The trail follows the South Shore Railroad tracks and NIPSCO power lines. There is no shade. The trail can be impassible (i.e. wet shoes) due to standing water along much of the trail that can be 4-6″ deep in spots. The gravel trail is not suitable for road bikes.
The Beach Trail hike is a short hike with a steep climb down loose sand to the beach. Be sure to plan accordingly as the only way out is up the steep trail. Do not bring a large cooler or other large beach items as the climb up from the beach is difficult. The sweeping views of Lake Michigan are fantastic.
The trail winds through mature beech and maple forest as you hike over the undulating moraine topology formed at the end of the last ice age, approximately 15,000 years ago. There is a nice view of the bog near the south end of the loop.
The Paul H. Douglas Center has restrooms, picnic tables, and wetland boardwalk that are all wheelchair accessible. There are displays showing information about Indiana Dunes National Park. Hike the incredible Paul H. Douglas (Miller Woods) trail system. Families can enjoy the Nature Play Zone. Use the picnic table area to have a bite. There is an indoor Activities Room with games, crafts, books, and art supplies!
The center and trail are named after U.S. Senator Paul H. Douglas from Illinois, who was instrumental in the creation of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966 (renamed Indiana Dunes National Park in 2019).
The picnic shelters are located on the north side U.S. Highway 12, approximately 1/2 mile east of State Road 49 and the Dune Park South Shore train station. There are two entrances that are 50 yards apart. Restrooms are open seasonally.
These trails offer a great combination of hiking and relaxing at the beach. The trails are varied and encompass many habitats. There are great views from the top of the Dune Succession Trail stairs, a beautiful pinery of jack pines, birding opportunities along Long Lake and secluded sections of forest.
There is a $6.00 per car parking fee from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. There are picnic shelters; some are reservable on www.recreation.gov.
The Tolleston Dunes Trail winds amid 4,700 year-old sand dunes that were formed when Lake Michigan’s water level was 25 feet higher than today. Tolleston is the second youngest of four distinct dune systems found within the national park. Together these dune ridges provide a glimpse into the changing shoreline of Lake Michigan.
Tolleston Dunes has varied habitats ranging from globally rare black oak savanna to wetlands and plants such as prickly pear cactus, butterfly weed, and the wild blue lupine flower (Lupinus perennis) which grows in abundance. Another plant with a large population is the eastern prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa).
This popular location is a great place to view the ever-changing seasons along Lake Michigan and watch dramatic weather and clouds build over the lake. It’s an easy location to watch for migrating birds in the spring and summer, and observe shelf ice that forms along the beach edge in the winter. Visitors can enjoy easy access to the lakefront and trails that highlight dune succession. A 3,500 square foot public pavilion includes restrooms, a seasonal snack bar and a glass walled classroom/meeting space.