Indiana Dunes National Park Guide

Towering sandy dunes, well-worn hiking trails, diverse flora and fauna, and acclaimed entertainment venues, Indiana Dunes National Park is an ultimate outdoor adventure destination.

This national park is considered the birthplace of ecology and science, making it a special attraction for nature lovers.

And according to More than just parks, almost 3.5 million people visit Indiana Dunes each year, and even in 2021, the park welcomed approximately 3.18 million visitors. 

If you, too, want to be one of the visitors to this national park this year, then you are on the right page!

In this post, we’ll be sharing the best hotels to stay near Indiana Dunes National Park, best places to see, frequently asked questions, etc. Let’s begin!

Where Is Indiana Dunes National Park?


Park Indiana Dunes National park
Founded 2019
Things to doCamping, Hiking, Bike ride.
Hotels near Indiana Dunes national ParkSpring house Inn, Waterbird lakeside Inn and many more
PriceNo entry fee
Camping Locations Multiple Locations

Where Is Indiana Dunes National Park?

Indiana Dunes National Park is located in northwestern Indiana, at the southern tip of Lake Michigan, surrounded by National Parklands.

If you are traveling by air and are looking for the nearest airport, then you can take a flight to Chicago Midway (MDW) Airport.

To reach Indiana Dunes National Park via road, you can take U.S. Highways 12 & 20, Indiana Toll Road, Interstate 94, Indiana State Road 49, etc., among many others.


Indiana Dunes National Park is one of the smallest yet most diverse in all National Park systems in the United Nations and is Designated as the 61st National Park.

At just under 24-miles, this magical place offers stunning sandy beaches, rugged dunes, quiet forests, and a fantastic diversity of habitats.

The variety of terrains in the parks allows for a wide variety of flora and fauna to flourish and offer incredible visitor experiences. 

For those looking for a place to escape from the bustle of the city, Indiana Dunes National Park makes a great weekend gateway to a unique outdoor location.

More than 2 million visitors come to the Park every year to enjoy a pyramid of outdoor adventures. 1


The Park was initially established as Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966 and designated as Indiana Dunes National Park after a long journey that began in the late 1800s.

Three prominent individuals who work tirelessly to save the dunes and turn the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore into reality include Henry Cowles, Senator Paul H. Douglas, and Dunes resident Dorothy R. Buell. 

In 1961 people who fought to save the dunes began to see hope in President John. Kennedy supported congressional authorization.

In 1966,  National Park Service added the Indiana Dune as National Lakeshore. 

The 1966 legislation included 8,330 acres of land and water, National Park Service.

It Saved the Dunes Council to continue its efforts to expand the boundaries of preservation, and the size of the Park go increased to more than 15,000 acres. 

On February 15th, 2019, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was renamed Indiana Dunes National Park, and it became the 61st national Park in the country. 

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Best Things to Do in the Park

There are a variety of activities to do in Indiana Dunes National Park, here are our top picks:

Relax at the Beach

Relaxing on the beach is one of the best ways to spend a great afternoon at Indiana Dunes National Park.

There are nine different beaches along the 15-miles of Lake Michigan’s Southern shoreline, unique beauty, and recreational activities.

Whether you want to take a sunbathe, take a plunge, or stroll on the beach marveling at the arctic beauty of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes beaches are accessible in all seasons.

Make sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and insect repellent and stay away from the seas during rip current warnings.

Hike the Dune Succession Trail

Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Indiana Dunes National Park. The Dune Succession trail is one of the best hikes to experience the different stages of dune development.

The trail distance varies from 0.9 miles to 3.4 miles, depending on your preferences and time constraints.

The trail takes the visitors to the loyalty Perch with sweeping views of the Park.

The course is a little longer, so make sure to take a break on the west beach to catch some breath and enjoy the stunning views of the Lake.

Go for a Bike Ride

Indiana Dunes National Park offers nearly 75-miles of bike trails of varying lengths for different ability levels.

You can discover much more than just dunes. This interconnected bike trail system spans across the entire length of the Park.

Most of the biking trails are paved and allow traditional and E-bikes.

Dunes Kankakee and Marquette trails are the shortest and family-friendly, while Oak Savanah Rail and Prairie trails are comparatively challenging with intermediate difficulty levels.

Explore the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk 

Portage and Lakefront Riverwalk area is a popular location to enjoy stunning views of Lake Michigan covered with beautiful clouds and watch migrating birds in the summer and spring.

During winters, visitors come here to see shelf ice formed along the beach’s edge and get easy access to the lakefront and trails highlighting the dune succession.

The area also features a 3,500 square foot public pavilion with snack bars, toiles, and meeting space.

You can take a walk along the path or relax at the beach for a beautiful outdoor escape. 2

Best Time to Visit 

Though all seasons are great to visit Indiana Dunes National Park and make you enjoy something different, the most popular season to visit the Park is summer, when you can enjoy swimming in Lake Michigan.

But it can be very humid and highly crowded during this period so, if you want to avoid crowds, another season ideal for visiting would be winter when the weather is cold yet pleasant.

You can enjoy snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and other winter activities. 3


Download the Indiana Dunes National Park area map showing visitor centers, beaches, hiking trails, entrances, and points of interest.

So you’ll have an idea of where you’re heading to and how you want to spend your day in the Park.

Visit the NPS website to download the map and Park’s brochure

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Indiana Dunes National Park
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Hotels Near Indiana Dunes National Park

There are numerous decent lodging options within the Park. You can either camp under the sky or choose a vacation rental by the dunes:

  • Spring House Inn
  • Comfort Inn & Suites by Radisson
  • AI & Sally’s Motel
  • Best Western Indian Oak
  • Fairbridge Inn Express Chesterton
  • Waterbird Lakeside Inn

Camping Locations

So camping is one of the most popular ways to relax at the dunes.

Overnight camping is allowed from April 1st to October 31st at the Dune Campground, the only camping ground in the Park.

It consists of 66 camp-sites that allow Tent and RV camping. The camping fee per night is $25, while access pass holders will get a 50% off.

You can make Reservations from

3 Sights at Indiana Dunes National Park


Indiana Dunes National Park experiences all four seasons with hot and humid summers and cold winters.

The Park’s primary feature, “Lake Michigan,” is responsible for several weather conditions.

During Summer, rip currents occur in the Lake and threaten swimmers by sweeping them far out in the Lake.

The highest daily temperature in summer can go up to 81°F, while in winters, it can drop up to -22°F.  4

Entry Fee & Passes

Indiana Dunes National Park has no entry fee, and visitors can enter the Park for a price.

The Indian Dunes State Park charges $7 per vehicle for Indiana Plates and $12 for out-of-state parks.

America the Beautiful and other passes are not accepted at the Park. 

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Checklist of Things to Pack

If you’re wondering what to pack for your first trip to Denali National Park, here are 12 must-have items you need to bring with you:

  1. Backpack
  2. Seasonal clothing
  3. Swimsuit
  4. Sunscreen
  5. Hiking Boots 
  6. Binoculars
  7. Water bottles & Healthy snacks
  8. Flashlight/Headlamp
  9.  Knife 
  10.  Bug protection
  11.  First-aid kit 
  12.  Map & Compass


How many days Should You spend in Indiana Dunes National Park?

Ideally, you should spend a minimum of 3-days seeing all the main highlights, hike trails, and get a camping experience.

Can I drive through the Indiana Dunes National Park?

While hiking is the most popular way to explore Indiana Dunes, but yes, you can take a scenic drive to the park.

Is It Safe to Swim in Indiana Dunes National Park?

You can swim at your own risk but be sure to check the weather conditions before getting into waters.

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