A road trip from Fort Collins to Chicago is a great opportunity to see a large amount of the western and midwestern United States. Colorado is home to the Rocky Mountains and other mountain ranges, and Rocky Mountain National Park is only an hour away from Fort Collins. Your route will take you through the states of Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois and will take around two days of driving. You will get the chance to see mountain peaks, valleys, plains, and rivers. There are many ranchlands in the western states, and much of the Midwest features miles and miles of cultivated farmlands. Another national park, Indiana Sand Dunes National Park, lies at the end of your journey on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Rocky Mountain National Park
A visit to Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect addition for your Fort Collins to Chicago road trip itinerary. The park is only an hour from Fort Collins and is one of the more unique and beautiful national parks in the U.S. Here, you will find a varied environment of tundra, alpine and subalpine biomes in the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains. During the spring months, there are fields of wildflowers in the meadows, and in the winter, the peaks are blanketed by deep snow. You will have many opportunities to see bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, and mountain goats in all seasons, and hiking on the towering mountain peaks is a lifetime goal for many outdoors enthusiasts. The park contains more than 100 peaks that are 11,000 feet or more in elevation, including Longs Peak, which is a whopping 14,000 feet high. A noteworthy feature of the Rocky Mountains National Park is that the Continental Divide bisects the park.
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park
Indiana Sand Dunes National Park is the perfect capstone to your road trip from Fort Collins to Chicago. It is under an hour's drive to the east of Chicago and is well worth your time. Indiana Sand Dunes National Park began as a state park in 1926, was designated as a National Lakeshore in 1966, and became the 61st U.S. National Park in 2019. This 15,000-acre park contains 15 miles of lakeshore on Lake Michigan and is noteworthy for its tall sand dunes and for being commonly ranked as the fourth most ecologically diverse park in the National Park System. Visitors to this park can hike along miles of trails, visit the sand dunes, and experience all the expected water activities available on Lake Michigan. There are also several national landmarks present in the park.
North Sterling State Park
North Sterling State Park contains the man-made North Sterling Reservoir, a large lake that offers boating and fishing in the spring and summer and fishing and ice fishing in the winter months. The reservoir is stocked with walleye, wiper, catfish, rainbow trout, bluegill, smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, northern pike, yellow perch, drum, carp, and channel catfish. Waterfowl hunting is allowed in season from Labor Day to Memorial Day, and the fall is an excellent time to observe migratory eagles and hawks. The marina is open in the spring and summer, and you will enjoy skiing and other boating activities. There are also 6 miles of trails inside the park, and camping is available.
Platte River State Park
Platte River State Park is located just west of Omaha and is full of family-friendly activities. There is a fun spray park for the little ones, and children 6 years of age and older can ride horses on the equestrian trail. Everyone will enjoy walking along the nature trails and viewing the waterfall. Two observation towers afford excellent views of the Platte River below.
Matthiessen State Park
Matthiessen State Park is located in Oglesby and is close to the city of Chicago. The park contains a varying landscape of canyons, bluffs, prairies, creeks, and forests, and the unique rock formations are fascinating to see. There are numerous nature and multi-use trails, some of which are boardwalks with stairs. There are cross-country ski trails and an equestrian campground and trail. During the winter, you can rent skis on the weekends. There is also a restored fort that is representative of types of forts built by the French in the early 1700s.
The Colorado Model Railroad Museum
The Colorado Model Railroad Museum is a unique museum devoted to the art and history of model trains. The center is 5,500 square feet and contains more than 500 scale locomotives, 80 miles of scale train tracks, and thousands of hand-crafted models that are displayed in hundreds of designed scenarios. The layouts are styled in an open-air design with wide aisles and bright lighting so that visitors can take in every detail. While in the museum, you can also tour a 1919 Colorado and Southern Caboose.
Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is ranked consistently as one of the world's best zoos by publications like USA Today. The zoo not only serves as a zoo but also as a biological park with a focus on conservation. The park has 130 acres with 7 acres of indoor exhibits. Here, you will find the largest indoor desert and rainforest exhibits in North America and thousands of animals from around the globe. You will marvel at the immersive experiences and interactive elements.
Visiting the Navy Pier at the culmination of your Fort Collins to Chicago road trip is an easy decision. This iconic symbol of Chicago extends out into Lake Michigan for 3,300 feet and houses numerous attractions and shops on its acres of real estate. You will find eateries, retail shops, and entertainment venues, with the Centennial Wheel Ferris wheel dominating the entirety. The Centennial Wheel rises 200 feet into the sky and affords riders a spectacular view of the pier and Lake Michigan, which is especially dramatic at night.
Grand Island is located in central Nebraska and is very near the Platte River. You will find many things to see and do while in the city, such as touring the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, which explores the history of the area. The Burlington Station houses a fascinating model layout of Grand Island, circa the mid-1900s. You can also visit a butterfly garden or hike along one of the many nature trails. If you are in need of a dump station, there are several options available for you. Hall County Park Campground offers a tranquil setting in a small park and is close to the activities in the city.
Omaha is located in Nebraska near the Iowa state border on the Missouri River. It is a part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and the city has many historical sites and centers that explain and detail the rich pioneer history of this area. The city also has lots of cultural and entertainment venues and centers. If you have a chance, you should definitely take the time to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, ranked as one of the best zoos in the world. Haworth Park features a great location on the Missouri River and has sports fields and playgrounds for the kids. Finding a convenient dump station is an easy task in this area.
Des Moines is the capital city of Iowa, and the state capital building is a popular attraction for visitors to the city. The building contains 29 types of marble, 12 species of wood that are native to Iowa, except for the mahogany, and possesses a 23-karat gold-plated dome. The capital building has a model of the USS Iowa battleship and many other monuments and memorials. You can also visit the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden for a quiet and peaceful respite from the road. The city of Des Moines is a good stopping point on your Fort Collins to Chicago RV road trip, and you can stay at Walnut Creek State Park, which features hiking trails and a nice lodge. There are many dump stations in Des Moines and the surrounding areas.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Fort Collins to Chicago, 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 Fort Collins or Chicago.