In 2018, Congress redesignated the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial as Gateway Arch National Park, making it the first and only National Park in Missouri. The Gateway Arch is one of the most iconic architectural wonders in America, as recognizable as the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore. But even though there aren’t many National Parks in Missouri, the National Park Service manages other historic and beautiful sites. Let’s examine five of the best!
How Many National Parks Are in Missouri?
The Gateway Arch National Park is the only official National Park in Missouri. However, there are 12 other designated sites in Missouri that the National Park Service manages for a total of 13 Missouri national park sites. These include one national monument, three national historical parks, a national battlefield, a national scenic riverway, and parts of six National Historic Trails.
The George Washington Carver National Monument, the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site, the Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park, the Ulysses S. Grant Historic Site, and Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield commemorate important events, people, or settlements in America’s history.
Finally, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways protects two of the best floating rivers in the country.
What Is the Most Visited National Park in Missouri?
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited park in the country, saw over fourteen million people in 2021. Although there isn’t a park in Missouri (or anywhere else in the country) that comes close to that number, the Gateway Arch National Park is Missouri’s most-visited park. About one million people visited in 2021.
However, approximately one million people also visited the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Since there is no fee or entrance area, it’s tricky to calculate exactly how many visitors this National Park site had in 2021.
Pro Tip: Missouri isn’t the only affordable place to travel. Check out these other 9 Cheapest Places to Travel With Your RV.
5 Best National Parks in Missouri
Missouri isn’t at the top of most Americans’ bucket lists of places to visit. But even if Missouri doesn’t have giant glaciers or vast canyons, it offers beautiful scenery and essential American history for visitors. Let’s look at the five best National Parks in this Midwestern state.
1. Gateway Arch National Park
Address: Fourth Street between Market and Chestnut Streets, St. Louis, MO 63102
About: The smallest National Park in the country, Gateway Arch National Park, commemorates the Louisiana Purchase and the westward expansion of the United States, and the debate over slavery in the Dred Scott case. The 630-foot arch is the focal point, but visitors can also go inside the Old Courthouse, one of the oldest buildings in the city, where judges first heard the Dred Scott case. There’s also a museum on-site telling the history of America’s westward expansion and detailing the construction of the Gateway Arch.
Morton Trip Rating: 9/10 – It’s Missouri’s only National Park and worth exploring to learn more about the history of slavery and subsequent court battles. The trip in a unique tram capsule and the panoramic view from the top of the Arch is also one of the most memorable experiences guests can have at any National Park.
2. Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Address: 404 Watercress Drive, Van Buren, MO 63965
About: The Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri is the first National Park area protecting a river system. In 1964, Congress voted to protect the Current and Jacks Fork rivers. Over a million people visit this area annually to enjoy the natural beauty and participate in recreational activities like paddling, fishing, tubing, and canoeing. The park also includes springs, caves, and portions of the Ozark Trail.
Morton Trip Rating: 10/10 – The natural beauty of the Ozarks is breathtaking. Whether you’re visiting in spring, summer, or fall, you can enjoy the blooms, changing colors, and various recreational activities.
3. Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park
Address: 339 St. Marys Road, Ste. Genevieve, MO 63670
About: Ste. Geneviève was the first permanent European settlement in Missouri. By 1750, French Canadian settlers established a life around the rich agricultural land. Within the National Historical Park, visitors can visit the 1792 Bauvais-Amoureux House, the 1794 Jean Baptiste Vallé House, the Green Tree Tavern, and walk through the Jean Baptiste Vallé Gardens. All these historic buildings commemorate the life of the early French Canadian settlers.
Morton Trip Rating: 9/10 – Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park in Missouri is one of the more unique National Park sites in the country, with its focus on the French Canadian culture. The laws, religion, and architecture were unlike any other settlement.
4. Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
Address: 7400 Grant Road, St. Louis, MO 63123
About: People know Ulysses S. Grant for his heroism during the Civil War and his leadership as President of the United States. The National Historic Site in St. Louis is his wife’s family home where Grant lived. Visitors can easily explore the park in less than two hours. They can watch a park orientation film, wander the museum’s exhibits, and tour the historic White Haven estate. You can only access the interior of this 200-year-old home on a guided ranger-led tour.
Morton Trip Rating: 8/10 – Ulysses S. Grant was one of the most influential leaders in America’s history. He was also the first President to create a National Park when he made Yellowstone the first National Park in 1872. This makes Missouri a crucial part of the creation of National Parks. Touring the home where he fell in love with Julia Dent and lived from 1854-1859 is stepping onto the same hallowed grounds as a former Union general who helped save the country from an eventual split.
5. Harry S. Truman National Historic Site
Address: 223 North Main Street, Independence, MO 64050 (Visitor Center)
About: The 33rd President of the United States loved his home in Independence, Missouri. He grew up and returned here after serving as President. The Truman Home at the National Historic Site is where Truman lived from 1919 until his death. The Farm Home is a remnant of the family’s former 600-acre farm. Guided tours are first-come, first-served and offer a glimpse into the former President’s personal life.
Morton Trip Rating: 8/10 – Harry S. Truman wanted to be the “people’s President.” He never forgot where he came from, even after his years in office. Touring the grounds of this National Historic Site will offer insight into the life of one of the most beloved Presidents of the 20th Century.
Pro Tip: Go off the beaten path and visit these 11 National Parks You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Missouri?
You’ll experience the best weather from May to September in Missouri. The summers are the high tourist season, so you’ll find accommodations more expensive during those months, but you’ll also find many activities and attractions. These summer months are also the hottest, but usually, they’re bearable, regularly reaching about 93 degrees.
The temperature will quickly drop as soon as October hits, with the average hovering around 65 degrees and lows close to freezing by Halloween. Before summer, March-May will see the most days of precipitation, with more wet weather than dry.
Is a Visit to the National Parks in Missouri Worth It?
The National Parks in Missouri have much to teach us. From our nation’s history to the wildlife and natural beauty of the Ozarks, there’s something for everyone. Families can go on adventures down the riverways or ride in a spaceship-like tram in the Gateway Arch. History buffs can relish the chance to step on the properties of two former Presidents. Whatever you’re searching for, Missouri’s National Parks will deliver!
When will you make your road trip to the Show Me State? Tell us in the comments!
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