Indiana Dunes National Park is one of America’s newest national parks, having made the transition from national lakeshore to national park in 2019. Despite its relatively industrial setting and proximity to Chicago, this park has a level of biodiversity that rivals even the state of Hawaii. Any bird watcher, hiker, swimmer or nature lover should put this park on their to-see list!
Hike Pinhook Bog
Pinhook Bog is a must-see at the park. It is a remnant of Indiana’s glacial past, formed from the land depression and melted ice left behind from a retreating glacier. The bog boasts impressive varieties of insect-eating plants, blueberry bushes, orchids and sphagnum moss. The Upland Trail, which takes visitors through a beech and maple forest, is a 2.1-mile lollipop-shaped hike and is accessible any time the park is open. The Bog Trail is just short of a mile and takes visitors right up to Pinhook Bog, but it is only available on summer weekends with ranger supervision.
Guided Tour of Lake Michigan
Every Saturday morning, park visitors can join a ranger for a guided tour of Lake Michigan. The hour-and-a-half tour takes visitors through the cultural and natural history of the park. Highlights include seeing the Century of Progress Homes (which were once part of the Chicago World Fair), learning about the process of dune formation and beautiful views of the lake itself. This tour is especially great for kids!
Take the Diana Dunes Dare
The Diana Dunes Dare challenge is named after Alice Mabel Gray (known as Diana of the Dunes), a well-educated woman from Chicago who defied gender and cultural stereotypes by leaving her job as a mathematician to live in the then-wild Indiana Dunes. The hike begins at West Beach and takes visitors over the “Diana Dune,” which boasts beautiful views and more information on Diana. Plus, you get a free sticker at the end!
Walk around Cowles Bog
Cowles Bog is one of the areas in the park most noted for its biodiversity, which earned it National Natural Landmark status in 1965. Named after ecologist Dr. Henry Cowles, the 4.7-mile Cowles Bog Trail will take you through several distinct habitats, including ponds, swamps, savannas, marshes and beaches.
West Beach and the Dune Succession Trail
One of several Lake Michigan beaches encompassed by the national park, the West Beach allows for either a relaxing visit to the beach or an active hiking day. Or both! The 3.4-mile Dune Succession Trail is one of the more popular in the park and includes a lookout point, jack pine forest and ample opportunities for birdwatching.
Remember the important park policy — whatever you pack in, pack out! These activities will ensure an amazing time at the Dunes, from seasoned nature lovers to the beginning adventurer.