Visit Indiana Dunes State Park.
The Indiana Dunes are split into two parks – an Indiana State Park and a National Park. This post covers the state park. Read about the National Park here.
The Indiana Dunes State Park is 2,182 acres of differing habitats, and a wide range of plant and animal species plus 16.5 miles of trails. It includes more than three miles of beach along Lake Michigan’s southern shore. It’s located at the north end of State Road 49 in Porter County, Indiana. Watch the history of the Dunes Shifting Sands: On the Path to Sustainability here.
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. The National Lakeshore became 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 State Park
Indiana Dunes State Park has a nature center and Indiana Dunes State Park Beach with different hours. Check website before heading out as hours can change and areas can close due to covid
Standard hours: Daily 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM Indiana does not observe daylight savings time.
Where: 1600 N. 25 E. Chesterton, IN 46304 219-926-1952 Ski information: 219-926-1952. Recorded information on parking and beach conditions at Indiana Dunes State Park and National Park 219-395-1003.
$7 Noncommercial vehicles with Indiana license plates, every day, including holidays.
$12 Noncommercial vehicles with out-of-state license plates, every day, including holidays.
$2 Daily Fee for each person, age 5 and older, entering as a pedestrian or on a bicycle.
Nature Center/Interpretive Naturalist Services
Where: 1600 North 25 E. Chesterton, IN 46304 219-926-1390. Take the South Shore train to Dunes Park stop and walk 1.5 miles. Or bring your bike on the South Shore.
When: Wednesday – Sunday 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. CT, closed state holidays. As of April 10, 2021 days of operation and hours may have changed. Call 219-926-1390 before heading out.
Indiana Dunes State Park Beach
There is one beach in Indiana Dunes State Park. Indiana Dunes State Park Beach is located between Porter Beach and Kemil Beach both of which are part of the National Park. Swimming at beaches is free after park entrance fee has been paid.
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.
When: Open for walking in the sand but closed to swimming from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Lifeguards are available from Memorial Day to mid-August. Beaches may close toward the end of the summer season when lifeguards are unavailable.
Where: 1600 N. 25 E. Chesterton, IN 46304 219-926-1952
Swimming and Beach Policy. Dogs are not allowed on the Indiana Dunes State Park beach.
Visit Indiana Dunes State Park – Hiking trails (number corresponds to location on map) Property Map 3 Dune Hiking Challenge
CLOSED: 2. EASY (3 miles)—The best trail for early spring flowers and ferns. Climax forest is used for crosscountry skiing during the winter season.
3. MODERATE (.75 mile)—Provides an opportunity to view succession in dunes area. Excellent for late spring wildflowers, including prickly pear cactus.
4. MODERATE (.75 mile)—Goes through dunes covered with black oak forest.
7. MODERATE (1.1 miles)—Similar to Trail 4. Most direct route from Nature Center to beach.
8. RUGGED (1.5 miles)—Goes over the tops of the three highest dunes of the Indiana Dunes.
9. MODERATE (3.75 miles)—Provides best representative view of the dunes. Good view of lake.
10. MODERATE (5.5 miles)—Hikers are rewarded by stands of white pine and a “tree graveyard” in Big Blowout. A good morning hike.
PLEASE STAY ON MARKED TRAILS.
Visit Indiana Dunes State Park – Bicycling information
Birding (Dunes Birding Blog)
Weekly on Sunday and Saturday (starting January 1, 2021)