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Indiana Dunes National Park

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Treasured destinations in the United States…National Parks. They attract millions of visitors each year. These natural wonders and historic sites are a testament to President Woodrow Wilson’s vision when he signed the act creating the National Park Service in 1916: to preserve and protect these treasures for the enjoyment of future generations.

Trees growing in forest,United States,USA

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How Many People Visit National Parks?

Approximately 312 million people ventured into American national parks in 2022.

In the Indianapolis area, nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers have a variety of parks within a reasonable distance. Stacker compiled a list of the closest national parks to Indianapolis based on straight-line distances and estimated driving times. It’s worth noting that actual distances may vary depending on entry points and the specific location within the metro area.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Source: Alan Majchrowicz / Getty

Which is the most popular closest to Indy?

Leading the list is Indiana Dunes National Park, a relatively short 139 miles away with a driving time of 2.6 hours. This park, established in 2019, attracted over 2.8 million visitors in 2022, ranking it among the top 11 national parks in terms of visitation.

Indiana Dunes National Park

Source: PhotosByLarissaB / Getty

Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, known for its extensive cave systems, is another enticing option. Located 177 miles from Indianapolis, it offers a driving time of approximately 3.3 hours. Mammoth Cave welcomed around 613,000 visitors in 2022.

Mammoth Cave

Source: Posnov / Getty

Other national parks within reach of Indianapolis include Gateway Arch National Park in Missouri, Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, and New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia. They each offer unique experiences and breathtaking landscapes.

Gateway Arch in St. Louis by lake lined with cherry trees in early spring

Source: Nicholas Klein / Getty

The allure of these national parks remains strong. They continue to serve as gateways to natural beauty, cultural heritage, and opportunities for adventure. These treasured destinations provide unforgettable experiences and a deeper connection with the wonders of the natural world.

Top 10 National Parks that are closest the capitol city

#1. Indiana Dunes National Park (Indiana)
– Distance: 139 miles

– Driving time: 2.6 hours

– Date founded: February 15, 2019

– Park area: 15,349.08 acres

Lake Michigan Beach Walk

Source: Tina Horne / Getty

#2. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
– Distance: 177 miles

– Driving time: 3.3 hours

– Date founded: July 1, 1941

– Park area: 54,011.91 acres

Mammoth Cave NP - Natural Entrance Horizontal - 1992

Source: scgerding / Getty

#3. Gateway Arch National Park (Missouri)
– Distance: 227 miles

– Driving time: 3.6 hours

– Date founded: February 22, 2018

– Park area: 192.83 acres

Skyline viewed under St. Louis Gateway Arch with vibrant sky and sun

Source: Nicholas Klein / Getty

#4. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)
– Distance: 266 miles

– Driving time: 5.1 hours

– Date founded: October 11, 2000

– Park area: 32,571.88 acres

Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio

Source: Boogich / Getty

#5. New River Gorge National Park (West Virginia)
– Distance: 300 miles

– Driving time: 6.5 hours

– Date founded: December 27, 2020

– Park area: 7,021 acres

New River Gorge Bridge

Source: 6381380 / Getty

#6. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina, Tennessee)
– Distance: 317 miles

– Driving time: 6.4 hours

– Date founded: June 15, 1934

– Park area: 522,426.88 acres

Smokey Mountains in Spring

Source: Daniel Haynes / Getty

#7. Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
– Distance: 431 miles

– Driving time: 10.0 hours

– Date founded: December 26, 1935

– Park area: 199,223.77 acres

Sunset scenic views from Skyline National Park showing Aerial view of Shenandoah Forest and Blue Ridge Mountains

Source: Visions of America / Getty

#8. Congaree National Park (South Carolina)
– Distance: 510 miles

– Driving time: 10.3 hours

– Date founded: November 10, 2003

– Park area: 26,476.47 acres

Old growth cypress forest with moss covered cypress knees on banks of Weston lake in Congaree National Park

Source: John Blottman / Getty

#9. Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)
– Distance: 522 miles

– Driving time: 9.1 hours

– Date founded: March 4, 1921

– Park area: 5,554.15 acres

Hiking Trail in Hot Springs Arkansas in Summer

Source: Boogich / Getty

#10. Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)
– Distance: 588 miles

– Driving time: 11.1 hours

– Date founded: April 3, 1940

– Park area: 571,790.30 acres

Lichen Covered Rocks - Isle Royale NP - MI

Source: Richard Jackson / Getty