Planning any type of trip is always fun, and when you are taking a Denver to Chicago RV road trip, there is the added excitement of knowing you have endless opportunities to see many different sites along the way. Denver is the Mile High City of the West, and you can spend some time enjoying the city before you begin your trip. As you travel eastward to Chicago, you will pass through the states of Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois. Each state has its own unique character. Driving straight through with minimal stops will take a couple of days, and if you have time for any side trips, you can plan on a week or two on the road. Driving an RV allows you to stay at campgrounds while you tour the areas, and there are many beautiful national and state parks that offer RV camping in the parks.
Your road trip from Denver to Chicago will take you through the Midwestern states, and there are many beautiful areas of the country to see on your drive. There are two national parks that are near your starting and ending points: Rocky Mountain National Park near Denver and Indiana Sand Dunes National Park near Chicago.
Rocky Mountain National Park
There is no better way to experience the Rocky Mountains of the Western U.S. than by visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The park comprises the Front Range of the Rockies and is located between the towns of Grand Lake and Estes Park. The Continental Divide bisects the park center, and the Colorado River runs through the northwestern section of the park. The park was created in 1915 and remains one of the most visited national parks. Visitors will want to traverse the popular Trail Ridge Road, which has a top elevation of 12,000 feet and multiple overlooks to view the alpine and subalpine biomes. This large park contains varied habitats of wildflowers, tundra, alpine lakes, forests, and rocky formations and many species of wildlife, including mountain goats. Inside the park, there are over 350 miles of hiking trails that accommodate both the beginner and the adventurous hiker.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
Indiana Sand Dunes is a recently promoted national park, named as such in 2019 from its previous National Lakeshore designation. The park is located along the shores of Lake Michigan and has 15 miles of shoreline, 50 miles of nature trails, and a diverse ecosystem of white pines, bog plants, ferns, flowers, prairie grasses, algae, and the towering dunes. While in the park, you can walk on dune trails, like the Marquette and Calumet, or hike along other trails like the Cowles Bog Trail that runs through marshes, ponds, the beach, and a stand of white cedars. Depending on the season, visitors can ice fish, snowshoe, snow ski, swim, boat, fish, bird-watch, hike, and bike. Lake Michigan is 300 miles long, and you can participate in any and all types of boating on the lake. The park is unusual among national parks in that it contains 15 parcels of non-contiguous lands.
You will be driving through four states on your Denver to Chicago road trip. Each of these states has numerous state parks, and you can make as many stops as you have time for at any of these parks.
Jackson Lake State Park
Often referred to as an "Oasis in the Plains," Jackson Lake State Park in Colorado is a great destination for boating, swimming, fishing, and water skiing. The beaches along the shoreline are ranked as some of the top park beaches in the country. The park is located along the Central Flyway for migratory birds, and bird-watchers and hunters alike visit the park in high numbers during these seasonal flights. Some bird species you may encounter are northern harriers, hawks, curlews, whooping cranes, buntings, and more. If you are visiting in the winter, you can see many species of land-based wildlife throughout the park. Other activities include OHV riding along designated OHV tracks.
Mahoney State Park
Mahoney State Park is situated midway between Lincoln and Omaha and is a nice, modern state park that your whole family will enjoy. This resort-like park contains the Peter Kiewit Lodge with 40 guest rooms, many of which offer great views of the Platte River valley below. Popular activities include visiting the aquatic center, playing on the playgrounds, trying out the rope course, rock climbing, ice skating, sledding, and more. You will enjoy dining at Caddy's Parkside Grill and using the arts and crafts center.
Mississippi Palisades State Park
Mississippi Palisades State Park is located alongside the Mississippi River and is just north of Davenport, Iowa. This unique area on the Mississippi is composed of river cliffs, caves, and limestone sinkholes. There are unusual rock formations, like Indian Head with its aquiline features, and the Twin Sisters, which resemble a pair of human-like figures on the bluff tops. Visitors will love walking through wooded ravines of white birch and meadows of bluebell, shooting star, trillium, yellow ladies' slipper, and lobelia. Some of the animals you may see are gray squirrels, muskrats, weasels, deer, minks, red and gray foxes, and badgers.
As you travel, you may have time to stop at some of the many interesting attractions along your route.
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
The Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, located in Denver, has more than four dozen aircraft and space vehicles that are spread out over 150,000 square feet. These exhibits include a B-18A Bolo, an Alexander Eaglerock, an RF-84K Thunderflash Parasite, and even a Star Wars X-Wing fighter. Many exhibits are interactive, and the guides are helpful and knowledgeable.
The National World War I Museum
The National World War I Museum is ranked as one of the best museums of its kind. Located in Kansas City, this museum resides in a sleek building that has a glass walkway over a field of red poppies, meant to remind us of the combat in the trenches of World War I. You will appreciate the many informative displays and collections of weapons and uniforms. Make sure you visit the Liberty Memorial in the museum for a great view of Kansas City
Worlds of Fun
The Worlds of Fun theme park in Kansas City has 235 acres of fast-moving fun for all. You will enjoy the thrill of the Mamba roller coaster, which is one of the fastest and most intense roller coasters in the world. Your entire family will be entertained by the Dinosaurs Alive attraction, with its life-size dinosaurs.
Pappajohn Sculpture Park
The Pappajohn Sculpture Park covers 4 acres of grassy lawns in Kansas City and is a large and quirky group of sculptures donated from the private collection of John and Mary Pappajohn. This unique collection is definitely worth viewing, and you either tour the park yourself or take a guided tour.
North Platte, NE
North Platte is located in southwest Nebraska on the confluence of the North Platte and South Platte rivers. Besides all the water-based fun you can have, the city also features historic railways, freight trains, and museums. There are a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and parks you can visit while in the area as well. The Holiday RV Park & Campground is a quiet and comfortable location from which to venture into the city of North Platte. There are numerous dump stations in North Platte and the surrounding areas.
Des Moines, IA
Des Moines is the capital of Iowa and the state's most populous city. The city hall and several other buildings in the downtown area are surviving examples of circa 1900-1910 architecture. Des Moines is a vibrant city with many attractions, like the Principal Riverwalk, which has a 1.2-mile trail that connects the east and west sides of downtown Des Moines with two pedestrian bridges. Other trail sections connect various plazas and city areas. The Des Moines West KOA Holiday campground, located a little west of Des Moines, features a communal kitchen, a snack bar, rental bikes, and fishing opportunities. There are several locations for dump stations in the Des Moines area.
Cedar Rapids, IA
Cedar Rapids is the second-largest city in Iowa. It is commonly referred to as the "City of Five Seasons," the fifth season which allows all to enjoy the other four seasons. The city has a Tree of Five Seasons downtown along the north riverbank of the Cedar River. While in Cedar Rapids, you can visit a number of cultural venues, such as various art museums and theaters, and participate in various water-based activities. The Lazy Acres RV Park is just north of Cedar Rapids and has kid-friendly fun such as volleyball and miniature golf. The RV sites are large and have lots of space between them. You can also find dump stations in this area.
There are boundless opportunities for fun along your road trip from Denver to Chicago. Not only will you be visiting both Denver and Chicago, two large urban cities, but driving in a rental RV from RVshare is the ideal way to have the freedom to stop wherever you desire along the way. Good times and good memories await as soon as you turn your RV onto the highway.