Where is Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch National Park is located in the heart of St. Louis, Missouri. The park is one of only a few national parks that are set within the confines of a major city. The national park was set to protect and preserve the Gateway Arch, a long-standing St. Louis icon. Visitors arriving at the national park will also find the Gateway Arch Museum, the Old Courthouse, and an urban park. Gateway Arch National is located 248 miles east of Kansas City, Missouri. The Park is also 261 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky, and 95 miles south of Springfield, Illinois. Visitors traveling to St. Louis to visit the national park will also find a series of other local attractions including professional hockey and baseball teams.
How Large is Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch US National Park is the smallest national park in the United States National Park System. The St. Louis national park covers a total of 91 acres. For comparison, the next smallest national park is Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas at a size of 5,550 acres. The Gateway Arch is not only the most prominent feature of Gateway Arch National Park, but also the most prominent feature of St. Louis. The arch stands 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide, and each of the arch’s legs sit at a width of 54 feet at the base. These legs narrow to a width of 17 feet at the top of the arch.
Gateway Arch National Park Weather
The climate of Gateway Arch National Park transitions frequently between a humid subtropical climate and a humid continental climate. This transition results in cold winters and long warm summers. Summer temperatures at Gateway National Park consistently fluctuate between 65- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit, whereas winter temperatures in the park hover between 25- and 50-degree Fahrenheit. Throughout the year, the park experiences about nine days of rain per month for a total of around 100 days of rain per year. Precipitation in St. Louis in the winter results in occasional snowfall. Snowfall averages for the year in Gateway Arch National Park total around 10 inches. Most of this snowfall appears in the park during the months of December, January, and February.
When did Gateway Arch Become a National Park
Gateway Arch National Park is one of the newest national parks in the National Park System. The national park was designated as a national park in 2018. Before this designation, the Gateway Arch was known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and the park was designated as a national monument. The arch was designed by Eero Saarinen and Hannaskarl Bandel in 1947 and constructed throughout the years of 1963 and 1965. The arch was built to commemorate the Louisiana Purchase, the formation of the first civil government west of the Mississippi River, and the Dred Scott court case. The local trials of the Dred Scott are also remembered at the national park through the protection of the Old Courthouse where these trials took place. The courthouse sits opposite of the Gateway Arch across interstate 44.
Things to do in Gateway Arch National Park
While the layout and attractions of Gateway Arch National Park are very different from the characteristics of other national parks across the country, the park still contains a variety of interesting experiences and activities. The following list of attractions are some of the more popular activities our National Park Visitors Guide outlines below:
Museum at the Gateway Arch
Visitors arriving in St. Louis and Gateway Arch National Park will want to first visit the park’s visitor center and museum. Located underground near the Gateway Arch, the museum and visitor center contain various exhibits and displays that discuss westward expansion and the arch’s design and construction. Visitors will also find park maps for the Gateway Arch and Old Courthouse areas of Gateway Arch National Park in the visitor center. Park staff working in the museum can also point visitors towards other points of interest within the national park or answer any specific questions.
Watch a Film in the Tucker Theater
The Tucker Theater is located within the visitor center at Gateway Arch National Park. The theater consistently shows an award-winning film titled “Monument to the Dream.” This film explores the history surrounding the Louisiana Purchase and the construction and meaning of the Gateway Arch. Showtimes for the film are displayed within the park’s visitor center and online on the park’s website. The film runs for a total time of 35 minutes.
The prominent and namesake feature of Gateway Arch National Park, the Gateway Arch invites visitors to peer through the “Gateway to the West.” The arch is set upon the shores of the Mississippi River and honors the Louisiana Purchase achieved by President Thomas Jefferson and the Dred Scott court case which took place in St. Louis. Visitors looking to gain a different perspective to view St. Louis and the national park can take a hydraulic tram to the observation room at the top of the Gateway Arch.
The Old Courthouse in St. Louis and Gateway Arch National Park offers visitors a history lesson on the Dred Scott court case. The dome of the Old Courthouse itself was originally constructed during the Civil War and shows similarities to the dome of the United States Capitol Building. Within the Old Courthouse visitors will find several displays that feature historic documents that offer a glimpse into the Dred Scott case and its pivotal role in American society.
Participate in an Interpretive Program
Visitors looking to learn more about Gateway Arch National Park or a particular topic within the park will want to join in on one or more of the interpretive programs offered by the national park. These programs discuss topics such as the Dred Scott Case, the Louisiana Purchase, and the construction and design of the Gateway Arch. While the schedule for these programs varies from week to week, a weekly schedule is normally posted within the park’s visitor center. Park staff working in the visitor center can also inform visitors when the next program is being offered.
When to Visit Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch National Park can be visited throughout the entire year. However, visitors looking to enjoy the finest weather that descends upon St. Louis will want to visit the city in late spring or early summer. During these portions of the year, warm temperatures are prevalent in the park. Later in the summer, temperatures in the park become warmer. At the cusp of Fall, temperatures in the park begin to cool once more until snowfall appears in December and January. Visitors looking to avoid the crowds that form around the Gateway Arch in summer will want to visit the park in fall or early winter. Interpretive programs and the films in the Tucker Theater are offered throughout the entire year.
Must Have Items to Bring to Gateway Arch National Park
Due to its urban setting, Gateway Arch National Park doesn't require visitors to bring the same extensive list of items and equipment normally required for an outdoor recreation trip. However, List of Parks advises visitors will still want to bring a few items to ensure their comfort and enjoyment.
A visit to Gateway Arch National Park is likely to involve an extensive amount of time under the St. Louis sun. Visitors will want to bring a water bottle along with them to the park as they traverse the city learning about the Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse. Visitors may also want to bring a light snack to enjoy as they meander throughout the park.
Comfortable Walking Shoes
All visitors of Gateway Arch National Park will want to bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes along with them. A good pair of walking shoes should be comfortable enough to wear for several hours and protective enough to walk across the city of St. Louis.
Occasionally, gusts of wind blowing off of the Mississippi River will require visitors of Gateway Arch National Park to adorn a light jacket. Visitors arriving at St. Louis in the late fall or winter will most likely want to bring a heavier jacket to combat the colder temperatures of the seasons.
Visitors looking to document their trip to Gateway Arch National Park should bring along their digital camera to capture a few photographs of the Gateway Arch memorial and the Old Courthouse. The urban park surrounding the Gateway Arch also offers visitors several opportunities to take photographs.
Visitors looking to orient themselves with the national park before arriving in St. Louis can download a digital map of the park online through the Gateway Arch National Park website. Once arriving in the park, visitors can also obtain a physical park map from the visitor center.
Where to Stay in Gateway Arch National Park
While Gateway Arch National Park doesn't offer any facilities to house visitors overnight or any campgrounds, its urban location provides several advantages in terms of lodging and other facilities. Within the city of St. Louis visitors will find various hotels and motels they can make reservations with. Visitors can also use third party sites such as Airbnb to find houses and apartments listed throughout the city.
Food Near Gateway Arch National Park
The closest food to Gateway Arch National Park is spread out throughout the city of St. Louis. The city offers visitors a variety of restaurants, bars, and pubs that possess extensive menus of entrees and unique drinks.
Airports Near Gateway Arch National Park
The closest international airport to Gateway Arch National Park is located within the city of St. Louis. The St. Louis Lambert International Airport is located 14 miles away from the national park. Visitors traveling to or from the airport will need to allow around 15 to 30 minutes to traverse the city depending on traffic and time of day.