Indiana Dunes National Park is large. It has 2 visitor centers and many beaches and parking lots. Directions to the West Beach parking lot can be found here.
To help support the expenses of hosting this blog, some of the links on this website are “affiliate links.” This means that, if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive a small commission from the seller; there is no added cost to you.
Indiana Dunes National Park is the 61st national park in the US. Its main attractions are its sandy beaches and hiking trails through miles of sand dunes. Considering the location of the park on the shouthern shores of Lake Michigan, most people are surprised to hear that there are sand dunes so far north in the United States. Taking into account that Indiana Dunes National Park is located less than 50 miles from downtown Chicago and that not many people outside of the Chicago area have ever heard of this park, we think that this park can be considered to be one of the best kept secrets in the country.
In 2019, Indiana Dunes National Park became the 61st national park in the US. This 15,349 acre (6,212 ha) park runs along the southern section of Lake Michigan for about 20 miles and it surrounds the much older Indiana Dunes State Park which was established in 1925.
About 40,000 years ago, the continental glacier had thinned significantly and at its end, it deposited the glacial till and sand that it was carrying. When the glacier receded north about 20,000 years ago, it left the Indiana Dunes on the southern shore of what is now Lake Michigan.
The first recorded settlements date back to the Hopewell culture in 200BC and the first European settlement dates back to the early 19th century.
First attempts to protect the sand dunes as a national park date back to 1916 but it took until 1966 when Congress created the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore which was redesignated Indiana Dunes National Park in 2019.
In 1925, the Indiana Dunes State Park was established. The state park still exists and nowadays it is surrounded by the National Park.
Nowadays, the dunes are mostly covered with vegetation, but the lake shore is basically one long beach.
With more than 1,400 plant species Indiana Dunes National Park ranks 8th in total plant species among all National Parks.
For Pinterest users, here are some pins that you can use:
Our Indiana Dunes Travel Guide has detailed information about the individual destinations, links to their locations in google maps, reviews and websites (if available).
Please see the Backpack & Snorkel Travel Store for more information.
But not much longer – we are going to spill the beans and provide you with a detailed guide to Indiana Dunes National Park.
In this guide, we will tell you what we consider to be the major attractions, provide google maps links to help you get there, our experiences and often links to the attractions if they have a website.
To help you find out what best fits you, we have added lots of photos and links to additional reviews.
This is not an in-depth guide. You can buy those from the big travel guide companies.
Our goal is to help you Make Memorable Moments on a relaxing trip and help you build the perfect itinerary for your trip.
For more detailed information incl. links to google maps locations, more reviews, website links, etc., check out our Indiana Dunes Purple Guide.
Indiana Dunes National Park is located on the Southern end of Lake Michigan between the cities of Gary and Michigan City in Indiana. Chicago, IL lies about 50 miles to the north west of the park and its skyline can be seen on a clear day from Indiana Dunes National Park.
Indiana is located in the Central Time Zone of the United States.
Indiana Dunes National Park and Indiana Dunes State Park are collocated on the southern shores of Lake Michigan. The highlights of both parks are their beaches and hiking trails. The beaches have fine golden and beige sand and the seafloor is also sandy, which means you don't need water shoes. Most beaches are at least 30ft (10m) wide and gently slope into Lake Michigan. The beaches are either on street level and accessible through a sandy path or you need to walk down from the street level to reach the water. Many beaches have live guards from Memorial Day to Labor Day and the gentle slope into Lake Michigan makes them suitable for a family vacation even with small kids.
Indiana Dunes National Park and Indiana Dunes State Park have lots of hiking trails. They are mostly flat but you may need to climb some sand dunes. Some trails are in open terrain, while others go through forested areas.
When you come in July, you are in for a treat, as there are tons of blackberry bushes on many of the trails.
Last but not least, Indiana Dunes National Park is also the home of six buildings that were built for the 1933 World Expo in Chicago. They are now private residences and you cannot go into them, but you can look at the buildings from the outside and read the signs that explain why these buildings are so special.
Highlights of Indiana Dunes National Park and Indiana Dunes State Park
Which part of Indiana Dunes National Park do you want to visit next?
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Directions to Indiana Dunes Park
- Weather in Indiana Dunes Park
- General Indiana Dunes Park Information
- Camping in Indiana Dunes Park
- Best things to see and do in Indiana Dunes Park
The average monthly temperatures and precipitation that you can expect during your trip to Indiana Dunes National Park are shown in the diagrams below.