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Explore these 10 National Parks near Detroit this Summer

Still looking to embark on an epic summer road trip? Look no further - these 10 national parks near Detroit provide idyllic outdoor destinations to satisfy your regional wanderlust. Hint: don't forget your passport!

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We have a confession to make: the Expedition Detroit team was largely not in the Detroit area last week.


As our social media following is already well-aware, we spent last week on a road trip back to Detroit from Bozeman, Montana. A multi-day adventure spent exploring timeless destinations like Little Bighorn National Monument, Devil's Tower National Monument, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and Badlands National Park. Each of these classic Americana experiences earned our full endorsement.


Road trips and national parks. Hard to imagine a more iconic dynamic duo. Just mentioning either concept stirs up an innate sense of unbridled adventure and opportunity. Ever sense President Ulysses S. Grant signed the act that established Yellowstone National Park as the world's first national park in 1872, Americans have loaded up their wagons and cars to venture out into the open road and explore the country's most beautiful, exotic, and wild destinations. Canada's history of conservation followed a similar trajectory, including the establishment of Banff National Park in 1885 and the world's first national parks government body in 1911.


Yellowstone, Banff, and the great national parks of the west should hold a coveted place on every outdoor enthusiast's bucket list. That goes without question. However, the national park systems constituting the "best idea that we've every had" stretch from sea to shining sea, covering the breadth of ecology diversity that has established North America as a recreational dream trip for the global outdoor community. And yes, several immaculate destinations selected for eternal conservation by our national governments are located within driving distance from the Motor City.


So, in the choice words of author Jack Kerouac, all you need to kick off your next national parks adventure is "a wheel in your hand and four on the road."


Here are 10 national parks near Detroit that are primed and ready for your next road trip this summer.

1. RIVER RAISIN NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD PARK | Monroe, Michigan

Travel Time from Detroit: 40 minutes

Established: 2009

Entrance Fee: None

Why You Should Visit: Beyond serving as the closest national park site to the confines of the City of Detroit, River Raisin National Battlefield Park provides a living memorial to the single bloodiest battle ever fought on Michigan soil. The park and its immaculate visitor center memorializes the 483 American, British, Canadian, and Native American lives that were lost during the park's namesake War of 1812 battle. Any visit to River Raisin will provide visitors with an immensely impactful historical experience and an opportunity to hike or run along the well-maintained and educational River Raisin National Battlefield Park trail.

Featured Experience: Hiking the River Raisin National Battlefield Park Trail


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2. POINT PELEE NATIONAL PARK | Leamington, Ontario

Travel Time from Detroit: 1 hour

Established: 1918

Entrance Fee: $16.75 CAD for groups; $8.50 CAD per adult

Why You Should Visit: Point Pelee National Park - Canada's southernmost point - provides a year-round destination for hiking, biking, trail running, kayaking, and relaxing along the park's Lake Erie beaches. Point Pelee is especially noteworthy within the Detroit region for two specific groups of outdoor enthusiasts: bird watchers and dark sky chasers. Point Pelee is recognized as one of Canada's best inland locations to observe seasonal bird migrations, including the park's more than 390 species of birds that annually visit the Point Pelee Birding Area. Point Pelee also holds the esteemed position as the #1 destination in the Detroit region for stargazing opportunities, with the park regularly hosting "Dark Sky Night" events for visitors during optimal stargazing periods.

Featured Experience: Biking the Point Pelee Centennial Bicycle Trail


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3. CUYAHOGA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK | Village of Peninsula, Ohio

Travel Time from Detroit: 2 hours 45 minutes

Established: 2000

Entrance Fee: None

Why You Should Visit: Cuyahoga Valley National Park constitutes Ohio's sole national park in the state of Ohio and one of three in the entire Great Lakes Basin, including Indiana Dunes National Park along Lake Michigan and Isle Royale National Park with Lake Superior. Cuyahoga Valley also differs from the other national parks in the United State due to its location between two large urban centers (Cleveland to the north and Akron to the south). Cuyahoga Valley attracted nearly 3 million visitors in 2022, which flocked to its trails to explore the park's picturesque waterfalls, deep forests, rolling hills, rocky ledges, historic structures, and open farmlands.

Featured Experience: Hiking the Ledges to Pine Grove Loop Trail


4. INDIANA DUNES NATIONAL PARK | Beverly Shores, Indiana

Travel Time from Detroit: 3 hours 35 minutes

Established: 2019

Entrance Fee: $25.00 USD per vehicle

Why You Should Visit: Lake Michigan's might has influenced Indiana Dunes National Park for millennia. Wind and waves have shaped the land, leaving a rich mosaic of habitats along the park's 15 miles of Indiana coast. Indiana Dunes' 50 miles of trails lead through shifting sand dunes, quiet woodlands, sunny prairies, and lush wetlands. Known for its striking plant and bird diversity, it's easy to find natural inspiration and solitude throughout the park’s 15,000 acres.

