As things start to approach yet another new level of normalcy, I wanted to share a trip we took over spring break. Many folks have become more comfortable with travel & road trips are becoming more popular than ever. Being one of those people that took a break from regular travel outside of Ohio, we started researching places close to home that offered a great way to still socially distance but be able to explore new areas.
That’s when I came across Indiana Dunes National Park. Besides Cuyahoga Valley National Park, this is the closest National Park to Cleveland so I figured let’s start there! A little backstory, Indiana Dunes National Park is one of the newest ones in the nation. It was officially declared a National Park in February of 2019 after being only authorized as a National Lakeshore since 1966. The entire park is along Lake Michigan on the coast of Indiana (you read that right – coastal Indiana!) It also borders Indiana Dunes State Park which is a completely different park system.
On our trip, we stuck to the National Park side. The state park charges admission & there was so much to explore within the National Park, we just stuck to that. Worth noting that at the state park is the 3 Dunes Challenge which is a climb to the top of three of the tallest sand dunes there. We thought we would attempt that but then reality hit that hiking through sand is a lot harder than it looks!
Our first stop when getting to the park was West Beach. Here you’ll come across beautiful views of Lake Michigan & on a clear day you can see the Chicago skyline! West Beach is also home to the National Park’s own challenge, Diana’s Dare. The hike is a mile long loop up & down winding stairs & of course, sand. This was the most we could handle. It really wasn’t that bad but if you’re on the fence about all these different sand dune dares, I would highly suggest starting with Diana’s Dare to scope out how you feel with this type of hike before progressing to the 3 Dunes Challenge. We ended the hike hanging out at the beach skipping rocks & just relaxing after all that walking.
We then ventured over to the visitor’s center which is a great place to find out all you need to know about the area & explored the Century of Progress Historic District which has several unique homes that were originally featured at the 1933 Chicago World Fair. The fair in Chicago offered millions of people in the depths of the Great Depression a hopeful vision that highlighted futuristic changes on the horizon. Developer Robert Bartlett brought a dozen buildings from the fair including five from the Homes and Industrial Arts housing exhibit that make up the Century of Progress Historic District. The buildings were moved by barge and truck to Beverly Shores, a resort community he was developing on the Indiana shore of Lake Michigan. You can find more info on these homes here.
The homes are along the lake so we spent some time on the Beverly Shores there at the beach & enjoyed a lunch overlooking Lake Michigan.
Afterwards, we headed to Mount Baldy which is a 126 feet high sand dune. It is a wandering dune that moves or shifts every year, and is called a “living dune.” It was quite impressive to see in person. The dune is not accessible to climb but you can take a long walk around it to the beach. We opted out of that & just enjoyed exploring the area around the dune taking pics.
We really enjoyed checking off another National Park to our bucket list.
Here’s a list of some other things we did in addition to Indiana Dunes:
Michigan City Lighthouse – a beautiful beach & lighthouse
Big Working Kaleidoscope – as seen on Roadside Attractions, a fun stop with some other unique sculptures
New Buffalo Beach – beautiful beach on the southwest coast of Michigan with a playground on it
Galien River County Park – beautiful park with a 300′ canopy walkway that leads to a 60′ tall Marsh Overlook Tower
Soldiers Memorial Park – nice park with a great playground on Stone Lake in Indiana
Fort La Play Porte – if you visit one playground, make it this one – beautiful, new wooden playground in Laporte, IN
Stand on 3 states – perfect on the way home activity to stretch the legs