Taking a road trip from Grand Rapids to Rolla will surely provide a fun time for the entire family. There are some wonderful national parks and state parks along the route, and you will be able to see great attractions such as the St. Louis Arch and President Lincoln's home. Although the trip takes just over eight hours, you can extend it for a few days so that you have time to see many of these interesting places along the way.
There are two national parks very close to the route, and there are two more national parks within a half day's drive. Each of these parks has special features that make them well worth a stop on your road trip from Grand Rapids to Rolla.
Indiana Dunes National Park
The sand dunes at Indiana Dunes National Park are almost 200 feet high, and it took thousands of years for them to be created. The park is along the shore of Lake Michigan. It is a good place to go hiking, swimming, fishing, birding, cross country skiing, or to learn about the local wildlife in the nature center.
Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch National Park is located in downtown St. Louis on the Mississippi River. At the park, you can see the famous Gateway Arch designed by Eero Saarinen in 1968. If you would like a view from the top of this 630-foot structure, you can take a tram ride inside the arch to the top. Inside the park, you can also visit the American history museum and the old St. Louis Courthouse. The park has biking and walking trails as well.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio lies along the Cuyahoga River. The Ohio and Erie Canal once went through this area, and one of the attractions in the park is the Towpath Trail that follows the route of the former canal. Other attractions in the park include 60-foot Brandywine Falls, Blue Hen Falls, and Virginia Kendall Ledges, an area with huge boulders, caves, and ledges. You can also ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad through the park. Although you will have to make a detour of 4.5 hours from your Grand Rapids to Rolla RV road trip route to see it, a stop at Cuyahoga Valley National Park is worth the effort.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Located 4.5 hours from St. Louis, Mammoth Cave National Park is home to Mammoth Cave, the largest cave system in the world. It features over 400 miles of cave passages that have been mapped so far. Tours of many sections of the cave are available, and reservations are recommended. The park also offers hiking and biking trails, fishing, boating, horseback riding, and stargazing.
You will pass some beautiful state parks along this RV road trip from Grand Rapids to Rolla. Be sure to stop at a few of them to relax and see their wonderful caves, rivers, and other sights.
Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park has been voted the best attraction in the state of Illinois. It is known for its sandstone rock formations and the beautiful waterfalls that appear in spring when the snow thaws. Native Americans have lived in this area for the past 8,000 years. The first Europeans to discover it were Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette. Some of the activities you can do in the park include hiking, boating, and fishing. In winter, you can go ice fishing, too.
Castlewood State Park
In the early 1900s, trains would bring people from St. Louis to visit the area that is now Castlewood State Park. The hotels the vacationers once stayed in are gone, but the park in the beautiful Meramec River valley is still there for your enjoyment; it is known as one of the best areas for mountain biking in the area around St. Louis. Boating and fishing are also popular in the park.
Meramec State Park
Meramec State Park, with its steep forested hills and more than 40 caves, contains over 6,800 acres of land on the Meramec River. Guided tours of one of the caves, Fisher Cave, are offered in season, and you can even go rafting or canoeing on the river. Fishing is popular, too, and the visitor center has some large aquariums containing the species of fish that live in the river. Camping is also available in the park.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Lake of the Ozarks State Park lies on the shore of Lake of the Ozarks, one of Missouri's largest lakes at over 17,000 acres. You can go swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, or take a tour of Ozark Caverns. Camping is available, and there are several camp stores and two marinas in the park.
Onondaga Cave State Park
In Onondaga Cave State Park, you can tour two caves: Onondaga Cave and Cathedral Cave. Hiking trails will take you up to a bluff overlooking the Meramec River. You can also go canoeing, fishing, or bike riding.
Downtown Chicago is only 40 minutes north of your route on this Grand Rapids to Rolla Road Trip, so take the opportunity to visit Millennium Park. The highlight of the park is the huge Cloud Gate sculpture, nicknamed The Bean. It has a beautifully reflective surface that is designed to look like mercury. Another fun attraction in the park is Crown Fountain, a favorite place for kids to splash around.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
The Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, IL, contains the home that President Abraham Lincoln lived in for 17 years. Three of Lincoln's sons were born here, and the space has been restored to the way it was in 1860. The Lincolns left this home in 1861 to move to Washington when he became president.
Missouri Botanical Garden
The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis is considered one of the top three botanical gardens in the world. It is a National Historic Landmark and a leader in conservation, education, and science. Numerous indoor and outdoor displays can be found here, including a children's garden.
Stonehenge at Missouri S&T
When you arrive in Rolla, be sure to check out the Stonehenge on the Missouri S&T campus. This smaller version of the original Stonehenge in England was made by the university's Mechanics and Explosives Research Center to show what their water jet technology could do. The display is carved out of 160 tons of granite and is an impressive sight.
In Gary, Indiana, you can visit the Gary Aquatorium, the Michael Jackson family home, the Cathedral of the Holy Angels, and more. You will be able to find dump stations in Gary as well.
Top attractions in Joliet, Illinois, include the Rialto Square Theatre, the Chicagoland Speedway, the Joliet Area Historical Museum, and the Route 66 Raceway. If you plan to spend the night, consider staying at one of the many available campgrounds in Joliet.
There are lots of things to do in Bloomington, Illinois, including visits to the Miller Park Zoo, the McClean County Museum of History, and the Pepsi Ice Center. When you're ready to turn in for the night, reliable and well-maintained campgrounds like Kentuckiana Kampground and Prairie Pines Campground are conveniently nearby.
Springfield, Illinois, is home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Lincoln Tomb and War Memorials, the Illinois State Museum, and the Old State Capitol State Historic Site. Springfield also has some wonderful campgrounds and RV parks, as well as a few dump stations, if needed.
St. Louis, Missouri
Some fun attractions in St. Louis include the Gateway Arch, the St. Louis Zoo, and St. Louis Six Flags. There are also some great campgrounds nearby as well, such as Pin Oak Creek RV Park and Sundermeier RV Park. If you need a dump station for your RV, those are available as well.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Grand Rapids to Rolla, 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 Grand Rapids or Rolla.