The park is beautiful year-round, there’s lots of great hiking, and the dunes are humongous. If you ignore the reeds and face away from the ocean, you might think you’re in Morocco. Mt. Baldy is the highlight here… it’s basically a sand mountain, with half-buried trees sticking up from its slopes. Being able to see the Chicago skyline from the shores is also pretty memorable. Winter may be super cold, but the way the water freezes up on shore is amazingly beautiful and makes it worth it. Plus the plentiful parking in the offseason doesn’t hurt either.
“scout rare birds, fly kites on the beach”
Indiana Dunes National Park is a unit of the National Park System designated as a U.S. National Park located in northwest Indiana and managed by the National Park Service. It was authorized by Congress in 1966 as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the name by which it was known until 2019. The national park runs for nearly 25 miles along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, in Chesterton, Indiana, and contains approximately 15,000 acres. The National Park has acquired about 95% of the property within the authorized boundaries. Its holdings are non-contiguous and include the 2,182-acre Indiana Dunes State Park (1925), which is owned and managed by the state of Indiana. The park is physically divided into 15 disconnected pieces. Along the lakefront, the eastern area is roughly the lake shore south to U.S. 12 or U.S. 20 between Michigan City, Indiana, on the east and the ArcelorMittal steel plant on the west. A small extension, south of the steel mill continues west along Salt Creek to Indiana 249. The western area is roughly the shoreline south to U.S. 12 between the Burns Ditch west to Broadway in downtown Gary, Indiana. In addition, there are several outlying areas, including; Pinhook Bog, in LaPorte County to the east. The Heron Rookery in Porter County, the center of the park, and the Calumet Prairie State Nature Preserve and the Hobart Prairie Grove, both in Lake County, the western end of the park. Also within the National Park is the Hoosier Prairie State Nature Preserve, managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
This was a welcome break from all the traveling we did.
The water was beautifully cool and the sand felt wonderful between our toes.
I was truly surprised by the height of the dunes and the hike back up after enjoying the beach was a serious glute and calf workout!
The hike was very beautiful through the trees to the dunes from the parking area. There are several places to visit and several different things you may see depending on where you are.
It is confusing with the national park versus the state park within the national park. There is no fee for parking at some of the spots but parking areas are small. During Covid it was great because so few were out.
The state park charges a fee and they dont honor the annual pass and they are snotty about it as well.
Definitely should check it out!
We stopped at the visitors center first, the paintings outside are beautiful. We asked a park ranger for ideas on what to see that was child friendly and possibly stroller accessible. He did not have any recommendations. He said the beach parking lots would be full and the best trail for kids is over a mile and grassy. We left with a map and his suggestions only to discover we couldn't find anything to see. After much MUCH driving and turning around at various spots (that had signs leading to apparently nowhere) we discovered the beach that was suggested was three miles outside the park, past the factories and trains, under the highway, etc. it felt NOTHING like a national park.
We did go to the homestead suggested, not sure what there was as there wasn't signs or staff to show where to go or what to see.
We went to a trail that was nice, lots of traffic and train noises heard.
The beach was pretty and they had a foot washing station when leaving the sand. I wouldn't feel safe after dark or when there aren't many people around as it's quite a distance from parking and there isn't good views of the path ahead/behind.
Nice beach and relaxing. Great hiking and many trails.
State park vs National park is confusing. State charges for the beach. Found a free one on National park side by accident.
Also, visitor center has camping information and I found a campground at the last minute. Stayed at Michigan City Campground. Short distance away from dunes
Love this place! We brought our 3 young children here and had a blast playing in the water of Lake Michigan and running through the sand of the dunes. So beautiful and relaxing. If you come into Indiana Dunes State Park area, you need to pay $6 as a Indiana resident per car or $12 for out of state resident. This area has a huge parking lot though that is super close to the water. Well worth the stop!
Talk about a hidden gem! We feel in love with Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. We live down south near the ocean and we actually felt like we were at the ocean! The sand is amazing! We did the 3 Dunes Challenge, which was a challenge, but totally worth the views. The beach is gorgeous. We went for an impromptu sunset over Lake Michigan. We parked at the Devils Slide parking lot and walked to the top of a dune to watch the sunset with Chicago in the distance. STUNNING! Will always return here when in the area and highly recommend staying at the Campground inside the park. We did visit in September after Labor Day, so I'm sure it was not busy compared to summer season.
Nice place to stop for a relaxing walk along the beach. Bring towel or chair and a book. There was a volleyball net along beach. Families swimming along beach and picnicking. Glad we stopped.
Despite all the sand, the trails are great for running. Try #10 for a good 10k or 6.3 ish mile trot. The main beach is a bit crowded, but head a bit to the north and east for more privacy in the tall grass.
We loved Indiana Dunes National Park! There's a lot of places to pull off and take stunning scenic pictures. Mount Baldy is about 3 miles down the road and 100% worth the stop!
Road tripping from Nebraska to Massachusetts and we stopped here so both my dog and I could stretch our legs.
We parked at the trail head for the Dune Ridge Trail (GPS coordinates : 41.677357, -87.008950) and hiked the ~0.50 mile trail in about 20 minutes. It was a bit sandy in places and involved very marshy views. After, we walked down the road to the beach area were we sat and ate a packed lunch. Pretty, free, and worth the stop!
On our road trip back, we'll probably look for a different trail that's a bit longer for us.
It does feel like you are at the beach. Soft sand and close restrooms are always a bonus. Rip tides made swimming dangerous. No lifeguards on duty.
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Indiana Dunes National Park
- Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 11:59 pm
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Good for bird watching, boating, and 7 more activities.
Credit Cards Accepted
- National park
Campground, Parking, Dining