If you are planning a Chicago to St. Louis RV road trip, there are many memorable spots that you will want to visit on your journey. You will start in the "Second City." There are many places to begin your adventure as you see some fascinating attractions, such as Millennium Park and Willis Tower. Once you hit the road, you can head down the historic Route 66 or take the faster Interstate 55 as both routes will lead you to the state capital of Illinois and toward St. Louis. Springfield, IL, is home to several monuments, museums, and other attractions dedicated to Abraham Lincoln. In St. Louis, there are more exciting things to see and do, including a visit to Gateway Arch National Park.
As you start to gather information to plan your road trip itinerary from Chicago to St. Louis, you might want to add a day at a national park. With RVshare’s national parks guide, you can find one that is close to your route.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park is considered a sacred place for the Native American tribes who once lived in the area. Today, this park is a popular destination to relax in the sun and enjoy some water activities. For the longest time, the Indiana Sand Dunes were listed as a National Lakeshore. In 2019, the park was reclassified as a national park, making it the 61st location in the country's national park system. This park hugs along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, and it is only an hour from downtown Chicago. The Indiana Sand Dunes feature over 15 miles of lakefront and 20 square miles of wetlands, rivers, forests, and prairies. At this park, there is so much more to do than relax at the beach. You can enjoy plenty of recreational activities, including biking, horseback riding, fishing, hiking, and water sports. There are forest trails that will take visitors past oak, maple, beech, and basswood trees. Since it is now a national park, there are also several activities and events held throughout the year.
Gateway Arch National Park
At one time, Gateway Arch National Park was known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. With any name, the location has one of the most famous icons in the country. The famous white arch towers at 630 feet over the Mississippi River, and it was the starting point of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Not only does the park include the Gateway Arch, but it encompasses over 91 acres near the Mississippi River banks. This park is the unofficial entryway from the eastern part of the United States to the west. Gateway Arch National Park is at the eastern end of the city near the river, and it provides a spectacular view of St. Louis. You can also visit the Old St. Louis Courthouse or take a guided tour of the other historical buildings at the park. Since the park is near the river, you can even book a riverboat tour in the summer.
During your Chicago to St. Louis RV road trip, you will want to pull off the road and explore some fantastic state parks. RVshare’s state park guide offers more information to help you plan a day trip.
Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Illinois, and it is only 100 miles from Chicago. Many visitors come here to hike on the 13 miles of trails or camp on the grounds. If you are feeling adventurous, you can head to the 18 canyons that are located in the park. There are other recreational activities to try at Starved Rock, including fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing. In the nearby Buffalo Rock State Park, you will want to see the bison or take a hike to view the carved Effigy Tumuli.
Giant City State Park
Giant City State Park is located in the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois, and it covers over 4,000 acres. While you are there, you should explore the area, including the numerous wildflowers, towering trees, and green foliage. If you want to enjoy a few recreational activities, Giant City is a great place to horseback ride, fish, hike, and rappel. Many visitors take a walk on the Giant City Nature Trail to see the sandstone bluffs that date back over 12,000 years.
Rock Cut State Park
Rock Cut State Park in Illinois was once a spot where covered wagons forded the Rock River. Today, this location is a state park with a rich history and plenty of rolling plains. For those wildlife fans, you can see a wide variety of animals, including foxes, squirrels, woodchucks, muskrats, waterfowl, and deer. During the fall, you will be treated to an array of autumn colors. Olson Lake and Pierce Lake are also included in the park, and there are plenty of spots to enjoy water activities. In addition to that, Rock Cut is a popular place for camping, horseback riding, hiking, cross-country skiing, and hunting.
Mississippi Palisades State Park
Mississippi Palisades State Park in Illinois features some stunning rock formations, caves, and eagles. The Twin Sisters and Indian Head are some of the most notable rock formations in the park. In 1973, a portion of the park was designated as a national landmark. You can visit throughout the year, but you should think about heading here in the fall if you want to see vibrant colors.
For most of its history, this skyscraper was known as the Sears Tower. In 2009, the name was officially changed to the Willis Tower. For over 25 years, this was the tallest building in the world. Today, Willis Tower is still one of the most popular tourist attractions in Chicago. You can buy a ticket and head to the observation deck for a spectacular view of the city.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
This museum documents the life of the 16th U.S. president. You can follow his journey from boyhood through his assassination. This museum is one of the most visited presidential libraries in the country. It houses an extensive collection of Lincoln memorabilia and the collection of the Illinois State Historical Library.
Missouri Botanical Garden
The Missouri Botanical Garden is the oldest botanical garden in continuous operation. It is designated as a National Historic Landmark. You can explore over 79 acres of historic structures and gardens. Some of their outdoor and indoor displays include a Japanese garden, a tropical rain forest, and a seasonal children's garden.
You will want to see many cities on your Chicago to St. Louis road trip. When you are ready, you can find a few campgrounds to settle down for the night or a dump station to stay clean on your vacation.
Located just 30 miles southwest of Chicago, Joliet is the fourth-largest city in the state. If you love racing, you will want to catch a race at the Chicagoland Speedway (NASCAR) or the Route 66 Raceway (NHRA). This city is also home to the historic and stunning Rialto Square Theatre. There are many RV campgrounds in the area at which you can stay comfortable during your trip.
If you want to walk in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, then you should visit Springfield. You can even pay your respects to the 16th president at his final resting place. The Springfield Municipal Opera hosts many outdoor performances in the summer. Springfield is also a stop on the "Mother Road," and you will want to enjoy the Route 66 Film Festival in May. There are plenty of campgrounds to relax in the Springfield area.
Bloomington is almost in the center of Illinois. This prairie town is home to Illinois State University. You can also visit the Prairie Aviation Museum to look at the collection of military aircraft or take a stroll on Constitution Trail. There are plenty of campgrounds that will meet your travel needs and budget in Bloomington.
As you head out on your road trip from Chicago to St. Louis, you should stop and explore the local landscape and attractions. If you are looking for a unique way to hit the road, you can book an RV rental in Chicago or St. Louis. For those wanting to see all those exciting sights along the route, make sure to follow this Chicago to St. Louis road trip itinerary.