Indiana Dunes State Park
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 down with 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 conditions. It allows hikers to view the variety of plant life 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 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 ImagesClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
- West Beach
A nice beach and 3.6 miles of trails.
- Cowles Bog and Cowles Beach
Cowles Beach is perfect for picnics and there is a 4 mile loop trail that leads through a nature preserve where you can see blue heron, deer, turtles, and bullfrogs.
- Kemil Beach
A small beach with a Dune Ridge Trail which is great for bird watching.
- Mount Baldy
Enjoy the beach or hiking uup to Mt Baldy, 126 feet up in deep sand.
- Calumet Bike Trail
The trail provides 9.1 miles of hiking, biking, or cross country skiing and runs along the Indiana Dunes State Park.