After a brief day trip to Indiana Dunes State Park and Indiana Dunes National Park this summer, we knew we wanted to come back and camp for a long weekend. We got lucky and found one site available on short notice for Columbus Day weekend.
Indiana Dunes State Park offers 134 RV sites just a short dune hike from Lake Michigan. The campsites are electric only with water available at a few points throughout the park and a water filling station upon entering the campground. The campground has a small camp store, two large bathhouses, and a few strategically located pit toilets. You’ll also find a couple playgrounds, but the star attraction is the dunes and Lake Michigan.
The must-do hike is the Three Dune Challenge, a short, challenging hike of climbing three of the largest dunes on the shoreline. The 3DC goes right through the campground and next to our site. The challenge is fun, but the premiere hike make be Trail Nine. Also accessible from the campground, you’ll want to complete Trail Nine counterclockwise to save the best for last. The hike wanders through the dunes and forests on the way out, and offers commanding views of the Lake, Chicago, and the region on the way back. A star feature near the end of the trail is the sand bowl, which showcases the bright sand against the brilliant blue water.
For good reason, the swimming beach was closed for the season. However we still got to walk the beach, play in the sand, and race down Devil’s Slide, the dune on the lake where climbing up it is allowed. There are a number of different routes to walk or hike from the campground to the beach, making each trip a different adventure.
While most of the State Park is walkable from the campground, Indiana Dunes National Park is in multiple locations. On our first visit, we saw Mt. Baldy, so we passed this time. For your first visit, this living mountain is a must see and a Ranger-led hike is the only way to hike up the dune. Near Mt Baldy is a unique attraction, the houses of the Century of Progress. The homes were built in the 1930’s for the world's fair and were designed as modular homes that could be built anywhere. They are a surprising collection of homes overlooking the Lake.
At the other end of the National Park, further west, we joined a Range-led fall colors hike. Due to a wet summer, the only colors popping were was the bright red poison ivy leaves. We returned to the same area of Bailey Homestead and Chelburg Farm to help feed the livestock the following day.
At the east end of the park is Michigan City. We visited Washington Park to see the lighthouse. The Lake was unusually high and it was windy, making it unsafe to walk out on the pier as waves were crashing over the walkway. We found another city park with a skatepark where the kids displayed their skills on skateboards and scooters. We warmed up with coffees at nearby Lakeshore Coffee. We also stocked up on warm coats at the outlet mall.
Just outside the State Park in Chesterton, we found good food. Breakfast was great at Third Coast Spice Cafe, good enough that the kids were disappointed we didn’t go back the next day. In the same shopping center was Musashi Sushi Bar, which was also very good. Across the parking lot was a Jewel-Osco with a Starbucks and firewood. Everything we needed.
We continue to love every visit we have to Lake Michigan. Unsalted and no sharks..
Shane and Jessica
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