In our quest to visit America’s National Parks, we decided to take a road trip to visit 4 National Parks east of the Mississippi River: Indiana Dunes National Park; Cuyahoga Valley National Park; Shenandoah National Park; and New River Gorge National Park.
This road trip was action-packed. We also squeezed in a few hours on Kelleys Island and a stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Indiana Dunes National Park (2 Nights)
The first stop on our adventure was Indiana Dunes National Park. This park includes 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline in Northern Indiana.
As you might guess, the main attractions in the 61st National Park are the beaches and giant sand dunes. These monstrous dunes are certainly a sight to see!
But, there is much more to Indiana’s only national park than just sand. This park includes wetlands and forests as well as historic structures.
After leaving the dunes, we headed east and made a quick stop in Marblehead, Ohio. Here we took a 20-minute ferry to Kelly’s Island.
Kelly’s Island is 4 miles from Marblehead in Lake Erie, just south of the Canadian Border. The primary mode of transport on this island is golf carts. Here you can enjoy watersports, restaurants, shops, as well as inspect the longest glacial groves in the world.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (2 Nights)
After leaving Kelleys Island, we drove south to Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Cleveland, Ohio. This national recreation area was designated a National Park in 2000.
At the center of this park are the Cuyahoga River and the Ohio Erie Canal. This vital waterway was completed in 1827 and served as a link between the Ohio River and Lake Erie.
Today, visitors can enjoy various activities such as biking along the canal, hiking, watching wildlife, and floating on the river.
Flight 93 Memorial
The drive from Cuyahoga to Shenandoah took us near the Flight 93 National Memorial, so we decided to stop.
This memorial honors those who died when Flight 93 crashed in a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001. The memorial is near the town of Stoystown.
The Flight 93 National Memorial is a place to reflect and pay respect to the 33 Americans who gave their lives to save the nation’s capitol building.
Shenandoah National Park (4 Nights)
We decided to spend more time in Shenandoah National Park. It is a large park, and we wanted to include time for relaxing. We stayed outside of Luray, Virginia, in a vacation rental.
Shenandoah was the oldest national park we visited on this trip. It became a National Park in 1935 to protect the wilderness area.
The heart of the park is Skyline Drive. This 105-mile highway traverses the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, providing access to scenic overlooks and miles of hiking trails.
New River Gorge National Park (1 Night)
New River Gorge was America’s newest National Park at the time of our visit. It was dedicated in 2020.
New River Gorge National Park is located near Lansing, West Virginia. The park includes the area surrounding 53 miles of the New River.
Coal mining boomed in the New River Gorge area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As the demand for coal decreased and conservation efforts increased, efforts were made to return the river to its natural state. Now visitors can enjoy scenic vistas, hiking, and river sports.
When we think of the National Parks, it’s easy to picture the famous parks in the west like Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. But, National Park road trips aren’t limited to the west. These public lands provide the opportunity to experience a variety of different environments all across the county.