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Indiana Dunes State Park

Updated on August 19, 2014

Indiana Dunes State Park: A Different View of Indiana

The southern tip of Lake Michigan lies along Indiana's northern edge. Here, for a 25 mile stretch, lies the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, an area that provides a tremendous diversity of landscape, plant, and wildlife as well as inviting beaches. To the south lie the marshes, and then the prairie land but to the west lies Chicago, the skyline of which can be viewed from the shore at night time.

Indiana Dunes State Park lies within this area and offers 3 miles of beach itself. Swimming, hiking, biking, camping, and even cross-country skiing in the winter time, are popular activities. It's a great place to spend the day or even a week. Learn more about it here and enjoy some of the photos I've taken within the park in early September 2009 and June 2011.

More about the Indiana Dunes

Yes, it starts, as you might suspect, with glaciers, carrying remnants of numerous "foreign" environments to the area, with the formation of the Great Lakes, and then the ever present winds across Lake Michigan carrying in the sand. The Dunes feature plant life from the Arctic bearberry and the prickly pear cactus, dogwoods, maples, and northern jack pines. Gulls and golden eagles can be spotted among the woodpeckers and finches; even an occasional Snowy Owl has been sighted here.

The Miami and Potawatomi Indians once hunted here and the Calumet Beach Trail through the area once connected the Dearborn and Wayne Forts (Chicago and Detroit). However, there have been those who sought to preserve the area since the early 1900's. In fact, the Indiana Dunes State Park itself was established in 1925 and covers 2,182 acres and 3 miles of beach.

What's Available at Indiana Dunes State Park?

For some, the main attraction at Indiana Dunes State Park is the beach along the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Swimming is allowed for a short stretch of the beach where lifeguards are on duty. This is of course northern Indiana, and the water is generally rather cold, but certainly refreshing during the hot summer months when temperatures can easily reach into the 90's. (Farenheit) There are of course dunes along the shoreline, some of which give children a wonderful chance to fling themselves tumbling downwith reckless abandon, which is a fairly common sight. The beach house provides a shower, changing room, and cafeteria.

You can find a property map of the park here. There are also picnic shelters and campgrounds; you can make reservations online here. Of course, there are also trails for hiking and then cross country skiing in the winter. There are wildlife observation areas that are great for birders as well, one of these is just off of Trail 10. The Nature Center offers wildlife exhibits, lectures, and a bird viewing area.

For those who also like a foot into urban surroundings, Chicago is just a short drive away. This area around the Dunes, provides more affordable accomodations.

The Trails at Indiana Dunes State Park

There are over 16 miles of hiking trails at the park. Trail 2, which is 3 miles long, is the easiest hike in the park. It has a sand/dirt surface as well as a lot of boardwalk, but most of it provides solid footing and the terrain is flat. This trail takes you through areas around the marsh and will connect you to Trail 10. Portions of Trail 2 are pictured in the first slide show, along the boardwalk, and in the second slide show, in two small marshes.

Off of the west parking lot, is an observation boardwalk which will take you directly from the parking lot up a series of steps where you can look out over the beach and Lake Michigan from above. Just a several yards down from this same parking lot, you will find Trail 3. It's three quarters of a mile long and offers moderate hiking condtions. It allows hikers to view the variety of plantlife growing throughout the dunes. Trail 4, also three quarters of a mile long, provides moderate hiking as well through wooded areas. It meets Trail 8 at Mt. Tom, the highest dune at the park at 192 feet. Stairs are provided (see the photo in the second slide show) making it an easier hike than Trail 8. Trail 7, which provides 1.1 miles of moderate hiking, provides a direct route from the nature center up to the beach area and Trail 4.

Trail 8 is the most rugged trail and is 1.5 miles long. Hiking approximately 1/4-1/2 mile up the beach from the Beach house, access to trail 8 is indicated by a tall post. Hikers then immediately begin the ascent up to Mt. Tom. Deep sand makes the trek laborious but the view looking back toward the lake make rest stops on along the way up even more worthwhile. The photo in the introduction above is taken from a lower level stop along the trail and a view a bit higher up is shown in the second slide show.

Trail 9 is 3.75 miles long and again offers moderate hiking with several significant ascents over dunes in deep sand. Going up is effortful, but going down in the deep sand is easy. This trail also offers some great views of the dunes and Lake Michigan. The second picture from the top of the page is taken along trail 9 as are several in the slide shows below. (slides are labeled)

Trail 10 offers a variety of hiking conditons but is considered moderate overall. It's 5.5 miles long and connects to serveral other trails throughout it's course if you're looking for a shortcut. A significant portion of the trail runs along the coast and then circles inland across some dunes and into the marsh areas. Hikers can also stop at the bird observation tower to spend a bit of time spotting some of the many birds that inhabit the area.

