Before heading east on this Des Moines to Cleveland road trip, take some time to visit some of the highlights in Des Moines, like the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and the Des Moines Art Center. Once you are ready to hit the road, take I-80 east until you reach the Chicago area. At this point, you will switch to I-90 east to continue the trip. Along the way, there are two national parks and a few state parks that you can enjoy. When you get to Cleveland, make sure to spend some time boating, fishing, or enjoying other water sports at Lake Erie.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park will be the first national park to include on your road trip itinerary from Des Moines to Cleveland. The park has a pristine beach located on Lake Michigan, so plan to enjoy water activities during your visit. In addition to the 15 miles of shoreline where you can boat, fish, swim, and enjoy the water, you can also explore the dunes. There are six trails that total 19 miles that you can ride your bike on. If you'd sooner explore on foot, there are more than 50 miles of hiking trails in the national park. If your calves are ready for a workout, try one of the longer trails that go through the dunes.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Right before you get to your destination, you will come across Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This is an amazing park that has more than 125 miles of trails that you can hike. While you are hiking, you will encounter quite a few waterfalls. In fact, there are more than 100 falls in the park. Make sure that you hike to Brandywine Falls, which has a height of about 65 feet. The river that connects the falls is 100 miles long, so fishing, kayaking, and canoeing are also activities that can be enjoyed. Biking and horseback riding can also be enjoyed if you prefer to stay on land.
Matthiessen State Park
Matthiessen State Park is the first Illinois state park that you will want to visit. It is located about 4 miles south of Utica, so it is fairly easy to reach during this trip. There are a lot of gorgeous rock formations in the park that add interest to any walk. You can also explore a canyon, which drops about 45 feet from Deer Park Lake to Cascade Falls. The park has five trails that you can explore, and each one has a different level of difficulty. There are also biking and riding trails that you can enjoy.
Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park is less than 100 miles from Chicago, so it can easily be reached during this road trip. While visiting the park, you will see several waterfalls and more than 13 miles of trails that you can hike or explore on a bike. Since there are bodies of water in the park, you can enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming. There are also 18 breathtaking canyons that will give you stunning views. During the winter, the waterfalls create incredible ice sculptures in the canyons that you will want to see. Ice climbing, ice fishing, and skiing can also be enjoyed during this time of year.
Indiana Dunes State Park
Indiana Dunes State Park is a state park that is located within the boundaries of the national park with the same name. Of course, the dunes in the park are the main attraction, as you can hike through them to get some amazing views. You can sunbathe on the beach or enjoy some time in the waters of Lake Michigan. Fishing, bird watching, and biking are also activities that can be enjoyed in the park. In the winter months, cross-country skiing is also an option.
The Niabi Zoo is a great place for animal lovers to stop and see. The zoo has more than 600 animals living in it from more than 200 unique species. Take the time to explore the zoo calendar to see if any memorable experiences are happening during your visit. There are giraffe feedings, koi pond feedings, and budgie feedings. You can take a train ride to see the animals up close, and there is a carousel that kids will love to ride.
Odyssey Fun World
Odyssey Fun World is a family fun center. There is an indoor amusement park that brings the thrills as well as activities like miniature golf, laser tag, go-karts, and an arcade. If you plan on spending an entire day at this location, there are packages that you can purchase.
A Christmas Story House
If you love the movie "A Christmas Story," then make sure to stop at the A Christmas Story House during this road trip from Des Moines to Cleveland. The house has been renovated and turned into a museum, so you can see all of the props, memorabilia, and photos from the film. You can even opt to stay in the house overnight if you want.
Iowa City, Iowa
Iowa City is the first major city that you will want to explore. You can enjoy a relaxing day at the Coralville Reservoir, take a tour of the old capitol building, or attend a show at the Englert Theatre. If you are looking for a nice hike, head to Hickory Hill Park or explore the Maquoketa Caves. For a bit of history during your visit, you can explore the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.
If you really would like to explore the area, consider finding an Iowa City campground. West Overlook Campground is great for wildlife lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Anglers will enjoy staying at places like Sleepy Hollow RV Park, Linder Point Campground, and Tailwater West Campground. Dump stations are also available at various locations around the city.
The largest city that you will want to visit during this Des Moines to Cleveland RV road trip is Chicago. Because it is such a large city, you will have plenty to enjoy doing your visit. First, you've most likely heard about Chicago-style pizza, so if you've never tried it, make sure you do here, where you can get an authentic slice. In fact, there are pizza tours that you can take in the city. Also, make sure to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the International Museum of Surgical Science, and the Lincoln Park Zoo.
With so many highlights in a single city, finding a campground in the area will give you more time to explore. The campgrounds are not located in the city itself, but there are plenty of options in the surrounding area to consider. Dump stations are even easy to find in the area, so you will be able to get rid of your wastewater before you continue on your trip.
Since Toledo is located on the Maumee River, there is plenty of waterfront entertainment that you can enjoy during your visit to the city. Other attractions that you will want to explore include the Toledo Zoo, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo Botanical Garden, and the National Museum of the Great Lakes. There are 16 Metroparks in the city where you can enjoy bike riding, hiking, fishing, and more.
There are a lot of great campgrounds where you can stay when you are visiting Toledo, so regardless of what you are looking for, you will be able to find accommodations that fit your needs. There are campgrounds that cater to kids and activities that they enjoy as well as adults. Since you are in Ohio and getting close to the last leg of your RV road trip, finding a dump station in the area can give you the means to offload your wastewater.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Des Moines to Cleveland, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Des Moines or Cleveland.