Indiana Dunes National Park is located on 15 miles of Lake Michigan’s shoreline in northwest Indiana. In it’s 15,000 acres, there is the opportunity to experience so many different environments- dense forests, fields of gorgeous wildflowers, marshes full of wildlife, large sandy dunes, and beautiful beaches. This park truly has it all. Plus, our family loves sand and water, and they have plenty of both, making us frequent visitors. Below is a 2 day itinerary, but with over 50 miles of hiking trails, 37 miles of bike trails and 8 beaches it would be very easy to spend significantly more time there!
Entrance Fee: $25 per vehicle, $15 per person for walk/bike/boat ins. Indiana Dunes State Park has a separate entrance fee- $7 for Indiana plates, $12 for out of state plates.
Lodging: There is one campground on property. Reservations can be made at Recreation. gov using this link- Dunewood Campground. There are a significant number of hotels located within 10 miles of the park for those wanting that overnight option. Check out the towns of Chesterton, IN and Porter, IN for the best options.
Dining: There are no restaurants onsite, just snack options in the summer months. There are several dining options off property. Again, check out the towns of Porter, IN and Chesterton, IN for the best dining options!
Must Know Before You Go:
1. Hiking boots are recommended.
2. Hiking in sand can be more strenuous than dirt. Be sure to pace yourself and bring plenty of water, especially in the hot summer months!
3. Sunscreen and/or a hat is recommended. Many of the trails have very little shade.
4. Bring towels and swimsuits! Many trails will take you on or past the beach. It was nice to take a break mid hike to cool off in the water.
5. With the summer heat and humidity, the bugs are thriving at this park. You may want to bring bug repellent.
Cell Service: Most of the park had excellent cell service.
2 Day Itinerary
West Beach Area– This area has three connecting 1-mile loop trails. There is also a large parking lot, bathhouse, and plenty of restrooms.
Dune Succession Trail (Loop 1)- This is a 1-mile loop. The first time we went we hard a hard time finding the start of this trail. Walk from the parking lot to the bathhouse. Walk through the bathhouse to the beach and turn right once on the beach. The trailhead will be the first trail on your right a little ways down the beach. It was not well marked when we were there last summer, but this was one of our favorite trails here. About half of this trail is walking in sand and the other half is a boardwalk that goes up and down the dunes. This trail has beautiful views throughout and is a great place to keep an eye out for wildlife😊 It does have a lot of steep climbs and sand is more strenuous to walk through so I would say this trail is moderate in difficulty.
West Beach Trail (Loop 2)- You can pick up this 1-mile loop next, right at the bottom of the Dune Succession Trail. This trail is mostly flat but you are still walking through sand so it would not be stroller accessible.
Long Lake Trail (Loop 3)- This is the last trail at West Beach, and it is a 1.6-mile loop you can pick up right at the end of the West Beach Trail loop. It takes you past the north side of Long Lake.
West beach- If you go in the summer, I would go to the beach after this. Most of these three loops are in the sun with not many chances for shade coverage. It is very hot and humid in the summer, so the beach was a nice way to cool off. Even in other seasons, we have walked along the beach, we just did not swim. The kids loved playing in the sand no matter the season😊 There is a concession stand, picnic tables, and lifeguards on duty in the summer months.
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Trail– This is an easy, paved 1-mile trail that is just a short drive from West Beach. There is one set of stairs but is otherwise stroller accessible. This trail has great views, but availability is dependent on lake levels.
Dune Ridge Trail- This trail is a 0.7-mile loop. It is moderate in difficulty because let’s face it, walking in sand is never easy, especially if you are carrying small children, but the view of the Great Marsh at the top of the dune is great motivation.
Calumet Dunes Trail- This 0.5-mile loop is great for families with small children and a nice break if you have been wearing them on other walks this trip. It is easy, paved and stroller accessible.
Trail 10 (Indiana Dunes State Park)- Indiana Dunes State Park is surrounded by the national park and the 5.5-mile trail is one of my favorites here. This trail starts in the forest and ends along the beach and is moderate in difficulty. Entrance into the Indiana Dunes State Park is $7 for in-state vehicles and $12 for out-of-state vehicles.
Indiana Dunes State Park Beach– I know West Beach is extremely popular, but we prefer this beach. And after all that hiking, we usually spend the rest of the day lounging at the beach.
Hope you have a wonderful adventure!