A Look Around Indiana Dunes State Park: Two Slide Shows - Click on Thumbnails to View Larger Images

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Atop a Dune on Trail 9Trail 9Across the marsh along the Beach TrailGoing up the Beach to Trail 8.Near the top of Mt. Tom on Trail 8The Boardwalk along Trail 2.More of Trail 2A portion of Trail 10 near the marsh.The road near Wilson ShelterA late summer wildflower along Trail 2.
Atop a Dune on Trail 9
Atop a Dune on Trail 9
Trail 9
Trail 9
Across the marsh along the Beach Trail
Across the marsh along the Beach Trail
Going up the Beach to Trail 8.
Going up the Beach to Trail 8.
Near the top of Mt. Tom on Trail 8
Near the top of Mt. Tom on Trail 8
The Boardwalk along Trail 2.
The Boardwalk along Trail 2.
More of Trail 2
More of Trail 2
A portion of Trail 10 near the marsh.
A portion of Trail 10 near the marsh.
The road near Wilson Shelter
The road near Wilson Shelter
A late summer wildflower along Trail 2.
A late summer wildflower along Trail 2.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Nearing the Beach on Trail 8A view of the Beach from Trail 9.Trail 9Approaching the Beach from the Beach HouseA marsh area near the roundaboutLooking down the southside of Mt. Tom (away from the Beach)More of the marsh along Trail 2.A late summer wildflower.Another area within the marsh.Three quarters of the way up Mt.Tom
Nearing the Beach on Trail 8
Nearing the Beach on Trail 8
A view of the Beach from Trail 9.
A view of the Beach from Trail 9.
Trail 9
Trail 9
Approaching the Beach from the Beach House
Approaching the Beach from the Beach House
A marsh area near the roundabout
A marsh area near the roundabout
Looking down the southside of Mt. Tom (away from the Beach)
Looking down the southside of Mt. Tom (away from the Beach)
More of the marsh along Trail 2.
More of the marsh along Trail 2.
A late summer wildflower.
A late summer wildflower.
Another area within the marsh.
Another area within the marsh.
Three quarters of the way up Mt.Tom
Three quarters of the way up Mt.Tom
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Trail 8 looking toward the beach.Wildflowers along trail 8Along Trail 3June wildflowersAlong Trail 2 in JuneSwampy areas along trail 2
Trail 8 looking toward the beach.
Trail 8 looking toward the beach.
Wildflowers along trail 8
Wildflowers along trail 8
Along Trail 3
Along Trail 3
June wildflowers
June wildflowers
Along Trail 2 in June
Along Trail 2 in June
Swampy areas along trail 2
Swampy areas along trail 2

A Cold Weather Visit to Indiana Dunes State Park

Other Trails and Parks in the Area

There are numerous parks and trails in the nearby area. Central Beach, Dunbar Beach, Lake Veiw and Porter Beach are small areas dotting the coast but there are others too.

Learn and See More About the Indiana Dunes

Let Us Know You Stopped By!

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    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      Your photos are really nice. I've added this to my Indiana Quiz lens (in progress).

    • profile image

      VillaDejaBlue 5 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 6 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Looks like a beautiful trek to make. It is the first time I hear about Indiana Dunes State Park! Your photos make me want to go!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Best place to camping!

    • profile image

      IndianapolisRealEstateandIndiana 6 years ago

      To me, it's amazing that Indiana even has dunes to begin with. I like the shot you took from the top of Mt. Tom on Trail 8. I've been in that exact spot before and it's really breathtaking.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Very interesting...love the photos. Blessed and added to my United States Travel Angel lens.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      This really looks like a beautiful place. You wouldn't suspect such a gigantic dunescape in Indiana. I just featured this lens on my 50 Places to Visit in the United States lens:

      https://hubpages.com/travel/travel-us

    • profile image

      ulla_hennig 7 years ago

      This is a wonderful mixture of excellent information and beautiful pictures - thanks for sharing!

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Your Intro picture of the sand dunes at Indiana Dunes State Park looks very similar to approaching the beach and Atlantic Ocean through the sand dunes on Tybee Island, Georgia! And I know how cold Lake Michigan is for swimming, even in the summer -- I grew up near Lake Ontario in NYS.

      Really enjoyed your description of what looks like a lovely local attraction -- this pretty park along the lakeshore. ~~Blessed by an Angel~~

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      One of the most informative pages on Indiana Dunes State Park. Inspired by this review and pictures, we took a trip to the dunes. Have posted our own review here

      A trip to Indiana Dunes State Park

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 7 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • GuyB LM profile image

      GuyB LM 7 years ago

      So much more than corn and Hoosiers. Truly unbelievable

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I've been to Indiana but never made it to the sate park, now I sure wish that I had. One thing I really noticed is how fast people drive there, I was glad I wasn't driving. I do love visiting state and national park. Visiting this lens was a great, loved the articles and photos. - Nice lens!

      Susie

    • RuthCoffee profile image
      Author

      RuthCoffee 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Those are some great shots. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Excellent lens - The photographs currently under the final More Images.....Flickr section were taken by me over the past few years. I used to live in Miller Beach Gary but have since moved to Valparaiso, about 20 miles south of the Lake. I still miss the walking and the scenery!

    • Airinka profile image

      Airinka 7 years ago

      Fantastic pictures!

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 7 years ago from Australia

      How beautiful! What a lovely lens. 5*

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Oh wow - what a beautiful place. We dont have anything that matches the size here in the UK - come to think of it, is Lake Michigan as BIG as England?

      This is a lovely, lovely lens. Thank you for sharing and SquidAngel Blessings for you!

    • rebeccahiatt profile image

      rebeccahiatt 8 years ago

      Great lens and very nice pics. Makes you want to visit the dunes.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      What a great series of lenses, nice job 5*****. I remember going up to Mount Baldy one day when it was 95 degrees. It was so steep trying to climb up the soft sand on the dune, that you would climb 2 steps and slide one back. But the beach on the other side was well worth it.