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This month I’ve been focusing on the most important landmarks along Route 66, and in honor of National Park Week, I’m highlighting all the National Parks along Route 66.
There are five National Parks that are very easily accessed along Route 66 and are all well worth visiting if you’re driving the Mother Road.
This Guide to Route 66 begins in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles, if you’re traveling in the opposite direction, read this post in reverse!
Indiana Dunes National Park (Indiana)
While Indiana Dunes National Park is technically not on the route of Route 66, it is very close to your starting point (in the grand scheme of Route 66) and is worth making the detour if it means crossing another destination off your list.
If you haven’t heard of Indiana Dunes National Park before, that’s because it is a brand new National Park! Indiana Dunes became our 61st National Park on February 15th, 2019.
Gateway Arch National Park (Missouri)
You will drive directly past this National Park on your route, which means you know you can make this a quick stop along the way. If you have some time to spare, I would highly recommend checking out the Old Court House, which is also on the Gateway Arch grounds, and learning a little more about the history of this area.
There is a museum under the arch which is new and fully renovated as of last July (2018), but the pods to get to the top of the arch are the same as always, small and a little squeaky, but well worth the claustrophobic feelings.
St. Louis is the place I call home, and I’d love if you spent a few days here, but I understand time doesn’t always allow for that.
Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)
Again, you’ll have a hard time missing this stop along Route 66. The highway bisects the park grounds, passing right in between the “forest” part and the painted desert part. There is even a small patch of the original Route 66, marked by an old car and a plaque.
You will have to pay admission to pass through the Petrified Forest, but this is a great place to get out and stretch your legs. There are lots of short, easy to walk paths, but very little shade (the forest is not actually a forest) so please come prepared with lots of water and proper protective gear.
If you’re looking for a great place to stay while you’re visiting the Petrified Forest National Park, check out another iconic piece of Route 66 history and visit the Wigwam Village Motel.
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
Visiting the Grand Canyon is a little ways off the route, but when you are this close to the South Rim of one of the most iconic destinations in the United States, you have to make the stop, even if it is only for a moment.
We visited the Grand Canyon’s South Rim during sunrise on our Route 66 journey. There were minimal crowds early in the morning and there was a beautiful fog that lifted over the Canyon as the sun rose. While we didn’t have time on our trip to hike into the Canyon, you could easily spend a day or two on hikes at the Grand Canyon.
Channel Islands National Park (California)
Much like the beginning of our trip, Channel Islands National Park isn’t exactly along the Route, but it is nearby and very much worth taking a day trip to.
Channel Islands is off the coast of Los Angeles, a 50 minute boat ride into the Pacific. These chartered boats travel to the island on a regular schedule, but you will need to check to see which days it is running before you visit. The boats travel to certain islands on certain days. Be sure to research this one in advance.
On our boat ride out to the island, we saw multiple pods of dolphins swim alongside our boat, we saw sea lions on the island, and we snorkeled and saw some large orange fish.
Few things pair better than road trips and National Parks. The next time you hit the road, be sure to check which parks are nearby and pay them a visit! Not having enough time to see the entire park is always better than never seeing it at all, so even if you’re short on time, stop in! It will be even more incentive to come back next time!
Want More Route 66 Destinations? Check out these posts for all my favorite stops along the Mother Road!