Less than an hour from Chicago, nestled along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, is an extraordinary place—the Indiana Dunes. While it might be best known for its fifteen miles of beaches, there is more to the Indiana Dunes than meets the eye. All you have to do is travel a bit inland, and you’ll see so much more than water, sand, and steel. You might see cacti and carnivorous plants or salamanders and sandhill cranes. 


Silhouettes of three sandhill cranes flying against a peach colored sunset


To help you see the hidden gems of the Indiana Dunes, we’ve created the Discovery Trail, a self-guided tour filled with outdoor immersive experiences. 


Here are FIVE reasons why the Indiana Dunes Discovery Trail is a must-have tool when visiting the Indiana Dunes area:


1. It’s like a premade bucket list curated by Indiana Dunes experts! Visit the Discovery Trail website before your visit and you can decide which places rise to the top of your list. Are the lush wetlands and thriving ferns of Cowles Bog up your alley, or is the rare black oak savanna of Miller Woods more your thing?


Black Oak Savanna Miller Woods


2. You’ll learn why each Discovery Trail location is so unique! The Indiana Dunes National Park is the fifth most biodiverse national park in the United States—with only five fewer plant and animal species than Yosemite! That biodiversity spreads outside the National Park boundaries to places like the Indiana Dunes State Park and Coffee Creek Preserve! The Discovery Trail will show you the plants, animals, and geology to look for while you’re exploring the area. 


Fringed Orchid at Pinhook Bog


3. You can win a weekend getaway just by using the companion mobile pass! As you visit locations on the trail, you’ll score points for checking in and doing optional activities. Save up your points and enter to win a family or couples getaway!


A couple smile at each other in front of white and pink flowers


4.The Discovery Trail will save you time! You won’t need to spend your vacation researching where to go next. Instead, you can save your energy for exploring and immersing yourself in nature.


Ranger and volunteer examining flora


5. You’ll get away from the beach crowds. The Indiana Dunes covers 17,000 acres of wilderness, just waiting to be explored! 


West Beach Aerial


The Indiana Dunes Discovery Trail is the perfect way to make the most of your visit to the Indiana Dunes. With its expert-curated list of locations, educational content, and built-in rewards system, the Discovery Trail will help you experience the best that the Indiana Dunes has to offer. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your adventure today!