Trail #9 Walk up into the dunes and see forest covered sand, trees eaten by sand and blowouts where nature has removed large sections of dunes to start over again. This is a moderate 3.75 mile (rt) trail. Remember that walking on sand can be tiring.
Trail #8 This 1.5 mile trail is the most rugged in the park. You'll climb all three of the tall dunes before you are done and have walked nearly 4 miles with all the back sliding that will occur as you go up each dune. You'll need to get back to your car or campsite afterwards, so be sure to plan a return route that you'll still have the energy to complete.
Trail #7 This is a connecting trail from the beach to the Nature Center. It takes you past and around the tall dunes, but not up. It's 1.1 mile length does not include a return to where you started.
Trail #2 This is the easist trail in the park. The 3 easy miles passes through a wetland forest (wetter in the spring, dry in the summer & fall) and brings you to trail #10 on the north side of the marsh. You'll have 1 to 2 miles of trail #10 to get back to the nature center or you can explore more of the upland forests on trail #10.
Trail #3 is a pleasant stroll through the wooded dunes on the park's west side. It runs 3/4rd of a mile from the alternate beach parking lot to the entrance. In the spring this can be a very wet area in some spots. Much of it is across dunes and dry.
The park has several trails of interest:
Trail #2 This is the easist trail in the park.
Trail #3 Trail 3 is a pleasant stroll through the wooded dunes on the park's west side.
Trail #4 This is a connecting trail from the beach to the Campground.
Trail #7 This is a connecting trail from the beach to the Nature Center.
Trail #8 This 1.5 mile trail is the most rugged in the park. You'll climb all three of the tall dunes.
Trail #9 Walk up into the dunes and see forest covered sand, trees eaten by sand and blowouts where nature has removed large sections of dunes to start over again.
Trail #10 Traverse the park from end to end on the 5.5 mile (rt) walk.
Indiana Dunes State Park and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore are often confused. In the listings here in VT, 7 out of 20 tips (including this one) are things in the National Lakeshore. The State Park includes 3000 acres of nearly pristine dunes, dune ridges and open beach. There is a single entrance and a daily use fee. Surrounding the State Park is the National Lakeshore, an additional 12,000 acres of dunes, dune ridges, interdunal lowlands, riverways, wet and dry prairies and several historic sites.
Please visit both. You'll need to check out both sites in VT and other on-line sites to truly find out what they each have to offer.
My Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore page
Indiana Dunes State Park
If you've never climbed a sand pile before, take the time and give it a try. The best part is that you'll have to come down when you're done. S o o o o o ---- when you become tired, just turn around and let gravity help.
Better yet, when you're part way up, stop, sit down and enjoy the scenery. The beach stretching out left and right and the blue lake reaching as far as the eye can see. If the sun, clouds, and lake glare are right, you'll see the Chicago skyline. Look out at a 45 degree angle to the shoreline. The smoke stacks to the left are the Burns Harbor works and Gary, not Chicago.
Visit the nature center. It is just past the campground and set back on the edge of the dunes. Here you'll find information about the dunes, wildlife, the trails, and the history of the area. Shipwreck artifacts are outside, and a memorial fountain orginally built in the 1940's has been retored with it's snake faucet.
Indiana Dunes State Park has several trails which begin at the visitor's center and climb the highest dunes, ultimately leading to the beach area. The Calumet trail is 9 miles long and a portion of it runs through the state park along the beachfront as well. None of these trails are particularly scenic, spectacular or difficult, but are good for a bit of recreation, exercise or for those that are interested in the diverse plant life that grows in the area.
Mount Baldy is the most popular attraction in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. This is a moveable dune, either as a result of wind or water or both. There are several paths that lead to the top. Two are straight uphill climbs on the sand and the other, easier route has a series of stairs and one steep but short uphill at the end. From the top of Mount Baldy, you'll see the best view of Indiana's Dunes, along with Lake Michigan.
You'll find this steep slope near the beach. Its a tough uphill walk, sinking into the sand and pulling yourself up step by step and then practically slipping all the way down, hence the slide portion of the name. Many people were using the slide as a workout path, jogging up and then back down. Much better exercise than the treadmill, but one time chugging up the sand on a humid afternoon was enough for me.
Although there is a beach which is pretty popular, the sand dunes are the main draw. Some rise over a hundred feet. Not exactly an impressive elevation, but, in the relative flatlands of the midwest, the height of these dunes is quite impressive.
There are several trails ranging from easy to moderate which allow you to hike over and around the sand dunes. Some are quite a workout too.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is adjacent to Indiana Dunes State Park. The federal park also has activities in Miller, Portage, Dune Acres, Porter, Beverly Shores, and Michigan City. The area offers many recreational activities. The IDNR Visitor's Center is located on Kemil Road off US HWY 12 a few miles east of IN SR 49.
Be sure to stop at the park office for a system map.
Trail 2 - An easy 3 mile trail that also is used for cross-country skiing in the winter.
Trail 3 - A moderate .75 mile trail that features lots of wildflowers and cacti.
Trail 4 - A moderate .75 mile trail that connects the campground to the lakefront by way of forest-covered dunes.
Trail 7 - Similar to trail 4. Connects the Nature Center to the lakefront.
Trail 8 - Only 1.5 miles, but a strenuous 1.5 miles it is! Leads up and down the three tallest dunes in the state. See my travelogue on the main page.
Trail 9 - A moderate 3.75 mile trail through the heart of the park. Great views of the lake, sand blowouts and tree graveyards.
Trail 10 - A moderate 5.5 mile hike that is very much worth the effort. Offers a complete look at the park in all its glory. Bring water.