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.
Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education
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).
West Beach Trails
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.
Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk Trail
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.
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Beach
No lifeguards. Swim at your own risk; rip currents and large waves can make swimming hazardous.
No lifeguards. Swim at your own risk; rip currents and large waves can make swimming hazardous. The beach is located a quarter mile from the beach. Parking lot fills up very quickly on summer weekends and holidays.
Dunewood Campground (67 Sites)
The campground is located one mile from Lake View Beach. Restrooms and showers are located in the center of each loop. No electric or water hookups at individual sites. There is potable water located at several locations in each loop. The campground does have a RV dump station. There is a $25 per night camping fee.
Dune Ridge Trail
The Dune Ridge Trail offers great views of the extensive wetlands and forests south of this tall, forested dune. The different habitats you’ll see along the trail help make Indiana Dunes National Park one of the top five most biologically diverse of all the national parks.
Cowles Bog Trail
The Cowles Bog Trail highlights an area of such outstanding plant diversity that it was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1965. This location, where Dr. Henry Cowles conducted much of his early work in plant ecology and succession in the early 1900s, remains an important focus for scientific study today.
Explore several distinct habitats along this 4.7-mile trail including ponds, marshes, swamps, black oak savannas and beaches. Steep sand dunes near Lake Michigan can make this a strenuous journey. Many visitors pack a lunch to enjoy at the shoreline while resting for the return trip (don’t forget to “pack out” your trash). Make sure to bring plenty of water, sun protection, and extra clothing layers as the weather at the lake can be very different than at the parking lot.
Central Avenue Beach
National park beach access location. No lifeguards. Swim at your own risk; rip currents and waves can make swimming hazardous.