Visit Indiana Dunes National Park
9/28/21 update: The Indiana Dunes National Park beaches are closed due to some kind of sludge spill from nearby US Steel into Lake Michigan.
The Indiana Dunes are split into two parks – an Indiana State Park and a National Park. This post covers the National Park. Read about the State Park here.
Indiana Dunes National Park is located on 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan. The national park’s 15,000 acres offers 50 miles of hiking and biking trails over dunes, wetlands, prairies, rivers and forests, birding, and eight beaches.
The story of the Dunes
In a nutshell a bunch of industrialists (Standard Oil, US Steel, etc) wanted to destroy the lake shore for economic gain and a group of individuals fought them beginning in 1899. In 1926, part of the Dunes were established as the Indiana Dunes State Park by the State of Indiana. In 1966, as part of a compromise deal to develop Burns Waterway Harbor (Port of Indiana) along the lake the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was established which included 8,330 acres of land and water. Subsequent expansions from 1976-1992 increased the park to more than 15,000 acres. The National Lakeshore was renamed a National Park in 2019. Read the story of the Indiana Dunes here. Learn more about the Dunes in Shifting Sands: On the Path to Sustainability here.
The Indiana Dunes State Park is east of the town of Porter and west of Beverly Shores. The Indiana Dunes National Park is west of the State Park and runs along the beach and shoreline, including 100 yards into Lake Michigan. The western edge of the National Park is just east of Gary Indiana. The National Park then surrounds the State Park and some towns (from west to east: Ogden Dunes, Dune Acres and Beverly Shores) and it’s eastern edge is past Beverly shores to the western edge of Michigan City. Parts of the National Park are not contiguous.
Realistically to get to the Dunes you will have to drive. You can take the South Shore but you’ll have to walk 1.5-3.5 miles from various stations to get to different parts of the Dunes. There is no public transit. You can also take your bike on the South Shore and then bike to the parks. Bikes are allowed in specific areas of the Dunes. You can also ride your bike to the Dunes at least partially along the Lake. It is approximately 36 miles.
If you take the South Shore from Millennium Station (130 E. Randolph, Lower Level) the cost one-way to Miller $7.50, Portage/Ogden Dunes $9.00, Dune Park $9.00, Beverly Shores $10. Fares are Half off for Children Under 14, Seniors 65 and Older, Passengers with Disabilities. If you to take CTA to Millennium Station then add $2.25-$2.50 onto the cost.
Recorded information on parking and beach conditions at Indiana Dunes State Park and National Park 219-395-1003.
Visit Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park has three areas with different hours and costs: Dorothy Buell Visitor Center, West Beach and the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education. Indiana does not observe daylight savings time. Check website before heading out as hours can change and areas can close due to covid
Standard Hours (general areas) Daily 6:00 AM – 11:00 PM . The general areas of the park are open year-round. Individual areas for specific hours of operation are below.
An unstructured play area that is inquiry-oriented, with kids asking questions and finding answers on their own or with the help of staff or other kids.
Indiana Dunes Visitor Center (Dorothy Buell Visitor Center)
Where: Indiana Dunes National Park Visitors Center, 1215 SR-49 Chesterton, IN 46304 Take the South Shore train to Dunes Park stop and walk 1.2 miles. Or bring your bike on the South Shore.
When: The visitor center is open everyday except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Summer Hours – Memorial Day Weekend Through Labor Day Weekend Daily 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM; Winter Hours Labor Day – Memorial Day from the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend through the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend Daily 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.
There are eight beaches in Indiana Dunes National Park. West Beach is the largest and most crowded and charges an entrance fee.
Where: West Beach Parking Lot 376 North County Line Road, Gary, IN 46403. Take the South Shore train to Ogden Dunes stop and walk 3.4 miles on Trails to West Beach. Or bring your bike on the South Shore.
When: Park Entrance – West Beach Daily 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Cost: All fees provides entry for one (1) vehicle. The fee helps maintain the bathhouse and lifeguards during the peak season. Fee is collected daily from the Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the Monday of Labor Day weekend, 8:00 am to as late as 7:00 pm Central Time.
- West Beach – Standard Entrance Fee (Currently No Charge*) – $6.00.
- West Beach – Senior Pass Entrance Fee (Currently No Charge*) – $3.00
- West Beach – Access Pass Entrance Fee (Currently No Charge*) – $3.00
- West Beach – Bus Entrance Fee (Currently No Charge*) – $30.00. This expanded amenity fee provides entry for one (1) bus.
Visit Indiana Dunes National Park – Beaches (number corresponds to location on map) All beaches are free except West Beach.
Like many beaches along Lake Michigan many of the Dunes beaches have been eroded. As of April 10, 2021 the following beaches are closed due to erosion: Lake View, Central and Portage lakefront and Riverwalk. The Trail and Pavilion are open at Portage.
Visit Indiana Dunes National Park – Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education
Where: 100 North Lake Street, Gary, IN 46403. Take the South Shore train to Miller stop and walk 1 mile. Or bring your bike on the South Shore.
When: The center is open everyday except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Summer Hours – Memorial Day Weekend Through Labor Day Weekend Daily 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM; Winter Hours Labor Day – Memorial Day from the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend through the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend Daily 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.
Junior Ranger Want to see the video about the Indiana Dunes National Park? Perhaps get your passport stamped? Pick up your BARK Ranger tag? The staff and volunteers at the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education are here to help.
Indiana Dunes National Park – Hiking trails (number corresponds to location on map)
12. West Beach
13. Tolleston Dunes
14. Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk
15. Bailly, Chellberg, Little Calumet River and Mnoké Prairie
16. Cowles Bog
18. Dune Ridge
19. Great Marsh
20. Mount Baldy Summit (Scheduled Tours Only)
21. Heron Rookery
22. Pinhook Bog (Scheduled Tours Only)
Indiana Dunes National Park – Bicycling Information (number corresponds to location on map)
Birding (Dunes Birding Blog)
Weekly on Sunday and Saturday (starting January 1, 2021)