Guest Author - Linda McMaken
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore offers one of the Midwest’s last remaining lakeshore parks. The beach offers great walks, the gorgeous Lake Michigan and sand dunes. We many not have an ocean here in the Midwest, but we’ve got great sand dunes, and our sand dunes walk.
Moving inland at about 4-feet a year, the largest dune, Mt. Baldy is quickly giving up its pricey beachfront property. The nature of sand and forceful winds pouring in off Lake Michigan creates an ever-changing landscape in this park. The scenery is never alike two days in a row.
Mt. Baldy is over 190-feet high and is one tough climb. The slippery, deep sand makes for a strenuous hike. This sand dune is tall enough it provides a take-off point for hand-gliders in summer. It’s during the evening hours however, that the sweaty, muscle trembling climb was worth the effort. The view from the top of this beautiful sand dune is nothing short of spectacular. The twinkling skyline of downtown Chicago appears over the horizon like a mythical oz, and the blue of Lake Michigan takes on an endless vista of white and gray waves.
Indian Dunes National Lakeshore has 14-miles of hiking trails, covers roughly 15,000 acres of shoreline, plus 15-miles of white sandy beach. Several hiking trails lead you into an area of ancient bogs. I think this may be the only place in the U.S. where you can play in sand dunes, swim in a Great Lake, and hike along a bog!
Thousands of native plants cover the park, many found only in the Indiana bogs, marshes, and grassy slopes of the dunes. According to the park brochure, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is home to “the only remaining wild stand of Northern White Cedar in Indiana”. The cedar grove is definitely worth the hike. Take plenty of water, sunscreen, and a trail map. Check in at the park office for details, as a few trails weren’t well marked when I visited last.
There is a sweet little campground in the park with pull-through sites for RVer’s, pads for tenters, and hot showers. The park is open all year, but the campground is open only from April – Oct. The park does charge an entrance fee, and a camping fee.
Set aside a few days to explore this park. While it’s stunning beach and softly moving sand dunes steal the show, it has much more to offer.