Nestled along the southern shore of Lake Michigan is an urban park with towering sand dunes, wetlands, woodlands, and prairies. It's the birthplace of plant ecology, with over one thousand native plant species—more than Yellowstone! It's a birding hotspot where people travel from around the world to witness the migration of over 370 bird species. It's the home of living dunes made of singing sands found in only a few places on the planet. The Indiana Dunes is a story of sand and steel. It's a tale of industry and preservation. Help us protect this precious place by visiting sustainably
 

An aerial view of a winding boardwalk over a wetland with trees.


Here are a few of the ways you can explore the Indiana Dunes responsibly while ensuring that its beauty and resources are maintained for future generations.


1. Plan Your Visit During Off-Peak Times

Traveling during the off-peak season reduces crowding and the environmental stress on popular trails and beaches. During the spring, ephemeral wildflowers blanket the forest floors with color and 370 different species of birds start their great migration here from the south. During the fall, milder weather, stunning fall colors, and smaller beach crowds make for a quiet, stress-free vacation. Visiting during these times offers a unique Dunes experience while promoting sustainability!
 

A young blonde woman wearing a dark fall jacket stands in front of a sandy trail surrounded by fall colors.


2. Practice Leave No Trace Principles

Respect the environment by adhering to the Leave No Trace principles:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare: Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Stick to established trails and campsites.
  • Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack it in, pack it out. Carry out all trash and leftover food.
  • Leave What You Find: Preserve the past by leaving rocks, plants, and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Minimize Campfire Impact: Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Respect Wildlife: Observe animals from a distance and never feed them.
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.

 

Camping Indiana Dunes

 

3. Support Local Businesses

When dining and shopping in our Indiana Dunes communities, choose locally-owned businesses—your support is important! Choosing local restaurants, shops, and markets supports the local economy and the business owners whose livelihoods depend on patrons like you!
 

A couple sits at a restaurant table in a large space

 

4. Volunteer Your Time to Participate in Conservation Efforts

Get involved in local conservation efforts. Volunteer for beach clean-ups, trail maintenance, or other park projects. These activities help preserve the park’s natural beauty and ensure it remains a pristine environment for all visitors. The best part? The Indiana Dunes Drop-In Volunteer program makes it easy to volunteer any day of the week!

 

A man in a green sweatshirt with a volunteer patch on the sleeve reads a device

 

5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Utilize recycling bins available throughout the parks and communities. Conscious efforts in recycling help keep the park clean and reduce the amount of trash that could harm the environment. Consider bringing along items like reusable straws, water bottles, and shopping bags to limit the use of plastic.

 

Recycling sorting bins

 

6. Respect Wildlife and Habitats

Maintain a safe distance from wildlife and avoid disturbing their natural habitats. Stick to marked trails to protect the fragile ecosystems of the Indiana Dunes. Remember, your presence should have minimal impact on the environment.

 

A black, white, and yellow caterpillar eats orange milkweed

 

An eco-friendly trip to the Indiana Dunes area is not only fun, but rewarding! You'll be helping to protect and preserve this natural urban oasis for future generations. Take pride in your role as a steward of the environment!

For more ways to travel sustainably, head to our Love & Protect page. There, you can also pledge to love the Indiana Dunes like you mean it!