Indiana Dunes, the 61st and newest addition to the US National Parks, will show you some of the most beautiful scenery that the American Midwest has to offer. Located along the southern tip of Lake Michigan, boasting marshland trails and miles of sandy beaches, you'll find that you might never want to leave Indiana.
The park is incredibly family-friendly and accessible, and while you're there, you'll be able to choose between a wide variety of activities. Whether you enjoy lounging on the beach, grunting your way up sandy dunes, or observing the many birds that migrate through the park, you'll find plenty to do in this park. Furthermore, even when the entire Midwest freezes over during the winter, you'll still have the option of heading to the park to snowshoe, cross-country ski, or stroll along the frozen shoreline of the mighty Lake Michigan.
If you're driving to Indiana Dunes National Park, you can reach it through a variety of highways - Interstate 94, the Indiana Toll Road (Interstate 80/90), U.S. Highways 12 and 20, Indiana State Road 49 and other state roads. As these are all major roads, driving in should be no issue for any vehicle. The majority of the park is accessible from Highway 12.
Don't feel like driving? No problem! Indiana Dunes is incredibly accessible by public transportation. The Chicago South Shore Train has four stops within the park, and Gary's bus route 13 has two stops that will take you to the west end of the park.
Additionally, once you get to the park, take advantage of the park's two free shuttle buses that run every Saturday and Sunday during the summer. They'll take you through the Western and Eastern Park.
Dunewood Campground has a range of options for every traveler, from hike-in, accessible campsites, to large RV sites. The campground itself limits RV length to 55 feet, but some of the sites may be limited to smaller sizes. Make sure to check with a ranger or host to ensure they have a site available to accommodate your vehicle. Half of the sites are reservable online, and the other half are first come, first served.
You'll be very comfortable in this campground - there is a dump station at the park, and you'll also find flush toilets, potable water, and showers in each loop. Each site has a tent pad, picnic table, grill, and campfire rings. Pets are only allowed if leashed.
Located about 0.25 miles north of the campground, along Broadway, is a gas station and access to the Beverly Shores South Shore Railroad station that can take you to Chicago and South Bend.
Indiana Dunes has a plethora of trail options, with 14 established trail systems and over 50 miles of hiking available.
Each of the trail systems will take you through a unique habitat and cultural history of Indiana Dunes National Park. You'll have many options to choose from to customize your experience, not only by scenery but also by length and difficulty. Most of the trails are open all year, so if you don't get to them all, you can always take another trip back.
Indiana Dunes is situated along 15 miles of southern Lake Michigan, meaning during the summer time, you'll have plenty of beach options to keep you occupied. All but one of the eight beaches has free parking, so get there early, as they fill up quickly - especially on the weekends.
Indiana Dunes's location at the southern tip of Lake Michigan makes it a unique area for bird-watchers. The lake influences the migration patterns of birds, so during fall migration, you'll see plenty of birds following the shoreline on their journey southward. Additionally, many wintering birds are attracted to the open water and shoreline.
If you're an avid birder, you'll be able to see migrating hawks, waterfowl, or wetland birds in the Great Marsh area. It's an excellent place, regardless of whether you're a beginner or expert, and if you're heading there in May, you might even catch the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival! Make sure to bring all of your winter year, though, as the Midwest winters can get dangerously cold.
During the winter, the Glenwood Dunes and Tolleston Dunes Trail Systems are converted into winter trails, available for cross-country skiing. The park does not offer rentals, however, so if you're heading there in the winter-time, make sure you bring your own gear. Additionally, the trails are not groomed by the park, so call ahead to assess the trail conditions before heading out. In these trails, you'll find a variety of options, ranging from one-mile to 15-mile loops.
Snowshoeing is also allowed on the Glenwood Dunes and Tolleston Dunes Trail Systems. Bring your own snowshoes, and as always, check the weather and trail conditions before you go out on the trail. Snowshoers are asked to travel to the side of the cross-country ski tracks. This is especially important, as the trails are not groomed, so snowshoeing through could ruin the trail for others.
If you're celebrating a birthday, having a get together, or just spending time with your family or friends, Indiana Dunes is the perfect place to go. They have many picnic shelters available by reservation or on a first come, first served basis. Each picnic shelter comes with a grill, or you can bring your own.
If the picnic shelters are all taken, there are picnic tables available in other areas of the park as well. And if those are taken - no worries! Grab a blanket and take your picnic to the beach.