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Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore


Hiking on sand is hard work. If it’s a hot day pace yourself and take plenty of water.

Anyone familiar with Arne and Poole Harbour in Dorset UK will have a good feel for what this place is like. Apologies to Nick, but I think they outshine this still admittedly enjoyable site.



This is one of my favorite places in the world! I always enjoy the beaches and the biodiversity makes it a special place.


Photos: Nick Pangere


With over 45 miles of trails, several sandy beaches, forests, and of course, sand dunes, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is perfect for a day trip or long weekend getaway. This small park ranks 7th in biodiversity among all national parks in the country, making it a paradise for botanists and bird lovers. There are over 1,100 species of flowering plants and 350 bird species that call the Indiana Dunes “home”. That’s incredible considering the entire park is only 15,000 acres! From the top of the dunes and at the beaches, you can even see the Chicago skyline on a clear day.


Best Trails:

  • West Beach’s Dune Succession Trail is a 1 mile loop that shows the 4 stages of dune development. This is probably the best trail for a broad overview of how the dunes were formed.
  • The Little Calumet River Trail takes you roughly 2 miles through a beautiful restored tallgrass prairie, on a boardwalk through a marsh, and finishes with a walk through the forest.
  • The Bailly/Chellberg Trails give you a look at the settlement history of the area. You’ll walk past the Bailly Homestead, where the first non-native settler built his home, and the Chellberg Farm, where a Swedish immigrant family lived for a few generations. The homes are open during festivals and ranger-guided tours. Check the park schedule for more information.
  • Pinhook Bog, located outside of the normal park area, is generally open on Saturdays for special ranger-guided hikes. It’s the most unique section of the park, featuring an “alien landscape” of carnivorous plants and several unique flowers. Check the schedule for openings.

Mnoké Prairie on the Little Calumet River Trail


Carnivorous sundew plant at Pinhook Bog.


Best Beaches:

  • West Beach is a family friendly beach with showers and changing rooms.
  • Kemil, Dunbar, and Lake View Beaches have smaller crowds and seem much quieter than West Beach. You can also see the 1933 World’s Fair Century of Progress Homes just east of the Dunbar parking lot.
  • If you want secluded and don’t mind a long hike to get there, the beach at Cowles Bog can be totally empty. It’s a tough 2 mile hike but worth the effort.

Kemil Beach


West Beach Dune Succession Trail


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