One of the things my family loves most about the Indiana Dunes State Park is, of course, Lake Michigan. Many of our visits have been spent enjoying time together along its sandy beaches. Who can resist the sound of waves gently coming ashore, relaxing on the beach, or climbing nearby Devil's Slide sand dune?
During one of our visits this summer, we decided to shake off the sand (kind of) and explore a portion of the Dunes Nature Preserve, which makes up over 1,500 acres of the Indiana Dunes State Park. The preserve features several hiking trails with a variety of landscapes to choose from. Of course, the trails with the boardwalks stood out to my kids, so we decided to make a loop with Trail 10 and Trail 2.
We started Trail 10 at the trailhead, near the State Park Nature Center. Whenever we visit the Indiana Dunes State Park, we always spend time at the Nature Center enjoying the native animals, exhibits, and bird-watching room. It also makes the perfect stop before hitting the trails (especially with kids!) because there are restrooms and a water bottle refill station. This time, we picked up a Backpack for Naturalists, too! Inside are binoculars and nature guides to help you learn about native plants and wildlife.
Trail 10 starts off feeling more like a "beach hike," but by the time we had walked a portion of it, we were surrounded by dense forest and tons of large ferns. Everywhere we looked, there were ferns of all sizes. My daughter said the forest actually reminded her of the Wizard of Oz, which was really neat to hear because we recently had attended the annual Wizard of Days festival in nearby Chesterton.
Once we had connected with Trail 2, the landscape almost immediately changed from forest to marshland. The boardwalk went on as far as we could see. Hiking this section was our favorite part of the day. The marsh below the boardwalk was covered with a blanket of green, and the trees were full of activity. There were so many woodpeckers! They were busy flying about, calling and pecking at the trees. We spent at least a half hour listening, watching... and trying our best to take their photo. The Indiana Dunes is known for birdwatching, and the boardwalk on Trail 2 was such a great place to enjoy it.
The trail eventually took us back into the woods, where we discovered enormous acorns and so many different types of mushrooms along the path. As we headed west on Trail 2, back towards the Nature Center, there were lots of little details to stop and admire along the way. Kids are so great at spotting interesting things!
My children and I really enjoyed this family-friendly hike. Start-to-finish, it took us about three hours, with plenty of stops and photos. I’m really glad we took the time to hike this beautiful, diverse section of the Indiana Dunes State Park. It was neat to see the landscape change so much and so quickly as we hiked. We can’t wait to get back to the Indiana Dunes to explore more of the region’s “Beaches and Beyond”!
The Indiana Dunes is one of the most biodiverse parks in the U.S., and the Backpacks for Naturalists program offers free explorer backpacks for daily use. Each backpack contains binoculars…