What is the closest out-of-state national park to St. Louis?

Image source -

ST. LOUIS – You might not venture out much this weekend with a brutal stretch of cold weather ahead, but perhaps it’s a time you can start planning places to visit on warmer days.

The United States is home to 63 national parks. The National Park Service designates these parks as protected areas for their impact on conservation. Many of these spots offer vibrant ecosystems, rich histories, and exceptional opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Believe it or not, St. Louis is home to one national park. The Gateway Arch earned “national park” status in 2018. According to the NPS, the Arch represents St. Louis’ role in westward expansion in the 19th century, recognizing the contributions of Thomas Jefferson, Dred Scott, and many others.

Belleville man recovering after being mauled by two dogs

If you’re looking for a national park adventure outside of St. Louis, you’ll have to cross state lines and drive several hours for just about anything else.

What is the next closest national park to St. Louis?

According to Google Maps, head roughly four and a half hours and 280 miles southeast, and you’ll reach the Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

Mammoth Cave earned its national park distinction in 1941. Historians say Native Americans first discovered and explored the Mammoth Cave for minerals some 2,000 to 5,000 years before common era and its first passages formed 10 million years BCE.

To date, the Mammoth Cave system is considered the longest known in the world, extending roughly 426 miles. The national park covers 52,000 acres, primarily through Edmondson County near the center of the state.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities at Mammoth Cave National Park, including guided cave tours, hiking, camping, wildlife watching, canoeing, kayaking, stargazing and ranger-led educational programs. Mammoth Cave offers plenty of immaculate views, and Kentucky’s tourism board considers it one of the state’s top 10 places for photo opportunities.

In terms of miles traveled, Mammoth Cave just beats the next closest national park in shortest commutes from St. Louis. These are the five closest to the Gateway Arch National Park:

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky (279 miles; projected commute: 4 hours, 30 minutes)

Indiana Dunes in Indiana (306 miles; projected commute, 4 hours, 40 minutes)

Hot Springs in Arkansas (397 miles; projected commute: 6 hours, 10 minutes)

Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee (509 miles, projected commute: 7 hours, 40 minutes)

Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio (543 miles, projected commute: 8 hours, 10 minutes)

To plan a national park visit near you, click here. For a full list of national parks, click here.


Never Miss A Story

Get our Weekly recap with the latest news, articles and resources.
Cookie policy
We use our own and third party cookies to allow us to understand how the site is used and to support our marketing campaigns.

Hot daily news right into your inbox.