Our family loves visiting National Parks and have it on our bucket list to hike as many as we can. Sadly, living in the Midwest doesn’t give us too many choices. So when Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore officially became the 61st National Park, we couldn’t have been more stoked to have a National Park in our “backyard.” My family found hiking at Indiana Dunes an adventure especially when dunes can be tackled!
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ACQUAINT YOURSELF AT THE VISITORS CENTER
As with all National Parks, I think it’s best to start at the Visitor Center. The rangers and staff are always helpful. Make sure to go ahead and get a Junior Ranger Booklet as well as a Beachcomber Junior Range Explorer booklet. My son couldn’t walk away from the Indiana Dunes hiking stick. A great souvenir, IMO.
Tip: Don’t forget to get your National Park Passport Book stamped here. Plus, it’s a great spot to use the potty.
Mt. Baldy Trail
If you’re looking for an (mostly) easy trail with rewarding views the Mt. Baldy Trail is a great one. The out-and-back trail is only.75 miles. The climb up the last dune may have been a little too much for 7-year-old, but the climb down and the views at the top are totally worth it. Once you’ve done one dune trail that ends at the beach, you’ll be pumped to do more!
Just remember, you have to climb back up!
Tip: If you’re going to the Mt. Baldy Trail make sure to drive on Lake Front Drive to see the five Century of Progress Homes. These homes were actually from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair that were transported by barge! Don’t miss the pink Florida Tropical House! .
Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm
An easy hike, a little bit of history…and a chance to see animals? That’s exactly the reason why kids will more likely to hike this trail. Since Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm are located very close to each other, I would highly recommend doing both at the same time. After parking at the lot, we hiked to both locations. The hike to both sites was easy on mostly flat land a few rolling hills. The Bailly Homestead contained historical buildings including one that was once a fur trading post.
At Chellberg Farm, we caught a glimpse of how Swedish farmers lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. While exploring the farm, we saw chickens clucking about and cows grazing in the pasture
These two trails were easy (a little too easy according to the kids.)
Tip: Watch out for special programs at Chellberg Farm.
Diana of Dunes Dare
One of my favorite hikes from our last visit to the Indiana Dunes was the Succession Trail at West Beach. Since then, they’ve added a new challenge – the Diana Dunes Dare. The challenge, named after Alice Mabel who was an advocate and lover of the Dunes, follows the Succession Dune Trail at West Beach. The trail allows hikers to see the four stages of dune formation. One of the reasons why this is my favorite hike is stairs. boardwalk, more stairs, then a climb down the dunes with magnificent views of the lake. The length of the trail is about a mile and I’d say pretty manageable even for young kids. And the end result? The beach! If you head back to the visitor center, you can pick up a sticker for completing the challenge.
Looking for another challenge? The 3 Dune Challenge at Indiana State Park is such a fun and challenging one.
BEACH IT UP
Since we were already at the beach, we relished the time and the quietness of the beach. It was a great chance to finish our Beachcomber Junior Range Explorer booklet.
Stop one more time at Visitor Center again
We made one final stop at the Visitor Center to turn in our Junior Ranger booklets and Beach booklet, collect our Diana Dunes Challenge sticker and of course use the bathrooms. What a fun time!
Have you been to Indiana Dunes before? What is your favorite thing to do there?
RELATED: Find out what else you can do in Indiana’s South Shore here.