The southern shores of Lake Michigan consist of a stunning dune landscape, which is ideal for hiking, camping, bird-watching, picnicking and swimming.
Explore the ancient landscapes of Indiana Dunes State Park, bound on the northwest by pristine Lake Michigan. Formed after the lake’s water levels dropped at the end of the Ice Age, the region’s dunes have slowly shifted and grown over with lush vegetation. The nature reserve consists of 2,182 acres (883 hectares) of extraordinary sand dunes and unique geology, making it an unrivaled destination for recreation and nature experiences in the state.
A great way to start your exploration of Indiana Dunes State Park is with a visit to the reserve’s Nature Center. Look through the center’s wildlife observation windows and learn about the region’s vegetation with the help of interpretive displays. The dunes’ intriguing formation over thousands of years has meant that ancient vegetation is sometimes revealed when the dunes shift.
Check out the Beach House Blowout, the Furnessville Blowout or the Big Blowout, which shows the old tree stumps of primeval forests. Learn about the Potawatomi and Miami Native American people who traveled over the dunes as part of their traditional trade routes.
Birdwatchers will delight in the park’s observation towers. Spot wetland species from an observation tower overlooking marshland or climb the platform near the summit of Mount Tom. From here, you can see all the way to Chicago, as well as Gary, Indiana, on a clear day.
Explore 16 miles (26 kilometers) of hiking trails, which showcase the park’s different ecosystems and historic structures. Picnic shelters are available at several sites in the park.
If the weather is warm, enjoy a refreshing swim in Lake Michigan. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, lifeguards patrol this beach on weekends. Stop at the beachside concession stand for last-minute snacks and supplies. Fish for smelt along the lakeshore.
Indiana Dunes State Park is located on the state’s northwestern border. It is about 160 miles (260 kilometers) from Indianapolis and 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Chicago, Illinois. The park is open daily and charges a fee for entry and campsite reservations.