Featured Experience: Hike the Cowles Bog Loop Trail


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5. ROUGE NATIONAL URBAN PARK | Toronto, Ontario

Travel Time from Detroit: 4 hours 15 minutes

Established: 2015

Entrance Fee: None

Why You Should Visit: The sole National Urban Park near Detroit, Rouge National Urban Park provides the perfect outdoor complement to a visit to Canada's largest city, Toronto. Comprising the largest urban park in North America, Rouge is home to a rich assembly of forests, creeks, farms and trails as well as marshland, a beach on Lake Ontario, and human history spanning 10,000 years.

Featured Experience: Hike the Rouge Valley Loop Trail


6. SLEEPING BEAR DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE | Empire, Michigan

Travel Time from Detroit: 4 hours 20 minutes

Established: 1970

Entrance Fee: $25.00 USD per vehicle

Why You Should Visit: Miles of sand beach, bluffs that tower 450 feet above Lake Michigan, lush forests, clear inland lakes, and unique flora and fauna make up the natural wonder that is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. One of just three National Lakeshores and often regarded as the "Most Beautiful Place in America," Sleeping Bear's dunes provide visitors with breath-taking views across the expansive Lake Michigan. An island lighthouse, coastal villages, and picturesque farmsteads reflect the park’s rich maritime, agricultural, and recreational history.

Featured Hike: Hike the Dune Climb Trail


7. GEORGIAN BAY ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK | Midland, Ontario

Travel Time from Detroit: 5 hours 10 minutes

Established: 1929

Entrance Fee: $12.75 CAD for groups; $6.25 CAD per adult

Why You Should Visit: Canada's smallest national park - Georgian Bay Islands National Park - may just be the country's best kept secret. Located in the world’s largest freshwater archipelago and home to thousands of years of Indigenous history, Georgian Bay Islands contains a rich ecological diversity spanning dense deciduous forests to granite outcrops of the Canadian Shield. Beausoleil Island, the park's largest island, comprises of a remote island with a lifetime of beautiful and solitary hiking opportunities.

Featured Experience: Hike the Beausoleil Island Outer Loop Trail


8. BRUCE PENINSULA NATIONAL PARK | Northern Bruce Peninsula, Ontario

Travel Time from Detroit: 5 hours 15 minutes

Established: 1987

Entrance Fee: $16.75 CAD for groups; $8.50 CAD per adult

Why You Should Visit: Beloved for its rocky shorelines, dramatic cliffs, vibrant water, and lush woodlands, Bruce Peninsula National Park has welcomed generations of explorers, hikers, paddlers, and sun-bathers. Bruce Peninsula provides visitors with the opportunity to venture out directly from their campsite or yurt to the rugged shoreline of Georgian Bay, as well as to visit the boardwalk trails of Singing Sands on Lake Huron.

Featured Experience: Hike the Georgian Bay via Marr Lake Loop Trail


9. PICTURED ROCKS NATIONAL LAKESHORE | Monroe, Michigan

Travel Time from Detroit: 6 hours 20 minutes

Established: 1966

Entrance Fee: $20.00 USD per vehicle

Why You Should Visit: The first, largest, and often regarded as the most wild National Lakeshore in the U.S., Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore represents the one of the most breath-taking destinations not only in Michigan, but all of North America. Pictured Rocks' sandstone cliffs, beaches, waterfalls, sand dunes, inland lakes, deep forest, and wild shoreline have beckoned generations of outdoor enthusiasts to its rugged coastal trails. The power of Lake Superior shapes the park's lakeside features and affects every ecosystem, creating a unique landscape to explore. With stunning beaches, 10 inland lakes, and nearly 100 miles of trails, every recreationists can find their next great adventure at Pictured Rocks.

Featured Experience: Hike or Backpack the Chapel Loop Trail


10. THOUSAND ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK | Brockville, Ontario

Travel Time from Detroit: 6 hours 40 minutes

Established: 1904

Entrance Fee: $8.00 CAD per vehicle

Why You Should Visit: Last but certainly not least, Thousand Islands National Park invites you to journey to the park's picturesque granite islands and rugged shorelines. Representing the oldest Canadian National Park east of the Rocky Mountains, Thousand Islands provides endless opportunities for maritime exploration of its secluded bays by kayak or boat, as well as to camp or picnic by the river. Visitors to the park can also learn about the region's biodiversity and rich Indigenous heritage from the vantage point of wooded trails and rocky lookouts.

Featured Experience: Paddle the Deadman Bay to Cedar Island Water Trail

 

Have you visited any of these national parks near Detroit before? Do you have special insider tips for new visitors? Let us know in the comments - and don't forget to share this article with any of your adventure buddies who may be interested in joining you on your next best summer road trip!

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