A Weekend at Indiana Dunes State Park

Beautiful view of Lake Michigan from atop the dune

We used to tent camp a lot and enjoyed staying in state parks as often as possible.  They’re in beautiful locations and offer lots of opportunities to get back to nature.  Two of our favorite state park activities have always been hiking and kayaking.  But since trading stationary life for life on the road in late 2016, we hadn’t found ourselves in any state parks!  What were we thinking?!

That all changed with our weekend stay at Indiana Dunes State Park, which is located on the southern tip of Lake Michigan in Chesterton, Indiana.  What a magnificent park!  Established in 1925, the park includes three miles of beaches and sand dunes that rise nearly 200 feet above Lake Michigan and provide habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna.  Not only was it our first state park stay since becoming full time RVers, it was also our first time touching the waters of Lake Michigan.  Since it was just after Memorial Day weekend, the weather was still a little cool in that area and we didn’t actually immerse ourselves.  But we did touch the water, the beautiful cold water.

Indiana Dunes State Park, Indiana

Duane’s first time experiencing the waters of Lake Michigan – Trail #4 leads to this beach

We arrived on a cool but sunny, blue sky Friday afternoon and settled into our spacious, shady spot (water and 50 amp hookups!).  Our home on wheels is 36 feet long and we had plenty of space to spread out and not feel crowded even though the campground was full and festive that weekend.  We were in site 90 and enjoyed the picnic table and firepit in addition to water and 50 amp electric.

Site 90, Indiana Dunes State Park - 50 amp electric, water, picnic table and firepit

Site 90, Indiana Dunes State Park – 50 amp electric, water, picnic table and firepit

After settling in, we went for a hike.  We were anxious to see Lake Michigan up close for the first time.  Even though it was early June, it was cool, so we grabbed our jackets just in case and off we went to tackle Trail #4, a 3/4 mile trail, rated moderate by the park, that lead through a forest of black oaks to the beach and offered beautiful views of Lake Michigan.

On Trail #4, Indiana Dunes State Park

On Trail #4, Indiana Dunes State Park

Staircase up the dune on Trail #4

Staircase up the dune on Trail #4

The highest point on the dunes, Mt. Tom, at 192'

The highest point on the dunes, Mt. Tom, at 192′

The view from Mt. Tom. You can see Chicago in the distance on a clear day.

The view from Mt. Tom. You can see Chicago in the distance on a clear day.

The reward at the end of the trail - a stunning view of Lake Michigan

The reward at the end of the trail – a stunning view of Lake Michigan

The path we took back to the campground, Trail #7, was a little longer at 1.1 miles and also rated moderate.  It connects the beach with the Nature Center along a shady, sandy path similar to Trail #4.

On Trail # 7 at Indiana Dunes State Park, Indiana

On Trail # 7 at Indiana Dunes State Park

The next morning we headed to the Beach Trail to check out the swimming beach and pavilion in the main section of the state park.  The trail begins as a sandy footpath, meandering through shady and sunny areas and past a lovely stand of cinnamon ferns.  About halfway to the beach from the campground, it becomes a nice, wide boardwalk with picnic tables and seating scattered along the way.  It’s a wonderful, quiet place to rest and enjoy a snack or simply sit and reflect on the beauty of the place.

Cinnamon ferns along the Beach Trail, Indiana Dunes State Park

Cinnamon ferns along the Beach Trail, Indiana Dunes State Park

Cinnamon fern up close along the Beach Trail, Indiana Dunes State Park

Cinnamon fern up close along the Beach Trail, Indiana Dunes State Park

Boardwalk to the swimming beach on the Beach Trail, Indiana Dunes State Park

Boardwalk to the swimming beach on the Beach Trail, Indiana Dunes State Park

Shady picnic spot on the Beach Trail boardwalk, Indiana Dunes State Park

Shady picnic spot on the Beach Trail boardwalk, Indiana Dunes State Park

"Hey, can't they read the signs that say keep off the dunes?!"

“Hey, can’t they read the signs that say keep off the dunes?!”

A Revolutionary War battle took place here - Indiana Dunes State Park

A Revolutionary War battle took place here

Beach Pavilion at Indiana Dunes State Park.  Built between 1929 and 1930, there was once a restaurant, changing rooms and bathrooms.  Over the decades since, it’s been used for a variety of purposes.  Because of a lack of funding for restoration, it currently only houses the lifeguard office and is used for storage.

The swimming beach, Indiana Dunes State Park

The beautiful, expansive beach

Fun on the beach, Indiana Dunes State Park

Fun on the beach!

We had a wonderful day exploring the park, then headed back to our campsite to enjoy a perfect fire and some hot dogs and s’mores on our last night.

Making fire - Indiana Dunes State Park

Making fire – Indiana Dunes State Park

Campfire at Indiana Dunes State Park

Perfect campfire!

Perfect day, but it's time to move on to new adventures

Perfect day, but it’s time to move on to new adventures

The next morning it was time to get back On Nowhere Road, but we hope to visit Indiana Dunes State Park again someday.  We were only there for a weekend and there’s much more to see and do – more hiking trails, fishing, events to check out, and in winter, cross country skiing trails.  If you have the chance to spend some time at this beautiful state park, take it.  You won’t be disappointed!

Check it out at https://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2980.htm

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