Camping in the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark

Camping was essential to the Corps of Discovery, and this guide leads you in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark.

Campgrounds have been selected in each of the 16 states along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.  Whether you are a parent trying to add some educational content to your family vacation, or a die-hard adventurer who wishes to camp the Lewis and Clark Trail, this guide is guaranteed to have something for you!

In the words of William Clark, you will be greeted by some of the “grandest and most pleasing prospects”.  Each of these states has dozens of other outdoor attractions worth visiting, but these have been chosen based on their proximity to the Lewis and Clark Trail.


Pennsylvania

Raccoon Creek State Park is located in western Pennsylvania under an hour from Pittsburgh.  It includes 42 miles of hiking trails, a lake for fishing and swimming, and the Frankfort Mineral Springs.
Raccoon Creek State Park

West Virginia

Tomlinson Run State Park is known as West Virginia’s “top” park, because of its location in the upper panhandle of the state.  It boasts geocaching, swimming, hiking, and camping.

North Bend State Park’s main feature is the North Bend Rail Trail which is 72-miles of old railroad tunnels and bridges.  North Bend features the Quest program which provides customized outdoor experiences.

Bonus SiteHarper’s Ferry National Historic Park is located on the confluence of Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.  In July of 1803, Meriwether Lewis stopped here to pick up supplies for his trip westward.  Harper’s Ferry is a historic village with museums and exhibits.

Harper's Ferry

Ohio

Forked Run State Park is situated near both a lake and the Ohio River.  In the heart of Appalachia, Forked Run offers a variety of activities, including swimming, hunting, hiking, and disc golf.East Fork State Park is just 25 miles from Cincinnati.  The park’s nearly 5,000 acres reveal forests, swamps, and grasslands.  Formed by glacial activity, East Fork offers hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

East Fork State Park
East Fork State Park

Kentucky

Big Bone Lick State Historic Site was visited by Meriwether Lewis, who studied fossils in the area, in October of 1803.  Big Bone Lick features an 18-hole mini-golf course as well as fossil displays and a bison herd.Columbus-Belmont State Park is located near the Mississippi River on the western end of Kentucky.  It is a National Scenic Byway, National Trail of Tears, and Civil War Heritage Trail site.  Birding is a prime activity due to the blufftop overlooks.

Bonus Site: Mammoth Cave National Park is home to the world’s longest known cave system.  A tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is highly recommended, despite its location off the Lewis and Clark Trail.  Take the time to see it!

Big Bone Lick State Historic Site
Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

Indiana

Clifty Falls State Park is home to breathtaking waterfalls, fossil remnants, and the 1852 Railroad Tunnel.  The 4-mile Four Falls Challenge takes hikers past the four major cascades in Clifty Falls as well as the 600-foot-long tunnel.Lincoln State Park invites explorers to take a step back in time when Abraham Lincoln was just a boy.  The park includes hiking trails, Lake Lincoln, as well as historic buildings, and an interpretive center.

Bonus SiteIndiana Dunes National Park is far from the Lewis and Clark Trail, but with nearly 15 miles of sandy shoreline, it is a unique site to be seen.  It’s nearly 50 miles of hiking trails cut through wetlands, prairies, forests, and dunes.

Lincoln State Park

Illinois

Fort Massac State Park has overlooked the Ohio River since long before 1908, when it became Illinois’ first state park.  In late 1803, Meriwether Lewis hired an interpreter and the Corps of Expedition gained two volunteers near here.  The annual Fort Massac Encampment festival brings colonial America to life.Fort Kaskaskia was visited by Lewis and Clark on November 29, 1803, and 6 men enlisted in the Corps of Discovery. Now, only the remnants of the earthworks of Fort Kaskaskia remain atop the bluff.

Fort Massac State Park in Metropolis
Fort Massac State Park Camping

Missouri

Arrow Rock State Historic Site is a step back in time.  A main attraction is the longest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi, J. Huston Tavern.  Arrow Rock offers a campground as well as Big Soldier Lake.Weston Bend State Park offers sweeping views of the Missouri River Valley through which Lewis and Clark made their way.  With hiking trails that meander the top of the bluffs and paths that lead right to the river’s edge, Weston Bend is a perfect family site.  A paved biking path weaves through the trees.

Bonus SiteDevil’s Icebox is a sinkhole in part of the Devil’s Icebox Cave system.  Visitors will immediately notice a rush of cool air near the entrance to sinkhole.  A visit to the Devil’s Icebox while traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail is well worth it.

50 amp electric sites at Arrow Rock State Historic Site campground. – Michael Dickey
50 amp electric sites at Arrow Rock State Historic Site campground. – Michael Dickey

Kansas

Perry State Park is a hidden gem of Kansas.  Located on Perry Lake, Perry State Park has nearly 45 miles of horseback and hiking trails, 1,000 acres of marshes perfect for watching or hunting waterfowl, and nearly 160 miles of shoreline.  The 11,000 acres of Perry Lake are perfect for fishing or water sports.Warnock Lake is located in Atchison, KS, where the Corps of Discovery spent the 4th of July in 1804.  A favorite park among locals, the International Forest of Friendship, which houses trees from every state and a variety of countries, is situated by Warnock Lake.

