If you are one of the lucky citizens able to celebrate the national phenomenon known as Spring Break this year, then why not spend your time at the most magical places in the U.S., and no, we’re not talking about Disneyland. Our Nation’s National Parks are celebrating their 100th birthday this year, and everyone is invited to the party. Unfortunately for us Iowa denizens, the only National Park Units within our borders are Effigy Mounds National Monument & the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, and while this historic markers are worth a visit, they do not fully encapsulate all that the National Park Service has to offer. Being the adventurous Iowans that we are though, tracks have been blazed leading to some extraordinary National Parks from Iowa City, all of which should be some major considerations for any spring break plans:
Distance from Iowa City:556 Miles / 8.25 hours
Check it Out: Hop aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway with your next visit to Ohio and be treated to some of the best views you’d never expect to see outside of Akron. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located halfway between Akron and Cleveland, can give you that rustic getaway that you deserve this Spring Break.
Mammoth Caves National Park, Kentucky
Distance from Iowa City: 565 Miles / 8.5 hours
Check it Out: Serving as one of the oldest attractions in North America, Mammoth Caves NP has over 400 miles of explored underground passageways winding throughout the underside of the entire park. Caving shines a whole new light on the world of adventure, and with the large array of guided tours offered by the park, including introductory hikes along constructed pathways and all-day intensive crawls through the caves interior, you can take as big a slice of adventure as you want with a spring break spent underground.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Distance from Iowa City: 574 Miles / 9.25 hours
Check it Out: Hop on the roads less traveled this Spring Break with a visit to Voyageurs National Park located to the west of the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota.Relive the days of french fur-traders that once frequented this remote wilderness, and be sure to strap on the canoes or kayaks for your trip and pack appropriately, because Voyageurs is a road-less wilderness, providing for the rare opportunity to truly get away from it all.
Distance from Iowa City:656 Miles / 9.5 hours
Check it Out: Providing a great entrance into the American west, the landscape of Badlands National Park sticks out of the earth like a sore-thumb, and nowhere else on this continent can you see geological deposits that jut from this area in South Dakota. If the Badlands prove to live up to their name, within a short car ride to the west you can find some landscape variety with the lush forests in the Black Hills, home to Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park and the Crazy Horse Memorial.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Distance from Iowa City: 758 Miles / 11.5 hours
Check it Out: Once you round the last crest en route to Great Smoky Mountains NP, you immediately come to understand where the park received its namesake. That’s because rolling across the lush forest that comprises America’s Most Visited National Park is a dense fog that appears to be smoke rising from the branches. Underneath that magical condensation is a world waiting for you to explore inhabited by a dense collection of wildlife, plants and memories that will last a lifetime.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Distance from Iowa City: 819 Miles / 12 hours
Check it Out: Chances are you know somebody that can host you for the night in Colorado en route to Rocky Mountain National Park. Why not take advantage of that connection and visit the reason so many people are moving west in the first place. Rocky Mountain NP not only offers some of the most stunning vistas you’ll ever see, but with over 300 miles of trails to witness these amazing scenes of grandeur, it’s going to be hard to manage all your plans in one week. Whatever trail you choose, remember to stay hydrated as you gain elevation in the Colorado backcountry.
Yellowstone National Park, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho
Distance from Iowa City: 1,211 Miles / 18 hours
Check it Out: Put it into first gear and rotate drivers to visit Yellowstone NP this Spring Break. Officially designated as the Nation’s first National Park, Yellowstone would be the ideal place to celebrate the NPS Centennial. With your trip to Yellowstone, and any part of the 3,450+ square miles it inhibits, through the geysers and mountain peaks you’ll see for yourself why protecting these lands is so important.