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The Best Indiana Dunes Hike

Are you looking to explore Indiana Dunes and want to find the best Indiana Dunes hike?

We’ve got you covered. We explored Indiana Dunes during the summer of 2023 and will share our top tips to help you choose the best hiking trail. Since most of the trails are short, it’s easy to link several trails together. You can see our top hiking choices below and a more detailed description below.

If you are looking for more information on visiting Indiana Dunes, check out:

Note that we’ve included both hikes for Indiana Dunes National Park and State Park as they are directly next to each other.

Top Options for the Best Indiana Dunes Hike

Scroll down for more information on each of the best hiking trails. If you are looking for the absoluate top trails to explore, here are the 5 Best Hikes in Indiana Dunes:

  1. 3 Dune Challenge
  2. West Beach and Dune Succession Trail
  3. Paul H. Douglas Trail
  4. Cowles Bog Trail
  5. Mount Baldy Trail
Walking and Hiking the Best Indiana Dunes Hike

Best Hikes in Indiana Dunes National Park

3 Dune Challenge: This iconic 1.5-mile loop trail takes hikers up the three tallest dunes in the park—Mount Tom, Mount Holden, and Mount Jackson. It offers a challenging hike with varying sand dune terrain, providing stunning views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding landscape. Due to its popularity and unique experience, the 3 Dune Challenge is a must-do for many visitors.

West Beach and Dune Succession Trail: This 0.75-mile loop trail starts at West Beach and showcases the ecological process of dune formation and succession. Rated as an easy hike, it is suitable for all ages and offers educational signs explaining the dune ecosystem. West Beach’s accessibility and educational value make it a popular trail for families and nature enthusiasts.

Paul H. Douglas Trail: A 3.6-mile loop trail that leads hikers through diverse landscapes, including dunes, wetlands, and forests. The trail’s moderate difficulty level and rich biodiversity attract a wide range of hikers seeking a comprehensive experience of Indiana Dunes National Park. See more about the Paul H. Douglas Trail.

Indiana Dunes Hike: Paul H Douglas Trail

Cowles Bog Trail: This 4.7-mile loop trail features a mix of wetlands and woodlands, providing ample birdwatching opportunities. Its moderate difficulty level and beautiful scenery make it a favorite among bird enthusiasts and hikers looking for a tranquil nature hike.

Mount Baldy Trail: A short but challenging 0.6-mile hike up Mount Baldy, one of the tallest dunes in the park. Hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of the dunes and Lake Michigan. Due to its unique dune landscape and accessibility, Mount Baldy Trail is a popular choice for visitors seeking a quick adventure.

Tolleston Dunes Trail: This 4.2-mile loop trail takes hikers through varying dune habitats and wooded areas. Its moderate difficulty level and less-crowded atmosphere make it an excellent choice for those seeking a more secluded hiking experience.

Heron Rookery Trail: A 3.3-mile trail winding through wooded areas, leading to a rookery where herons nest during the spring and summer months. The trail’s unique birdwatching opportunities and serene surroundings attract visitors seeking a peaceful hike.

Glenwood Dunes Trail: This 4.9-mile loop trail offers a mix of dunes, forests, and wetlands, providing a diverse hiking experience. While it is less popular than some other trails, its varied terrain appeals to hikers looking for a more challenging and less-crowded hike.

Little Calumet River Trail: An easy 3.7-mile trail following the scenic path of the Little Calumet River. Its leisurely pace and beautiful river views make it a family-friendly choice for a peaceful hike.

Dunewood Trace and Beach Trail: This 3.2-mile loop trail combines wooded areas and a stroll along the beach. Its accessibility from the Dunewood Campground and beach access make it a popular choice for campers and beachgoers.

Chellberg Farm Trail: A short 1-mile trail that meanders through the Chellberg Farm, offering a glimpse into the area’s cultural history. Its easy difficulty level and historical significance attract visitors interested in both nature and heritage.

Succession Trail: This 1-mile loop trail showcases the ecological process of dune formation and succession. Its short distance and educational value make it a popular option for visitors seeking a quick and informative hike. See more about hiking the Dune Succession Trail.

Indiana Dunes Hike
Indiana Dunes Hike: Dune Succession Trail

Dunbar Trail: A 1.6-mile loop trail that winds through the dunes and offers beach access. Its moderate difficulty level and beach access make it an excellent choice for a balanced hiking and beach day.

Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm Loop: This 2.3-mile loop trail combines historical sites with wooded areas, providing a mix of cultural and natural experiences. Its unique blend of heritage and hiking appeals to those seeking a well-rounded park visit.

Little Calumet River and Inland Marshes Trail: A 2.5-mile loop trail that offers peaceful views of the river and marshes. Its easy difficulty level and serene surroundings attract hikers looking for a tranquil nature walk.

Indiana Dunes Hike
Indiana Dunes Hike

Tips for Hiking at Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes is a great park to hike and explore. Below you can see some tips on hiking in the National Park.

  • Summers can be hot and winters can be bitterly cold. Check the weather and before visiting the park and if possible try to plan your visit for the spring or the fall.
  • If you are hiking in the summer, note that the sand can get very hot. Always wear shoes on the trails and bring plenty of sunscreen and water and many of the trails are exposed.
  • We have good cell service through the park, but always be prepared for limited service and plan accordingly.
  • While the hikes are short, you should always be prepared when day hiking. See our general guides on hiking for suggestions of what to pack on a day hike.
  • Before planning your visit, check out the NPS site for updates on trail and road openings.
  • Be able to identify and avoid poison ivy as this is found throughout the park and along many of the trails.
  • Leave no trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by carrying out all trash and waste with you. Keep the trails and the park clean for the enjoyment of others and to protect the environment.
Best Indiana Dunes Hike

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