Midwest National Parks: Nature is Still Open

Midwest National Parks: Nature is Still Open

We know you all are getting a little stir-crazy out there. And with the weather getting nice, you might be thinking of just getting out and getting away. While a lot of our favorite spring and summer past times are on hold right now, going outside and enjoying the beauty that is the Midwest is not! 

There are no restrictions around going outside and the Midwest has some of the best outdoor spaces in the country. If you’re thinking about venturing out, most National Parks in the country and throughout the Midwest have waived their fees and are welcoming those that need fresh air. We’ve got some of the best parks you can visit and what’s open and what’s not. 

BUT, before we recommend that you visit these parks, we must first ask that if and when you do, you do so responsibly

Here are a few things to remember when visiting public spaces, even outdoors:

  • The National Parks Services (NPS) urges visitors to practice Leave No Trace principles, including pack-in and pack-out, to keep outdoor spaces safe and healthy.
  • Maintain a safe distance between yourself and other groups (the CDC recommends 6 feet but the more distance you can give, the better!)
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (if they are visibly dirty, wash them rather than use sanitizer)
  • Stay home when you are sick (or FEEL sick) in order to avoid exposing others

Where it is possible for employees and visitors to follow this guidance, outdoor spaces will remain open to the public and entrance-fee free while many visitor centers and campgrounds will be closed.

With that said, here are some of the best outdoor spaces to check out in Michigan and beyond.

Sleeping Bear Dunes:

While the visitor center, campgrounds, and restrooms are closed at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, the views, the trails and the dramatic dunes are not. Sleeping Bear Dune is 71,000 acres of beautiful land that hugs Lake Michigan and boasts around 1.5 million visitors a year. While those number might drop this year, you can still take a trip to the dunes and enjoy the feel of the sand in your toes and a clear, starry sky at night.  

NPS Photo

Pictured Rocks:

The Pictured Rocks Visitor Center is closed but that’s no reason to miss the breathtaking views this natural attraction offers. 

NPS Photo

The park stretches 40 miles along Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and there are 40 miles of trails, seven waterfalls, forests, and more. While you can’t hang out on the beach right now, it’s still worth a trip to see the sandstone cliffs that give the park its name. 

Isle Royale:

While all of Isle Royale is closed right now, it’s worth mentioning as somewhere you should visit when things are back to normal. 

Photo by: Michael Palko

While it’s a trek to reach (it’s 55 miles our in Lake Superior and ferry ride can take up to 3 hours), it’s the perfect place for backpackers seeking solitude (from their families possibly?) and adventurers looking to celebrate freedom after months of quarantine. There is something for all, from canoeing to scuba diving, from hikers to kayakers, it’s the perfect place to brush off boredom (once we get the all clear!). 

River Raisin National Battlefield Park

Located in Monroe, Michigan, this is a great spot for history buffs. Most of the facilities and services are closed but you can still explore a little. At 81-acres, the park commemorates the January 1813 battles of the War of 1812 -- specifically the Battle of Frenchtown, which was the greatest loss of the war for the Americans. 

There are plenty of paths for walking and biking if you simply want to get out of the house and be surrounded by history. 

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park

Located in Cillicothe, Ohio, this park honors structures built by Native Americans almost 2,000 years ago. It offers a sacred space for reflection, something we could all use right now. The visitor center and restrooms are closed but all park grounds are open from sunrise to sunset. 

NPS Photo/Tom Engberg

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

Take a trip back in time and visit the spot Lincoln is referring to when he says, “There I grew up…”

Located in Lincoln City, Indiana, the visitor center at this park is closed but the Lincoln Boyhood Trail, Trail of Twelve Stones, and the Nature Trails are open. Do some bird watching, follow in Lincoln’s footsteps, or hike with your pet through miles of beautiful trails. 

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area 

NPS/Gordon Dietzman

Located in the center of bustling Saint Paul, Minnesota, this recreation area is a quiet escape from urban life. The visitor center is closed but there are 72 miles for hiking, fishing, canoeing, biking, birdwatching, and more. Located along the Mississippi River, you can enjoy nature and catch glimpses of animals like river otters and maybe even a bald eagle. 

This is only a glimpse at the beautiful spots the Midwest has to offer. Please be careful when making the choice to venture out. We should all be staying home but if you need to get outside and walk or move around, these Midwest National Parks are ready for you.  

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