If you're looking to explore more of the United States, a Chicago to Atlanta RV road trip is a fun way to do it. You'll start and end in two dramatically different American cities—and in between, you'll get to see the farmlands of the Midwest, the brilliant green hills of Kentucky, and the misty mountains of Tennessee. The terrain changes drastically along the route, which means that every night brings a different type of campsite and exciting new adventure activities.
The national parks on the way from Chicago to Atlanta are incredibly diverse. Start with a swim in the clear waters of Lake Michigan, stop in an otherworldly underground cave, and end with a hike to the peaks of the Tennessee mountains.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
Get in the mood for your road trip with a night or two at the Indiana Sand Dunes National Park. From your campsite, you can walk down to the shore of Lake Michigan or climb the sand dunes that sit near the water's edge. Be sure to head down to the lake at the end of the day for one of the park's legendary sunsets. If you're an active traveler, the park offers 50 miles of trails.
Gateway Arch National Park
Take a detour away from the road trip route with a side trip to Gateway Arch National Park. You'll see it from the road—the highlight of the park is the massive man-made arch that rises high above the ground. Take the tram ride to the top for the best views of the city and the route that historic settlers took west.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Head deep under the surface of the earth at Mammoth Cave National Park. It's home to the longest cave system in the world—join a tour and walk through some of the most famous caverns and tunnels. One of the most popular tour options is lit only by lamps for maximum excitement and mystery; tours that are well-lit by electric lights are also available. The caves are cool and moist, so be sure to bring layers and wear sturdy shoes.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Located east of Nashville and Chattanooga, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the southeastern United States. Misty peaks stretch as far as the eye can see; see them on a scenic drive or a long hike. Don't miss a trip to the historic buildings in Cades Cove. The Smokies are stunning year-round, but they're particularly lovely when the leaves change color in the fall.
Congaree National Park
After you reach Atlanta, keep the fun going with a trip to Congaree National Park. It requires a bit of a drive, but the remarkable biodiversity is worth the extra time. Here, you can stroll along a boardwalk through an old-growth hardwood forest, paddle the waterways in a canoe, or enjoy a day of fishing.
Do you love to camp in state parks? You're in luck—the Chicago to Atlanta road trip is close to some of the most beautiful parks in each state. Stop for the night, or simply visit for an afternoon of outdoor fun.
Tippecanoe River State Park
The name says it all—Tippecanoe River State Park is known for its large, peaceful river. This park is located a short drive east of the road trip route between Chicago and Indianapolis, near Winamac, Indiana. After you set up camp in the state park campground, rent a canoe and spend a few hours paddling the calm, rapid-free river. On land, the park's 23-mile trail network takes you through the forests and by the water. For the best views, climb the historic fire tower.
Brown County State Park
Get a preview of what the Great Smoky Mountains will be like at Brown County State Park. Located in Indiana, this park boasts rolling hills and ridges, all covered with thick forests. If you're interested in hiking, be sure to check out the misty, mysterious ravines. In the summer, cool off in the park's swimming pool; in the autumn, bring your camera for the fantastic fall colors.
Lake Malone State Park
As you near Bowling Green in Kentucky, head west from the route to reach Lake Malone State Park. Oriented around a large reservoir, this state park is known for its boating, fishing, and swimming. When the weather is cool, take the easy trails up to the rocky bluffs; the caves and hollows were once used as campsites for ancient Native Americans. The park campground is open from mid-March to mid-November.
Bledsoe Creek State Park
Explore Native American history at Bledsoe Creek State Park, which is located near Gallatin, Tennessee. Once an important spot for hunting, the region is now home to a thick forest and a gently flowing river. Enjoy leisurely strolls through the trees or rent a boat and take in the view from the water. This state park is popular among birders, who come to watch the songbirds and waterfowl.
Red Top Mountain State Park
As you enter Georgia, start looking for Red Top Mountain State Park. Set on the shores of Lake Allatoona, this family-friendly state park offers a beach, boat rentals, and 15 miles of hiking trails. Only have a short amount of time? Take the short trail to the historic homestead, which has been reconstructed to look as it did in the 1800s. If you're bringing a mountain bike, don't miss the views from Iron Hill.
As you're driving an RV from Chicago to Atlanta, take a break to explore our favorite points of interest. Whether you're interested in history, natural beauty, or even the paranormal, these spots are perfect for a short break.
Michael Jackson’s Childhood Home
Pay your respects to the King of Pop at Michael Jackson's childhood home. Located at 2300 Jackson St. in Gary, Indiana, this house gives you a sense of the singer's routes. It's a quick stop; allow time to read the commemorative plaque and snap a photo.
While you're in Indiana, take a few hours to watch the animals at the Indianapolis Zoo. In addition to traditional viewing opportunities, the zoo offers interactive experiences that enable you to get up close and personal with the animals.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Are you curious about the paranormal? Don't miss a spooky trip to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium. This abandoned facility, which sits on the edge of Louisville, Kentucky, has a storied history and a reputation for hauntings. If you're brave enough, go after dark for a paranormal tour—you might even see a ghost or two. Advance reservations are required.
Grand Ole Opry
One of the most famous concert venues in the country, the Grand Ole Opry, is a must-see destination in Nashville, Tennessee. Check the schedule to get tickets for a concert. If nothing is playing, book a tour of the facility; you'll get to stand on the legendary circle on the stage.
Located right on the edge of Chattanooga, Rock City is an unusual spot that features huge rock formations and stunning gardens. Don't miss the Enchanted Trail, which takes you on a journey under hanging vines and through narrow canyons covered in brilliant plants. The gardens are especially magical during one of the evening events when twinkling lights add a glowing twist.
The road trip itinerary from Chicago to Atlanta includes some of the most exciting and interesting cities in the eastern United States. In each of these cities, you'll find beautiful campgrounds; many offer dump stations so you can keep your RV clean and ready for the road.
The capital and largest city in Indiana, Indianapolis is one of the great hidden gems in the United States. It doesn't get the hype of Chicago or New York, but it has plenty to offer. Check out the excellent restaurant scene, walk the urban trail network, and marvel at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With a variety of great campgrounds, it’s easy to find a place to stop for the night. If you're just passing through, stop at the Flying J Travel Plaza to use the dump station.
Immerse yourself in Kentucky Derby culture in Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky. Set up camp in one of the city's campgrounds and head out to try the local bourbon or take a tour of the Louisville Slugger Museum.
Nashville is best known as the home of country music; the city's campgrounds are just a short drive from the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry, and the majestic Centennial Park. Many local spots, including the Nashville North KOA, offer dump stations. For a bit of history, visit the Belle Meade Plantation.