Traveling across the Land of Lincoln, into the Hoosier state and beyond Kentucky's Bluegrass country is an excellent idea for a vacation. You may want to extend your trip by about 85 miles in order to visit Mammoth Cave National Park, and there are fantastic state parks to explore along the way. If you love to ride and interact with horses, this is an adventure that you will not want to miss.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park near Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, contains the world's most extensive documented cave system, and it's well worth extending your trip to explore it. Before the federal government made this a state park in 1941, you could find 80 communities on the land that is now home to the park. Look around during a visit, and you'll see traces of over 70 cemeteries containing headstones. Some of these serve as reminders of the time around 1840 when people with tuberculosis used the cave because doctors believed the cave air would cure them. One of the headstones belongs to Stephen Bishop, a slave and later a free man who mapped most of the cave systems. In addition to seeing the cave and visiting the cemeteries, you can find many things to do at Mammoth Cave National Park, including fishing, hiking, biking, and kayaking.
Kankakee River State Park
When you get to Champagne, Illinois, head north about 90 miles to Kankakee River State Park, near Bourbonnais, Illinois. A nearby stable offers carriage and trail rides through this state park. The Kankakee River is a fantastic spot to go fishing for smallmouth bass, catfish, and walleye. The shallow river, which is on the Federal Clean Streams Register, is a great place for a canoeing adventure, and the park offers two boat ramps. Many hunters come to this 4,000-acre park to go hunting or to train their hunting dogs. While you need to get a permit at the park's office, this is a wonderful place to do some metal detecting.
Fort Harrison State Park
Head to the Saddle Barn at Fort Harrison State Park near Indianapolis, Indiana, to pursue a trail ride or let your children go on a pony ride. This park is a fantastic place to take a stroll or a ride through the woodland forests. Fall Creek is an excellent place for a canoeing adventure under the tall shade trees along the riverbanks. This park is home to the Museum of 20th Century Warfare, where volunteers hold extraordinary reenactments throughout the year.
White River State Park
You can find so many things to do at Indianapolis’ White River State Park. If you enter this 250-acre park on its east side along West Washington Street, you'll see The Tent immediately to your right. This colorful stained glass display is one of many art displays located around this park. Next to it is the Indiana Museum, where you can learn more about the Hooser's state history, get a bite to eat, and enjoy a cup of tea. Just a little to the north is the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art and the NCAA Hall of Champions. Take a stroll along the canal before heading on to the west along Wabash Avenue to explore the National Institute for Fitness and Health. Return to the canal and head southeast to take in a ballgame at Victory Field. Head back along Washington Avenue to visit the Indiana Zoo and White River Gardens.
McCormick’s Creek State Park
You can also find a wide variety of activities at McCormick’s Creek State Park near Spencer, Indiana. Head to the stable for a guided trail ride or a pony ride in the arena. There are over 10 miles of hiking trails. The Olympic-size swimming pool and smaller wading pool are great places to cool off, and near the pool is a concession stand. Play racquetball, volleyball, basketball, ping pong, and other games at the recreation center, which is open in the summer. Challenge someone to a game of tennis on the lighted tennis courts. Before you start exploring this park, at lunchtime or after a full day of exploring, enjoy a meal at the restaurant.
Brown County State Park
Stop near Nashville, Indiana, to visit Brown County State Park. Take a hike or a horseback ride to see the covered bridge. There are over 20 miles of roads to explore on a scenic drive. Rent a horse at the Saddle Barn to go on a guided trail ride along some of the 70 miles of available trails. There are also challenging mountain bike trails to explore at this park, which is nicknamed the Little Smokies. Head to The Alpine Lodge to play at the indoor waterpark or enjoy a meal in the café.
Jester Park Equestrian Center
Jester Park Equestrian Center near Granger, Iowa, is a fantastic place to go for a sleigh or wagon ride pulled by huge draft horses. This location is also the ideal spot for a trail ride during the summer and fall. Your children may enjoy participating in the day camps at this location.
Illinois Horse Park
When you get to Bloomington, Illinois, consider heading north 77 miles to explore Illinois Horse Park. Start your visit to this park near Triumph, Illinois, by exploring the carriage museum. Then, stroll through the display barns. You can rent horses to ride inside or out. You can also watch others riding their horses and putting on demonstrations.
Kentucky Horse Park
Consider ending your road trip from Des Moines to Louisville about 78 miles to visit the Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington. This facility is home to more than 100 horses, representing over 36 breeds. On warm days, watch the twice-daily parades to see many of the animals. On cooler days, stroll through the barns to see them in their stalls and interact with park staff. This facility is also home to the American Saddlebred Museum and the International Museum of the Horse.
Iowa City, Iowa
The scenic views found at campgrounds in Iowa City, like West Overlook Campground and Sleepy Hollow RV Park & Campground, will help you relax and enjoy reconnecting with nature in Iowa City, so do not miss including this stop on your road trip itinerary from Des Moines to Louisville. You can always find something exciting happening at Iowa University. There are also plenty of Iowa City RV dump stations at Hickory Haven Campground and West Liberty RV Park.
On the banks of the Illinois River, Peoria, Illinois, is a fun city to explore with its riverfront museum and zoo. You can find fabulous campgrounds in Peoria, like Millpoint RV Park on Upper Peoria Lake and Jubilee State Park with its fantastic fishing. Peoria's RV dump stations are available at Kamp Komfort RV Park, Carl Spindler Marina and Campground, and Jubilee College State Park.
Abraham Lincoln began his law career in the Bloomington, Illinois, area, and you can find fabulous historical attractions about his life in the area. Staying in a Bloomington campground, like Comlara Park Campground or Kentuckiana Kampground, allows you more time to explore this city. After your stay, use a Bloomington RV dump station before continuing your journey. They're available at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park, Comlara County Park, and Love's Travel Stop.
Home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, numerous museums, and the state capital, there are many great reasons you'll want to stop and explore Indianapolis on your RV road trip. Thankfully, there are fabulous Indianapolis campgrounds, including Lake Haven Retreat, Indy Lakes RV, and Indianapolis KOA. You can easily find RV dump stations in Indianapolis, including at many Flying J Travel Plazas, Louisville North Campground, and Ouabache (Wabash) Trails Park.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Des Moines to Louisville, 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 Louisville.