Apart from being home to Lake Michigan, the 5th largest freshwater lake in the world, Indiana Dunes National Park is a remarkably ecologically diverse location with incredible beaches and sand dunes. Hundreds of rare bird species migrate through this park finding refuge and building nests within the park’s forest and flora. The park covers 15,000 acres of forests, meadows, rivers, trails, rugged sand dunes and beaches; even in winter, the park offers endless hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing possibilities.
Mount Baldy stands at 126 feet high on the Southern Coast of Lake Michigan. Each year, this sand dune moves by approximately 5 feet covering anything that comes in its path, earning the name “living” sand dune. Following the Mount Baldy Beach Trail, a steep moderately challenging in and out trail, leads you to the top of the sand dune with outstanding views of the lake. However, descending to the beach is also tricky, as sliding down on the loose sand is the only way down. It is important to keep in mind that to get out, visitor need to climb up the dune and back track their way out. Once at the beach, a swim in the lake is a must. The area is equipped with restrooms, potable water, and a small shaded picnic area. All the parking lots in the park are open between 6am and 11pm and are free of charge, apart from West Beach which charges $6 fee per car (but it is also the only beach with a life guard). In winter, the scenery changes as Mount Baldy is covered in snow making it a popular skiing location.
The park offers 14 hiking trails covering 16.5 miles. Trails range from easy and short ones like Dune Ridge Trail and Calumet Dunes Trail – which are less than a mile long – to more challenging ones like West Beach 3.4 mile Trail, which leads to different terrain offering wonderful views. Most of the trails are open all year round, but it is important to stick to the trail to avoid damaging the sand dunes and nature surrounding them.
Three Dunes Challenge
For the brave (and physically fit) the Three Dunes Challenge is right up your alley. The challenge is to hike or run up the three largest sand dunes in the park, which get progressively steeper, one after the next. Upon parking at Wilson Shelter, a short trail takes you over the Great Marsh (a wonderful spot for bird-watching) to Nature Center, the start of Trail 8. The trail takes you over Mt. Jackson at 176 feet high, composed of loose sand making it challenging both to hike up and to descend back. Mt. Holden follows at 184 feet, from here a side trail leads you to an amazing beach for a well deserved swim – or you can head for the final and highest dune Mt. Tom at 192 feet. Looking at the tall staircase leading to the peak from the bottom is tiring in itself, but the view of the bay, Lake Michigan, nature and birds shaded by a tree canopy at the top make it all worth while.
Central Avenue Beach
Central Avenue Beach is a stunning beach, with waters lapping on the sand, with the sand dunes as its background, creating the most picturesque of locations. The beach has a car park, restrooms, and picnic area near by. In spring and summer, the beach is a haven for bird watching as birds build nests in the dunes and the tall trees above them. Refrain from trying to climb up the dunes at the beach since they are eroded by the elements, making the sand loose and dangerous. The trail along the beach is 2.7km long and offers boasts gorgeous views of nature, the lake and dunes. The lake’s cool waters are very inviting for a swim especially on a hot day after a walk, but do check the currents before swimming.
Apart from hiking, the park also offers ample fishing and boating opportunities, as well as horse-riding on specific part of Glenwood Dunes Trails. In winter this trail makes it attractive for winter sports lovers to practice their cross-country skiing. Camping is also available at Dunewood Campground at $25 per night.
The Indiana Dunes National Park is a marvelous location, with scenic views of Lake Michigan, beautiful beaches, and sand dunes. The park is diverse enough to offer activities for visitors of all abilities, be it a light stroll at Central Avenue Beach, the Three Dune Challenge, or a dip at Mount Baldy Beach – you are set to have a memorable time.
Shots from Indiana Dunes National Park
Here are some of our favorites shots we got while exploring Indiana Dunes National Park
Where Is It?
Mount Baldy can be reached by getting on US-131S in Clam Lake Township, Taking I-196 W to US-12 W in New Buffalo Township. Exit on I-94 W, get on US-12, continue on E Michigan Boulevard, and turn right to Calumet trail. To reach Central Avenue Beach, once at I-94, head north to US-12, turning right to central Avenue. From here turn left to to parking area. Reaching the 3 Dune Challenge starting point is easy, once on US-12W, exit IN-249, and turn right near the Michigan City sign, followed by a turn to CR-25E – Indiana Dunes State Park and Country Road 100 E which leads to the nearby car-park.
Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana, United States
(Plus Code: MW3X+82 Porter, Indiana, United States)