Indiana Dunes State Park
If you were to conduct a scientific survey of Americans and ask them to name things they associate with Indiana, it seems unlikely that beaches would be a common response. Yet, there are beaches in Indiana, and nice ones at that.
The southern shore of Lake Michigan was once a largely unbroken stretch of beach, bounded by magnificent sand dunes. Industrial development swept many of those dunes away, but some remain. Indiana Dunes State Park is unique in offering what must be one of the longest stretches of undeveloped beach left in the state - nearly three miles of it.
The beach area can be extremely crowded in summer, but for those willing to walk, comparative solitude is an option, especially in the cooler months. Whatever the time of year, this park belongs on any short list of Indiana’s best natural destinations.
There are several interesting trails in the park, though be warned that those on or near sand dunes have a tendency to be obscured by shifting sand.
Trail 10 is your best choice if you want to explore the park’s Lake Michigan shoreline. The trail follows the beach for most of its extent in the park before heading inland and returning along the back side of the dunes.
Trail 10 Boardwalk
Trail 10 is more than five miles long; the bulk of it lies within the Dunes Nature Preserve, a National Natural Landmark that occupies the eastern portion of the park. The inland leg of trail 10 is sandwiched between the dunes to the north and streams and wetlands to the south, and this transition area has a great deal of species diversity.
Trail 2 begins along the inland side of trail 10 and heads south across a long boardwalk that traverses a large partially-wooded wetland. It then veers west and returns toward the developed areas of the park through recent woods. During the spring, this trail is excellent for wildflowers.
Another option is trail 9, a nearly four mile lollipop that scrambles over dunes and past blowouts, in the process offering great views of Lake Michigan.
Trail 4 begins near the campground shelter and makes it way to the lake shore, passing close to Mt. Tom. Mount Tom is the tallest of the dunes remaining in the park, topping out at 192 feet above Lake Michigan. Mount Holden (184 feet) and Mount Jackson (176 feet) are nearby.
Trail 4 also connects with trail 8, which meanders from the Wilson Shelter southeast of the Nature Center to the shore via several high dunes.
Porter County. From US 12, US 20, or I-94 Exit 26, north on Indiana 49 to the park entrance.
North 41 39.308 West 87 03.761
View Larger Map
Camping with showers and bathrooms, camp store, nature center, bathhouse and food (seasonal)
Nearby Natural Areas
Bloom: Hiking Indiana; Page 22
Goll: Indiana State Parks; Page 110
Habeck: Wild Indiana; Page 16
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
McPherson: Indiana Best Hikes; Page 114