Perry State Park in Kansas
Perry State Park

Nebraska

Indian Cave State Park is a hidden treasure along the trail.  With over 3,000 acres nestled in the bluffs near the Missouri River, Indian Cave features hiking trails for both families and more athletic types, trail rides, the historic St. Deroin Village, and sweeping views of the river valley.  It is named for the unique cave-like rock overhang in the park.Ponca State Park is located on a calm stretch of the Missouri River, making it perfect for water activities like canoeing, kayaking, or boating.  Trail rides, fishing, hiking, archery, and shooting can all be found at Ponca.

Camping in Indian Cave State Park
Camping in Indian Cave State Park

Iowa

Waubonsie State Park is located in the Loess Hills, a soil phenomenon only occurring in Iowa and Missouri, and China. The first state park in Iowa, Waubonsie boasts a number of trails that provide excellent scenery and views for sunrises and sunsets.Lewis and Clark State Park is the perfect stop for a Lewis and Clark enthusiast!  A full-size replica keelboat and several other model boats are on display here.  August 10, 1804, marks the day that the Corps of Discovery made camp here.

WAUBONSIE STATE PARK
Waubonsie State Park

South Dakota

Lewis and Clark Recreation Area is one of South Dakota’s most popular resort parks.  It includes marinas, beaches, and three campgrounds.  With plenty of water activities, an archery range, a disc golf course, snowshoeing, and other outdoor activities, Lewis and Clark won’t disappoint, no matter your group’s preferences.Indian Creek Recreation Area is an excellent place to explore and enjoy.  Visited by Lewis and Clark in 1804, then used by local cowboys to fatten their herds before transporting them, these rolling hills provide relaxing views.

Bonus SiteCuster State Park is off the Lewis and Clark Trail, but it’s worth the visit.  With over 71,000 acres of forest, grassland, rock, and water, Custer is a pristine and beautiful park.  Thomas Jefferson, who authorized the Corps of Discovery, is enshrined on nearby Mount Rushmore.  Visits to this gem of a park are strongly encouraged (plus, part of National Treaure 2 was filmed in Custer and visitors can scramble around on the rock that’s in the movie).

Custer State Park

North Dakota

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is the oldest state park in North Dakota.  In October of 1804, Lewis and Clark first made contact with the Mandan Indian tribes and their earthlodges are still visible.  A reconstructed military fort, a Mandan village, and hiking trails are all attractions for history lovers.Lewis and Clark State Park sits on the northern banks of Lake Sakakawea.  Boating, fishing, and swimming attract both families and avid outdoorsmen to this state park.

Clark Cabin at Lewis and Clark State Park

Montana

Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is one of Montana’s treasures.  While the Corps of Discovery never actually discovered the caverns, they did travel through the park’s borders, and President Theodore Roosevelt named them in honor of their expedition.  Cave tours are the main highlight here.Hell Creek State Park offers beautiful scenery along Fort Peck Lake in the Missouri Breaks.  Water activities, such as boating, fishing, ice fishing, and ice skating are enjoyed at Hell Creek.

Paradise Room of Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
Paradise Room of Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Idaho

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest is 4 million acres of terrain, nearly half of which is classified as Wilderness.  It offers dozens of campsites, as well as hiking, fishing, hunting, and other activities.Hells Gate State Park lies on the bottom of the riverbed formed by ice age flooding nearly 15,000 years ago.  The Lewis and Clark Discovery Center features displays focused on the Corps of Discovery and the Nez Perce tribes they encountered.

Meadow
Meadow – U.S. Forest Service

Oregon

Deschutes River State Recreation Area is situated on the convergence of the Deschutes and Columbia rivers where the Deschutes twists, turns, and drops as it nears its end, creating the perfect environment for rafting, kayaking, and inner tubing.Clatsop State Forest invites campers to follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, who first surveyed these “pleasing prospects” in 1805. Boating, hiking, and horseback-riding are just some of the entertainment you can find here!

Deschutes River State Recreation Area

Washington

Beacon Rock State Park is located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.  With jaw-dropping views and adrenaline-inducing rock-climbing, there’s no boredom here.  The switchback climb to the top of Beacon Rock – named by Lewis and Clark in 1805 – is just one highlight of this park.Cape Disappointment State Park is more than 2,000 acres situated on the Pacific Ocean.  Clam-digging is a unique attraction here!  The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center provides interactive exhibits about the end of the first leg of the Corps of Discovery Expedition and their interactions with the Native tribes.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment State Park
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment State Park