen the soft sandy dunes and beautiful blue water that make this the most visited attraction in Indiana. But beyond the namesake dunes, there are tons more to see in this beautiful chunk of nature located just outside of
With more than 1,100 native plant species in the park and more than 350 types of birds, Indiana Dunes is the fifth most biologically diverse park in America.
This 15,000-acre outdoor wonderland features beaches, wetlands, prairies, bogs, forests, creeks, and dunes, offering a taste of everything for visitors.
What to do in Indiana Dunes National Park
50 miles of trails and enjoying the primo
bird watching opportunities are what draw many visitors to the park, but there’s lots more to do at Indiana Dunes.
Camping: Whether you’ve got a tent or an RV, you can camp at one of the
park’s 66 campsites from April through October for $25 a night. Don’t have time to stay overnight? There are some picnic areas you can
reserve in advance.
Outdoor sports: Kayak or swim in Lake Michigan in the summer, go horseback riding on the
Glenwood Dunes Trails in the spring and fall, and enjoy cross country skiing in the winter.
Historical sites: There are several
historic places located in the park, including houses from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair and Bailly Homestead, one of Indiana’s earliest settlements.
Three Dune Challenge: Hike up the park’s
three tallest dunes, which cover more than 550 vertical feet of steep sand and stairs.
When to visit Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park weather can play a big part in when you choose to visit. Generally, May, August, September, and October are the most pleasant times for a visit. The park is at its hottest in July and sees the most rain in June. Visiting on weekdays or during shoulder season will mean fewer fellow visitors.
A visit to Indiana Dunes National Park in winter can also help avoid the crowds. There are plenty of snowshoeing and cross country skiing opportunities, with
free rentals available to use on the Paul H. Douglas Trail. Anticipate it being mild but cloudy or as cold as zero degrees Fahrenheit with clear skies.
George Rogers Clark National Historical Park
Hours of operation: Daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (closed on most federal holidays)
What makes George Rogers Clark National Park special
History buffs may already know why this park is significant, but not only is this site home to a stunning memorial reminiscent of those in D.C., it honors the spot of an important part of America’s complex history.
George Rogers Clark was not only an American Revolutionary War hero but was the older brother of William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame. The park pays homage to his role in the war.
This park is located on land presumed to be the former site of Fort Sackville, which George Rogers Clark captured from the British in 1779.
What to do in George Rogers Clark National Park
The main thing to do at this site is to soak up some history while taking in views of the Wabash River, but there are a couple of other experiences not to miss.
George Rogers Clark Memorial: The largest monument in America outside of Washington, D.C., this memorial stands 80 feet tall and 90 feet wide. Inside are
murals that tell the tale behind the park’s namesake war hero, who is also immortalized in statue form.
Junior Ranger Program: Your budding little historians can
become junior rangers by completing a questionnaire during their park visit. They’ll be officially sworn in as junior rangers at the visitor center and receive badges for their hard work.
When to visit George Rogers Clark National Park
The spring and fall are likely to be the most pleasant times to visit unless you’re partial to muggy weather or snow. But don’t be too upset if you can only visit in rainy May or icy January: between the monument and visitor’s center, there are plenty of opportunities to stay warm and dry.
Pro Tip If you’re sketchy on the details surrounding George Rogers Clark’s place in history, catch the 30-minute movie “Long Knives” at the visitor center for the back story.
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
Location: Lincoln City, Indiana
Hours of operation: Park grounds are open year-round, daylight to dusk. Visitor Centre open 8:00 am - 4:00 pm daily April through September, 8:00 am - 3:00 pm October through March. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays from November 21 to March 31
What makes the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial special
Abraham Lincoln grew from boy to man here, living in this spot from age seven until he was 21. If you’ve ever wondered how President Lincoln lived as a kid in the early 1800s, this site will help paint a clearer picture for you.
This memorial honoring America’s sixteenth president was Indiana’s first national park.
Abraham Lincoln’s family moved to this farm in part because his father wanted to live somewhere that opposed slavery.
What to do at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
Trail of the 12 Stones: This half-mile trail showcases
twelve stones from twelve historic locations pivotal in Lincoln’s legacy, ranging from his Kentucky birthplace to the Lincoln Tomb.
Cabin site memorial: Most people just have baby shoes bronzed, but this park has bronzed the foundation of Lincoln’s entire childhood cabin.
Lincoln Living Historical Farm: A Pioneer homestead with a log cabin and livestock, park rangers
reenact life in the 1820s, from cooking to sewing to harvesting crops.
Boyhood Trail of Abraham Lincoln: If you can’t figuratively follow in Lincoln’s footsteps by becoming president, literally follow in his footsteps by trekking down this mile-long loop trail he used to walk down.
When to visit the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
You’ll get the most out of your experience if you visit between April and September when the farm is operational. You may also want to avoid the snowy months so you can get a good look at the cabin site and trail of stones without having to use a shovel.
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Location: Along the Ohio River
What makes Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail special
This epic trail follows the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition route. Tracing the bottom edge of Indiana along the Ohio River, it spans the state from
Of America’s 30 National Scenic and Historic trails, the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail is the longest.
What to do along Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
The word “trail” is a bit misleading since this isn’t an actual hiking trail but more a route that can be followed with interesting locations along the way. These are some easy historic stops along the Indiana leg of the trail.
Angel Mounds State Historic Site: Inhabited from the years 1000 to 1450, this site was home to 11 pyramid-like structures.
Open year-round from Tuesday to Sunday, you can access this Evansville site for $8.00.
Lincoln Pioneer Village: Home to 14 replica cabins that simulate life during Abraham Lincoln’s time in Indiana circa 1816 to 1830, this
Rockport site can be visited between May and October for $5.00.
Falls of the Ohio State Park: Some of the largest exposed fossil beds in the world can be found here. With a robust
interpretive center open daily for $9, this stop in
Clarksville is both beautiful and educational.
George Rogers Clark Homesite: Former home to American Revolutionary War hero and older brother to William Clark, George Rogers Clark, this spot is an integral part of Lewis and Clark’s legendary expedition.
The cabin is open on weekends during the tourist season.
When to visit Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Because this trail covers various landscapes, towns, and nature trails in Indiana—not to mention in 15 other states—the best time to visit is mostly up to your personal preferences.
Some historical sites along the trail only operate during peak season, and some nature treks are safest in warm dry conditions, so you may wish to set your expedition in June or September.
How to prepare to visit Indiana’s national parks
Indiana’s national parks and sites are generally small and safe and perfect for spur-of-the-moment road trips. That said, there are a few ways you can prepare yourself for successful visits:
car’s basic maintenance is in good order before heading out on a road trip, that you have enough gas, and that your size and type of vehicle is allowed in the park.
Make sure you have comprehensive
car insurance just in case things don’t go as planned.
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