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Outdoor recreation itinerary
With 15 miles of Lake Michigan coastline and more than 70 miles of trails in the Indiana Dunes, you can choose between a relaxing hike and something more challenging.
Are you looking for the ultimate challenge? If so, take The 3 Dune Challenge. To complete the challenge, go to the Nature Center at Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton and hike a specially-marked 1.5 mile course, climbing Mount Jackson (elevation 176 feet), Mount Holden (184 feet), and Mount Tom (elevation 192 feet). Some parts of the trail feature 40-degree slopes, making each step that much more, well, challenging. In the sandy vertical climbs, it’s common to take two steps forward and slide one step back.
But if you conquer The 3 Dune Challenge, we invite you to stop by the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center to buy a shirt and pick up a free commemorative sticker and postcards. The Visitor Center is also a great place to pick up brochures and get expert advice about how to best enjoy your time in Indiana Dunes Country.
Indiana Dunes State Park is home to six other trails which range from easy to moderate. Trail 9, which has been selected as one of the best hiking trails in the nation, rewards hikers with forest views followed by spectacular lake views. Some people skip the hiking trails altogether and just walk along the beach.
After hiking at Dunes State Park, add a little variety with a hike at one of these great Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore sites: Cowles Bog in Porter, Tolleston Dunes in Portage or West Beach in Portage. If you end up in Portage, stop at Bass Pro Shops, a 130,000-square-foot store with everything for outdoors lovers, including clothing, kayaks and hunting and fishing gear. There’s even an Islamorada Fish Company restaurant inside the store.
Then round out your outdoor fun with two attractions located minutes from each other west of Valparaiso – Broken Wagon Bison Farm and Taltree Arboretum & Gardens.
Taltree features a railway garden with wonderful waterfalls, elaborate bridges, an impressive 14-foot change in elevation, and more than 3,500 tiny trees and bushes. It is also which is home to 3.5 miles of trails, a rose garden, a butterfly garden, a kids area with animals and plenty of events and concerts.
At Broken Wagon, guests can get up close and personal with a herd of bison. They have open tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. CST each Saturday from June to September, and sell meat and other bison products in their store.
It’s a little out of the way, but a great attraction for Sundays during the season is Pinhook Bog in LaPorte, where visitors can stop in at the open houses that run from noon to 3 p.m. CST Sunday (although best to show up by 2 p.m. because the experience takes an hour). Walk on water via a floating boardwalk and see insect-eating plants and other interesting finds.
Is kayaking your pleasure? Paddle Lake Michigan from Indiana Dunes State Park, get onto the Kankakee River from Dunn’s Bridge County Park in Kouts or paddle an inland lake at Rogers-Lakewood Park in Valparaiso.
Bicyclists will enjoy the gravel Calumet Trail or the paved Prairie Duneland Trail, or try mountain biking at the Outback Trail at Imagination Glen Park in Portage.
Nature lovers will appreciate a stay at one of these inns, each set on acres of land with room to stroll: the Chesterton area’s Gray Goose Inn, Inspiration Wood and At Home in the Woods, and Valparaiso’s Songbird Prairie.