Park within a Park

The Indiana Dunes State Park has over 3 miles of beach and covers more than 2,000 acres. It is one of the few state parks in the country surrounded by a national park. Just think of it as a park within a park.

Indiana Dunes Map

One State Park, Seven Amazing Trails

The Indiana Dunes State Park features seven trails, taking you through an astonishing array of ecosystems and offering breathtaking views of Lake Michigan.

Hiking Woman

Trail 2 meanders through marshes and wetlands, offering ample opportunities to spot waterfowl, spring wildflowers, and scenic ferns. A portion of the trail is boardwalk.

Trail 3 provides a striking contrast, leading you through the Dunes Prairie Nature Preserve, where prickly pear cactus thrive in the sand.

This loop traverses the three tallest dunes in the state park, making up the famous “3 Dune Challenge.” Complete the hike and you'll get a free sticker for your accomplishment!

Trail 7 is a lovely trail that connects the Nature Center to the beach while avoiding the tall dunes on the 3 Dune Challenge.

Trail 9 weaves through the forest and climbs scenic dune ridges atop two blowouts. It provides some of the best views of the dunes.

This trail follows the majestic shoreline of Lake Michigan and leads through stands of white pines. Watch for the “tree graveyard” in Big Blowout, where the forces of sand and wind have buried…


Dunes, Forests, Prairies, and Marshes

The Indiana Dunes is one of the most biodiverse national parks in the entire country. Over 1,100 flowering plant species and ferns make their homes here. How many flowers can YOU find?

Don’t just experience the Indiana Dunes; take it home with you. Find your new favorite T-shirt, hoodie, or accessory in our online gift shop. Show off your love for the Indiana Dunes!

Birds You May See

Observation Tower

Sitting atop a 60-foot sand dune, the Longshore Birding Platform offers a unique vantage point to observe the beautiful birds that call the park home.​ Be the early bird in the morning to see the most activity as clusters of birds move through the area. The tower is also a great place to view the sunset! 

Grab a copy of this self-led birding tour, and visit six of the Indiana Dunes area birding recommended by local birders. Spectacular birds are waiting for you. Can you spot 'em all?

Easy Viewing

The Nature Center has a dedicated Bird Watching Room that provides a great view of the feeding area. Many species of birds frequent this hot spot, from the large and royal-looking Pileated Woodpecker to the tiny Downy Woodpecker. The delicate Ruby-throated Hummingbird makes a common appearance, as do finches, nuthatches, cardinals, bluejays, sparrows, and many more. Those who persevere may be lucky enough to have a rare encounter with a Harris’ Sparrow, Evening Grosbeak, or a Hoary Redpoll.

Visitors can take a rest on the benches and listen to the constant chatter via the connected audio speakers. Reference photos and information sheets are also available to help novice birders identify our feathered friends.

Bird viewing Nature Center

Indiana Dunes State Park packs a lot of biodiversity into a small space. The mix of habitats such as dune, prairie, river, swamp, lake, forest, savanna, marsh, and dune and swale provide home or temporary shelter for an incredible array of flora, including Jack Pine and Bearberries normally found further north in Canada as well as prickly pear cactus that flourishes in desert-like conditions, such as those found on Trail 3.

Rare Habitat

One of those habitats is a rare black oak savanna. This unique mix of open prairie grassland dotted with distinctive oak trees is believed to have once covered approximately 50 million acres across the midwest United States. Today, only 30,000 acres remain. A beautiful example of the oak savanna can be found in the Indiana Dunes State Park, and rangers actively maintain this endangered habitat.

Oak savannas require periodic fires to clear out underbrush and limit the growth of trees. For centuries natural occurrences like lightning strikes and fires set by Native American tribes ensured the balance of plant growth. As development increased and policies of fire suppression became common, savannas became overgrown and gradually disappeared. Currently, active management of the savanna calls for periodic prescribed burns and clearings, allowing sunlight to reach the grasses and smaller plants that make the habitat so special. As you walk through the savanna, take a moment to appreciate the oak trees that withstand the occasional fire to provide shade over the waving grasses.

Black Oak Savanna

Nature Center

The Nature Center offers interpretive exhibits on the cultural history and the Natural History of the Indiana Dunes State Park, along with a bird feeding area where visitors can look out at one of the nearly 400 species that visit Indiana Dunes, especially as they migrate through here during the spring and fall seasons.​

The Nature Center is also home base to programs held throughout the year, including ranger-led hikes.

State Park Nature Center




Plan Your Visit

  • 1600 N. 25 East
  • 219-926-1952

A state park surrounded by a national park, the Indiana Dunes State Park is 2,182 acres of dunes, marshes, swamps, hardwood forests, and white pine groves with a lifeguarded beach (summer…

What to Expect

There are two main parking lots near the beach at the state park. Additional small parking lots can be found near the Nature Center and shelters. On summer weekends with nice weather, all of the lots can fill up. To avoid the crowds, visit on a weekday or in the spring, fall, and winter. Restrooms are available near the Pavilion and the Nature Center. 

Be Ready

Poison ivy can grow alongside the trail, and portions can become wet and muddy. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Bring along a reusable water bottle and snacks.

Be Safe

Mosquitoes and ticks can be a nuisance in the summer, so be sure to use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Check yourself for ticks after your hike.

Be Responsible

Visitors must stay on designated trails at all times. We have created a video to help you learn about your role in enjoying the dunes area safely while minimizing your impact on the park.

How to Help

We are all responsible for protecting our parks for future generations. The Indiana Dunes, as a whole, is one of he most biodiverse areas in the United States. Here are some tips to help you limit your impact on the natural habitats in the dunes area.

Get Involved

Be the Change — Volunteer! Get more involved with the Indiana Dunes! There are many no-hassle, drop-in volunteer opportunities available for everyone. Just show up!

Love & Protect the Dunes

Each of us who visit the Indiana Dunes can also help protect natural heritage, biodiversity, and local culture by taking a few simple steps.