Voyageurs National Park

Less-Travelled National Parks in the Midwest: A Road Trip through Hidden Gems

Embark on a journey through the often-overlooked treasures of the Midwest United States, exploring Less-Travelled National Parks that are truly hidden gems. Our road trip takes you through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Indiana Dunes National Park, Isle Royale National Park, and Voyageurs National Park. These less-travelled National Parks promise unique landscapes, solitude, and an off-the-beaten-path adventure.

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Our journey begins in the heart of Ohio at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Known for its lush forests, waterfalls, and the scenic Cuyahoga River, this park offers an off-the-beaten-path adventure in one of the Midwest’s less-travelled national parks. Escape the urban hustle and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this hidden gem.

Entry Requirements:

  • Park Entrance Fee: None
  • America the Beautiful Passes are accepted for entry.

Must-Visit Spots:

  1. Brandywine Falls: Witness the beauty of Brandywine Falls, a 65-foot waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation. Capture the cascade from the designated viewpoints for stunning photographs.
  2. Ledges Overlook: Hike to Ledges Overlook for panoramic views of the river valley. The unique rock formations and the winding river below create picturesque scenes.

Best Photo Spots:

  • Blue Hen Falls: Photograph the serene Blue Hen Falls, especially during the fall when the surrounding foliage adds vibrant colours to the landscape.
  • The Towpath Trail: Capture the tranquillity along the historic Towpath Trail, which follows the route of the Ohio & Erie Canal.

Best Places to Stay near Cuyahoga Valley:

  1. Inn at Brandywine Falls: Experience lodging in a historic bed and breakfast near Brandywine Falls.
  2. Peninsula: The nearby village of Peninsula offers additional accommodation options for visitors exploring Cuyahoga Valley.

Distance to Next Park: Approximately 300 miles

Indiana Dunes National Park (Indiana)

Indiana Dunes National Park

Continuing our Midwest adventure, we head to Indiana Dunes National Park along the southern shore of Lake Michigan. This park boasts diverse ecosystems, including sand dunes, forests, and wetlands, providing a unique experience away from the more well-known destinations.

Entry Requirements:

  • Park Entrance Fee: $15 per vehicle (valid for 7 days)
  • America the Beautiful Passes are accepted for entry.

Must-Visit Spots:

  1. West Beach: Enjoy the sandy shores and scenic views of Lake Michigan at West Beach. The beach provides opportunities for shoreline photography and sunset vistas.
  2. Trail 9: Hike Trail 9 through the dunes and woodlands, offering diverse landscapes and the chance to capture the natural beauty of the park.

Best Photo Spots:

  • Mount Baldy: Photograph the ever-shifting Mount Baldy sand dune for a dynamic and unique natural feature.
  • Cowles Bog: Capture the rich biodiversity of Cowles Bog, especially during spring when wildflowers are in bloom.

Best Places to Stay near Indiana Dunes:

  1. Chesterton: The town of Chesterton, located near the park, offers lodging options for visitors exploring Indiana Dunes.
  2. Michigan City: Approximately 15 miles from the park, Michigan City provides additional accommodation choices.

Distance to Next Park: Approximately 500 miles

Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)

Isle Royale National Park

Our next destination is Isle Royale National Park, an island wilderness in the northwest waters of Lake Superior. Known for its pristine landscapes, wildlife, and isolated beauty, Isle Royale offers a remote and unique experience for those willing to venture to the northern reaches of the Midwest.

Entry Requirements:

  • Park Entrance Fee: $7 per person per day
  • America the Beautiful Passes are accepted for entry.

Must-Visit Spots:

  1. Rock Harbor: Explore the scenic beauty of Rock Harbor, where you can capture the rugged coastline and the serenity of Lake Superior.
  2. Scoville Point: Hike to Scoville Point for panoramic views of the island and the surrounding waters. The overlook provides an ideal setting for landscape photography.

Best Photo Spots:

  • Chippewa Harbor: Photograph the historic buildings and scenic harbour at Chippewa Harbor, capturing the island’s maritime history.
  • Minong Mine: Explore the ruins of the Minong Mine for unique photo opportunities amidst the island’s mining heritage.

Best Places to Stay on Isle Royale:

  1. Rock Harbor Lodge: The lodge provides accommodation options on the island, allowing you to experience the tranquillity of Isle Royale.
  2. Campgrounds: Several campgrounds on the island offer a more immersive experience for those seeking to stay closer to nature.

Distance to Next Park: Approximately 400 miles

Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

Voyageurs National Park

Our final destination in this Midwest adventure is Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota. This park, characterised by its interconnected waterways, forests, and rocky landscapes, offers a unique and water-centric experience away from the more frequented destinations.

Entry Requirements:

  • Park Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle (valid for 7 days)
  • America the Beautiful Passes are accepted for entry.

Must-Visit Spots:

  1. Kettle Falls: Witness the beauty of Kettle Falls, where the Namakan and Rainy Lakes converge. The scenic overlook provides stunning views and photographic opportunities.
  2. Ellsworth Rock Gardens: Explore the beautifully crafted rock gardens on the shores of Rainy Lake. The gardens offer a serene setting for nature photography.

Best Photo Spots:

  • Ash River Visitor Center: Capture the natural beauty around the Ash River Visitor Center, where the woodlands meet the waterways.
  • Black Bay Scenic Overlook: Photograph the expansive views of Black Bay and the surrounding forests from this scenic overlook.

Best Places to Stay near Voyageurs:

  1. International Falls: The nearby town of International Falls offers lodging options for visitors exploring Voyageurs National Park.
  2. Rainy Lake: Experience lakeside accommodations near Rainy Lake for a peaceful stay.

Final Thoughts:

By venturing through these less-travelled national parks in the Midwest, you’ll not only escape the crowds but also capture the essence of nature’s hidden treasures. Cuyahoga Valley, Indiana Dunes, Isle Royale, and Voyageurs National Parks offer a diverse tapestry of landscapes, each with its unique story waiting to be told. Discover the magic that lies beyond the well-trodden paths and let your journey through these hidden gems unfold in photographs that tell tales of unexplored beauty.

For other road trip ideas click here.
For the rest of this National Park road trip series click here

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