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).
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.
No lifeguards. Swim at your own risk; rip currents and large waves can make swimming hazardous.
The visitor center is open daily and is staffed with national park rangers and Indiana Dunes Tourism agents. The center, restrooms, and picnic tables are wheelchair accessible. The 100-vehicle parking lot includes bus & RV parking spaces. There are displays showing information about Indiana Dunes National Park, Porter County, and Indiana Dunes State Park. Enjoy the activity room and learn more about the park. Watch two short orientation videos. Shop in the Eastern National bookstore. Pick up brochures about Indiana Dunes National Park and Porter County. Purchase federal park passes.
The trail runs along State Road 49 from the State Park entrance to the north and the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center to the south. The trail also connects to the Calumet Bike Trail and the Dune Park South Shore Railroad train station. The trail is flat with the exception of the U.S. Highway 12 and U.S. Highway 20 overpasses.
The Dunes Kankakee Trail is an ambitious trail project that, if and when completed, will run the entire length of Porter County. It will connect the Indiana Dunes State Park and Indiana Dunes National Park at the north end to the Kankakee River at the south end. It would tie into the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail at its southern terminus.
This short paved trail features the Calumet Dunes ridge, which was the shoreline of Lake Michigan over 12,000 years ago. The lake has slowly receded over time, forming three major parallel dune ridges: Glenwood (640′ above sea level), Calumet (620′ above sea level) and Tolleston (605′ above sea level). The current lake level is approximately 580′ above sea level. U.S. Highway 12 follows the high ground of the Tolleston Dunes ridge in this area, just north of the Calumet Dunes Trail.
The Little Calumet River, Mnoké Prairie, Bailly Homestead, Chellberg Farm and Bailly Cemetery trail system reveals the rich natural diversity that has drawn people to this area for over 10,000 years. Hike through a forest dominated by maple, beech, basswood and oak trees.
Follow a stretch of the Little Calumet River, once a critical transportation route for early regional travelers and explore the recently restored Mnoké Prairie for a glimmer of the vast stretches of pre-settlement grasslands. Explore the historic Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm. There are picnic shelters reservable on www.recreation.gov.
Named for environmental activist Marian R. Byrnes, this 135-acre park is one of Chicago’s largest natural areas. Located in the Southeast Side’s Jeffery Manor neighborhood (where it’s known as “the prairie”), the site encompasses a variety of ecosystems, making it a great place to observe species like frogs, snakes, birds, and deer. After undergoing immense ecological restoration, the park now provides community members with a safe space to relax and connect with nature. Its new asphalt multipurpose trail runs the length of the park, giving visitors access to multiple habitats and unique views.
Located in the South Chicago neighborhood, Steelworkers Park weaves its rich industrial history into present day recreation. Once the site of a thriving steel mill along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, the park is now one of the city’s unique natural areas, perfect for birding, stargazing, and other outdoor fun.
Feeling adventurous? Try your hand at rock climbing up a portion of the repurposed historic ore wall left behind by the steel industry. Or keep your feet on the ground with a relaxing walk or bike ride along meandering nature paths lined with native grasses and plants.
The Burnham Wildlife Corridor (BWC) is a 100-acre ribbon of urban wilderness running through Burnham Park. The corridor is composed of 3 main natural areas including the Burnham Centennial Prairie, Burnham Nature Sanctuary, and McCormick Bird Sanctuary. The corridor spans both sides of Lake Shore Drive, and is the largest stretch of natural area along Chicago’s lakefront. Its native prairie, savanna, and woodland ecosystems provide healthy, diverse habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, and offer opportunities for visitors to meaningfully connect to this revitalized public green space in ways that inspire nature exploration, enjoyment, and stewardship.
The Burnham Wildlife Corridor is home to five unique “gathering spaces,” which have been designed and created — and will be activated — by teams of local artists and community-based organizations from the Chinatown, Bronzeville, and Pilsen neighborhoods. The BWC Gathering Spaces are artistic installations and seating areas, reflective of nature and culture, that serve as assembly grounds and resting points for people exploring this part of the lakefront. They are located on both the east and west sides of Lake Shore Drive.