Approximately 237 million people visited American national parks in 2020, representing a 28% year-over-year decrease attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many parks were forced to close to combat the spread of the virus, but that’s not the whole story. When the parks were open, many of them saw record crowds as throngs of people desperate to safely enjoy nature descended onto parks when they reopened.

President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 signed the act creating the National Park Service to leave natural and historic phenomenons “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Since then, our national parks have welcomed visitors from around the world to experience some of the best the country has to offer and showcase the country’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Today, the country’s 63 national parks contain at least 247 species of endangered or threatened plants and animals, more than 75,000 archaeological sites, and 18,000 miles of trails.

Stacker compiled a list of the closest national parks to Kansas City. National parks are ranked by closest straight line distance, measured from representative points in Kansas City metro and each national park. Estimated driving times are from Here.com and are only available within the lower 48 states.

All featured distances and driving times are estimated using representative locations from the center of each metro and national park — for some places within the metro area, the actual distance may be slightly shorter or longer to reach the closest entryway to a park.

Be sure to check with individual parks before you visit to find out about ongoing, pandemic-related safety precautions at nps.gov/coronavirus.

Gateway Arch St. Louis skyline
Gateway Arch National Park

#1. Gateway Arch National Park (Missouri)

– Distance: 231 miles
– Driving time: 3.7 hours
– Date founded: February 22, 2018[47]
– 2020 visitors: 486,021 (#31 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 192.83 acres

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Hot Springs National Park

#2. Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)

– Distance: 315 miles
– Driving time: 6.7 hours
– Date founded: March 4, 1921
– 2020 visitors: 1,348,215 (#16 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 5,554.15 acres

Boardwalk steps down a dune at Indiana Dunes National Park

#3. Indiana Dunes National Park (Indiana)

– Distance: 433 miles
– Driving time: 8.3 hours
– Date founded: February 15, 2019
– 2020 visitors: 2,293,106 (#11 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 15,349.08 acres

Mammoth Cave National Park

#4. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

– Distance: 471 miles
– Driving time: 8.6 hours
– Date founded: July 1, 1941
– 2020 visitors: 290,392 (#41 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 54,011.91 acres

Wild Buffalo roaming near the campground in the Badlands National Park South Dakota

#5. Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

– Distance: 534 miles
– Driving time: 10.0 hours
– Date founded: November 10, 1978
– 2020 visitors: 916,932 (#21 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 242,755.94 acres

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Natural rock formation inside the cave of a preserve park

#6. Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota)

– Distance: 569 miles
– Driving time: 11.0 hours
– Date founded: January 9, 1903
– 2020 visitors: 448,405 (#33 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 33,970.84 acres

Cars drive down the Trail Ridge Road May 23, 2003 in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. (Photo by Kevin Moloney/Getty Images)

#7. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

– Distance: 602 miles
– Driving time: 10.0 hours
– Date founded: January 26, 1915
– 2020 visitors: 3,305,199 (#4 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 265,807.25 acres

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado in autumn

#8. Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado)

– Distance: 607 miles
– Driving time: 11.2 hours
– Date founded: September 24, 2004
– 2020 visitors: 461,532 (#32 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 107,341.87 acres

Autumn colors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

#9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina, Tennessee)

– Distance: 641 miles
– Driving time: 11.9 hours
– Date founded: June 15, 1934
– 2020 visitors: 12,095,720 (#1 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 522,426.88 acres

The sunset along the waters of Voyageurs National Park as seen from the Ash Visitor Center.

#10. Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

– Distance: 665 miles
– Driving time: 11.1 hours
– Date founded: April 8, 1975
– 2020 visitors: 263,091 (#44 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 218,222.35 acres

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Tranquility at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan

#11. Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)

– Distance: 698 miles
– Driving time: 14.0 hours
– Date founded: April 3, 1940
– 2020 visitors: 6,493 (#59 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 571,790.30 acres

Cuyahoga Valley National ParkCuyahoga Valley National Park

#12. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

– Distance: 701 miles
– Driving time: 11.7 hours
– Date founded: October 11, 2000
– 2020 visitors: 2,755,628 (#7 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 32,571.88 acres

Gunnison river in the depths of Black Canyon of the Gunnison national park, Colorado, USA.

#13. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (Colorado)

– Distance: 717 miles
– Driving time: 13.7 hours
– Date founded: October 21, 1999
– 2020 visitors: 341,620 (#39 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 30,779.83 acres

LIttle Missouri River in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota

#14. Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)

– Distance: 718 miles
– Driving time: 13.8 hours
– Date founded: November 10, 1978
– 2020 visitors: 551,303 (#28 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 70,446.89 acres

Setting sun behind the girders of the high arched New River Gorge bridge in West Virginia

#15. New River Gorge National Park (West Virginia)

– Distance: 726 miles
– Driving time: 12.4 hours
– Date founded: December 27, 2020
– 2020 visitors: 1,054,374 (#19 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 7,021 acres

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park New Mexico.

#16. Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

– Distance: 730 miles
– Driving time: 13.6 hours
– Date founded: May 14, 1930
– 2020 visitors: 183,835 (#45 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 46,766.45 acres

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is an American national park in the Guadalupe Mountains, east of El Paso, Texas.

