The U.S. national park system is a treasure: There are over 63 national parks in the country, protecting unique and truly majestic landscapes for you to hike, camp, and visit however you want. But not every state has their own national park within its boundaries—in fact, only 27 states can claim one as their own.
But there is always a national park near you. For the 23 states that don't have their own, we've gone through and found the national park nearest you. Bonus: Many of the closest parks to the states without one also happen to be some of the least-busy parks.
For reference, we're sticking to the official national parks only, and won't dig into national monuments, historic sites, scenic trails, or other federal lands—although there are technically 419 official national park sites in the U.S., including landmarks, battlefields, historic parks, lakeshores, seashores, parts of the ocean, recreation areas, and even the White House. But in this list, we are referring only to the main 62 national parks commonly thought of as the crown jewels of America.
If you're in Nebraska, the best national park near you is going to be Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, home to one of the world's longest and most complex caves. Named for the barometric winds common at its entrance, this maze of passages contains boxwork, a unique formation rarely found elsewhere.
The National Park Service offers cave tours year-round. The most leisurely cave tour is the Garden of Eden tour, a .33-mile stroll through some of the cave's most beautiful formations. At the other end of the difficulty spectrum is the Fairgrounds Cave Tour, which features many steps and stairs and lasts more than an hour underground.
This unique national park is just four hours north of North Platte, Nebraska. Just follow Highway 385 north through Hot Springs, South Dakota to reach the park.
Which national park is closest is almost a coin-flip between Great Sand Dunes National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. But with an hour less travel from Kansas City, we had to go with RMNP in Colorado.
Indeed one of our country's natural treasures, the meadows and mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park are worth the journey from any state. There's plenty to do within the boundaries, including some excellent wildlife viewing, but its proximity to Denver and ski resorts means you'll never run out of things to keep you busy.
To get here from Kansas, you can head west on either I-70 or I-80.
Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi & Louisiana
Hot Springs National Park in Central Arkansas is centrally located for Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana, almost literally. If you turned these five states into a dart board, the bullseye would be Hot Springs National Park. The park is home to 37 thermal springs, gorgeous views, many hiking trails, and lots of culture.
Here's how to get there from each state:
- Oklahoma: Head east on OK-43 E until you reach OK-63, then take that into Arkansas.
- Missouri: Come down Highway 63 or Arkansas State Highway 7.
- Mississippi: Hop on 1-20 W until Monroe, then turn north.
- Louisiana: Take US-167 N.
New York & Pennsylvania
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio is a bit of a drive for folks in New York or Pennsylvania, but it's full of fascinating history and wildlife. The park is home to more than 900 plant species, 200 species of birds, 91 aquatic macroinvertebrates, 43 fish, 32 mammals, 22 amphibians, and 20 species of reptiles.
Cuyahoga is two hours west of Pittsburgh and five hours from Syracuse. Visitors from New York should take I-90, while visitors from Pennsylvania should take I-76 West.
The states of Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island all share the nearest national park with Maine, Acadia National Park. Located along the coast of Maine, Acadia contains the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline in the United States, an abundance of unique wildlife habitats, and roots in the rich cultural heritage of the Wabanaki people.
Getting there from any of those states is pretty straightforward-head northeast until you reach Maine, then take I-95 until you can head south into Acadia.
Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois & Michigan
The Indiana Dunes National Park is located along the southern shore of Lake Michigan. It has exceptional recreational opportunities including hiking, relaxing at the beach, swimming, bird watching, camping, fishing, and more.
You can reach Indiana Dunes via Indiana Toll Road, Indiana State Road 49, and U.S. Highways 12 and 20.
Alabama & Georgia
Congaree National Park in South Carolina is a sweet southern paradise of outdoor bliss, and it is famous for the Firefly Festival. It is also home to the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States, which means an incredible amount of tall trees and those that uniquely grow directly in the swamp, like swamp cottonwood, winged elm, Carolina ash, baldcypress, and water-elm.
To reach Congaree via Interstate 77, exit onto SC Hwy 48 East/Bluff Road and follow the signs until you find the park.
Delaware, New Jersey & Maryland
Shenandoah National Park has more than 200,000 acres of protected lands bursting with cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, fields of wildflowers, and quiet wooded hollows full of wildlife. Do not miss the panoramic views from overlooks scattered along the length of Skyline Drive, which runs 105 miles through the 300-square-mile park.
- Delaware & Maryland: Take I-66 to Front Royal, Virginia.
- New Jersey: Take I-95 until you can hop on I-66 to Front Royal.
In nearby northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park is a 310,000-acre wonderland that includes the major peaks of the Teton Range and most of the northern sections of Jackson Hole.