Indiana Dunes Hiking – At Indiana Dunes National Park, there are about 50 miles of trails and even more located within the state park nearby. Hikers will love the diversity of the trail system here. These trails let you hike through prairies, on the beach, alongside dunes, bogs, wetlands, and oak forests, sometimes on the same day.
It takes a couple of days to hike all the trails available at Indiana Dunes National Park; however, it is possible. This article will help those planning a hiking trip to Indiana Dunes get more information concerning the number of trails available, their length, and how easy or difficult they are.
After reading this article, you should better understand what Indiana Dunes hiking has to offer. Let’s begin!
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Trail
The Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Trail is a name that seems like a mouthful, but thankfully the trail isn’t that long. Getting to the end of this 0.9-mile trail takes about 45 minutes. It is a popular trail and a great way to view the always-changing seasons and their effects on the land alongside Lake Michigan. You can watch the dramatic clouds build up over the lake if you time it right. It can also be an excellent location to spot migrating birds, especially in the summer and spring months.
Paul H. Douglas Trail (Miller Woods)
The Paul H. Douglass trail is a moderate hike, so hikers should consider this before choosing this one. It starts at the Paul H Douglas Center and leads you through Miller Woods and various habitats such as wetlands, open sand dunes, beaches, and rare black oak savanna. The views provided by this 3.4-mile trail are incredible, and the whole thing takes about two hours.
Oak Savannah Bike Trail
The Oak Savannah Bike Trail is a long yet easy trail because it is a paved rail trail. Hikers can enjoy the scenic views of Lake George and the mature forests. As its name states, it is great not only for hiking but also for biking. Note that it takes about two hours to hike the length of this four-mile trail.
Heron Rookery Trail
The Heron Rookery Trail is an easy 3.3-mile trail that takes about two hours to complete. Hikers on this trail are treated to a view of the woodlands, and a part of it straddles the Little Calumet River. If you choose to hike in the springtime, you get a view of the woodlands blanketed with an extensive display of wildflowers seen in this national park.
Hobart Prairie Grove Trails
The Hobart Prairie Grove Trail is a mid-length trail at 2.2 miles long. Hiking this trail provides you a view of the scenic Lake George, bur oak savanna, and forested ravines. It takes about one and a half hours to hike the entirety of this trail, and you get amazing views. Hiking this trail should be easy for the average person because certain sections are paved.
Great Marsh Trail
The Great Marsh Trail is perfect for those who want to take in the sights while hiking. It offers an excellent option for birders as the trail provides views of the largest wetland complex located in the Lake Michigan watershed. It is an easy hike, only 1.3 miles in length. On average, it takes about an hour to complete. It also features a unique wheelchair-accessible paved trail coupled with access to observation decks to ensure no hiker is left out from the fun.
Glenwood Dunes Trails
The Glenwood Dunes Trail is one of the longest available at Indiana Dunes National Park. It is about 6.8 miles in length, and due to this fact, this trail system offers interconnected loops situated in mature woods as small as a mile to as large as 15 miles across. Hiking this trail takes about four hours to complete and is quite popular with cross country skiers, horseback riders, runners, and of course, hikers.
Dune Ridge Trail
The Dune Ridge Trail is near Kemil beach. It’s a moderate hike that provides stellar views of the extensive forest and wetlands south of the tall forested dune. This short trail, only 0.7 miles in length, takes about 30 minutes to complete, yet it offers you the ability to see the most significant number of diverse habitats.
Calumet Dunes Trail
The Calumet Dunes Trails is one of the shortest trails you can hike at the Indiana Dunes National Park. Hiking this short easy trail takes about 20 minutes. The path is paved and takes you to the Calumet Dunes ridge, which happens to be the old shoreline of Lake Michigan more than 12,000 years ago. The trail is about half a mile and is relatively easy for the average person to undertake.
Bailly Homestead, Chellberg Farm, Little Calumet River, and Mnoké Prairie Trails
These trails are intertwined and enable you to hike through oak, basswood, beech, and maple trees. This hike is about 3.4 miles in length, and it takes about two and a half hours to complete. You could choose to follow the Little Calumet River stretch to explore the Mnoké Prairie, which was recently restored. These trails also lead to the history of Chellberg Farm and Bailly Homestead.
Cowles Bog Trail
The Cowles Bog Trail starts from a pretty unassuming parking lot and then goes along a buggy swamp, power lines, and train tracks. While the beginning of the trail might not be the most picturesque start, it heads into the woods after the swamp, where you start seeing a plethora of raspberry and blueberry bushes. After the woods, the path then steeply elevated up a forested dune and right back to a secluded beach. If you are lucky, your hiking party can be the only one at the beach.
The beach section of the trail sticks to the shore for about 0.2 miles then cuts back into the woods and through the Cowles Bog fen. While it is called Cowles Bog, it’s actually a fen. It isn’t a true bog because it has an underground water source. In the fen, you are bound to see a lot of birds, such as green herons and red-winged blackbirds.
This 4.7-mile trail takes about four hours to hike, and hikers on it will experience outstanding plant diversity in the region, so much that it is a designated National Natural Landmark. Throughout this moderate to intense hike, you will get the chance to explore various distinct habitats such as black oak savannas, beaches, swamps, marshes, and ponds.
Long Lake Trail from West Beach Parking Area
The Long Lake Trails is a trail that starts from the West Beach parking area. It is similar to the Dune Succession Trail; however, it does diverge from the lake while the former heads towards it. This trail offers a great loop through dunes, the woods, and around a swampy lake. Hiking this trail will bring you in contact with a lot of wildlife, such as butterflies, toads, lizards, birds, and wildflowers.
You should note that the trail can be muddy in certain spots, particularly after a day of rain; however, it isn’t too bad. Watch out for poison ivy, too. This 1.6-mile loop is an easy to moderate hike, and you can bring your dogs with you; however, they must be on a leash.
Dune Succession Trail from West Beach
The Dune Succession Trail is a series of staircases that go over and up ancient dunes covered with grass, poplar, and oak trees. The wildlife is vibrant, with little green and brown lizards called prairie racers running around. Note that there are some stairs to climb without shade, so it might not be the best trail for some.
The Dune Success Trail starts in the parking area of West Beach and ends at the beach, so after a somewhat intense hike, you can take a dip into the water before heading back to your vehicle. If you are hiking this trail in the summer, it is best to do so with sturdy footwear.
There is a $6 amenity fee attached to the park, and you are allowed to bring your dogs on the hike; however, they must be on a leash. The 0.9-mile loop is easy to moderate, depending on your energy levels and the weather on the day.
Indiana Dunes Hiking
There are so many trails to hike at Indiana Dunes National Park that it can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, we have run through the best hiking trails for you to make an informed decision.