#17. Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

– Distance: 761 miles
– Driving time: 14.7 hours
– Date founded: October 15, 1966
– 2020 visitors: 151,256 (#49 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 86,367.10 acres

A view of the Cliff Palace, one of the cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloans at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, taken on May 14, 2015. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)

#18. Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)

– Distance: 775 miles
– Driving time: 15.3 hours
– Date founded: June 29, 1906
– 2020 visitors: 287,477 (#42 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 52,485.17 acres

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, USA

#19. White Sands National Park (New Mexico)

– Distance: 782 miles
– Driving time: 13.8 hours
– Date founded: December 20, 2019 [111]
– 2020 visitors: 415,383 (#34 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 146,344.31 acres

Hikers walk beside the Delicate Arch at sunset in the Arches National Park near Moab, Utah on April 21, 2018. (Photo by Mark Ralston / AFP)

#20. Arches National Park (Utah)

– Distance: 816 miles
– Driving time: 14.1 hours
– Date founded: November 12, 1971
– 2020 visitors: 1,238,083 (#17 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 76,678.98 acres

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An RV camp sits within the Chisos Basin of the Big Bend National Park on October 16, 2016 in West Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

#21. Big Bend National Park (Texas)

– Distance: 836 miles
– Driving time: 16.1 hours
– Date founded: June 12, 1944
– 2020 visitors: 393,907 (#37 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 801,163.21 acres

Mountain bikers enjoy a detour as they hike the Fort Bottom Trail while riding the White Rim Trail on October 27, 2007 in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

#22. Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

– Distance: 839 miles
– Driving time: 21.3 hours
– Date founded: September 12, 1964
– 2020 visitors: 493,914 (#30 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 337,597.83 acres

Boardwalk at Congareee national forest near Columbia, South Carolina in the Autumn afternoon

#23. Congaree National Park (South Carolina)

– Distance: 840 miles
– Driving time: 15.9 hours
– Date founded: November 10, 2003
– 2020 visitors: 119,306 (#51 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 26,476.47 acres

A view out over the piedmont from Skyline Drive on a Fall day in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia November 5, 2016. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images)

#24. Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

– Distance: 869 miles
– Driving time: 15.9 hours
– Date founded: December 26, 1935
– 2020 visitors: 1,666,265 (#14 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 199,223.77 acres

Petrified logs in the painted desert at Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, USA

#25. Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)

– Distance: 888 miles
– Driving time: 14.9 hours
– Date founded: December 9, 1962
– 2020 visitors: 384,483 (#38 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 221,390.21 acres

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Thunderstorms move in quickly in the late summer afternoon in Capitol Reef

#26. Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)

– Distance: 906 miles
– Driving time: 15.7 hours
– Date founded: December 18, 1971
– 2020 visitors: 981,038 (#20 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 241,904.50 acres

Grand Teton National Park on August 21, 2017 outside Jackson, Wyoming. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

#27. Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

– Distance: 911 miles
– Driving time: 16.1 hours
– Date founded: February 26, 1929
– 2020 visitors: 3,289,638 (#5 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 310,044.36 acres

FILE: Old Faithful geyser erupts in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming on June 11, 2019. (Credit: DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

#28. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)

– Distance: 915 miles
– Driving time: 17.2 hours
– Date founded: March 1, 1872
– 2020 visitors: 3,806,306 (#2 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 2,219,790.71 acres

Tourists enjoy the view of the spire-shaped rock formations (hoodoos) in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah on August 26, 2020. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

#29. Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

– Distance: 968 miles
– Driving time: 17.8 hours
– Date founded: February 25, 1928
– 2020 visitors: 1,464,655 (#15 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 35,835.08 acres

People standing at overlook at the Grand Canyon
Visitors stand at the Grand Canyon South Rim on July 14, 2014 at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. The Grand Canyon is among the state’s biggest tourist destinations. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

#30. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

– Distance: 991 miles
– Driving time: 18.5 hours
– Date founded: February 26, 1919
– 2020 visitors: 2,897,098 (#6 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 1,201,647.03 acres

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A bicyclist makes his way along the Cactus Forest Trail in Saguaro National Park May 13, 2015 in Tucson, Arizona. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

#31. Saguaro National Park (Arizona)

– Distance: 1,013 miles
– Driving time: 18.7 hours
– Date founded: October 14, 1994
– 2020 visitors: 762,226 (#24 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 92,867.42 acres

FILE – This Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, shows Zion National Park near Springdale, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

#32. Zion National Park (Utah)

– Distance: 1,018 miles
– Driving time: 18.3 hours
– Date founded: November 19, 1919
– 2020 visitors: 3,591,254 (#3 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 147,242.66 acres

The edge of Stella Lake toward the iconic Wheeler Peak in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park.

#33. Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

– Distance: 1,067 miles
– Driving time: 18.3 hours
– Date founded: October 27, 1986
– 2020 visitors: 120,248 (#50 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 77,180.00 acres

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A tunnel on the Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park.

#34. Glacier National Park (Montana)

– Distance: 1,185 miles
– Date founded: May 11, 1910
– 2020 visitors: 1,698,864 (#13 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 1,013,125.99 acres

Tourists walk along the sea wall surrounding Fort Jefferson February 15, 2016 in the Dry Tortugas National Park. (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images)

#35. Dry Tortugas National Park (Florida)

– Distance: 1,196 miles
– Driving time: 25.2 hours
– Date founded: October 26, 1992
– 2020 visitors: 48,543 (#55 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 64,701.22 acres

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