US-Parks.com: America's National Parks and Road Trip Planning Find Your Park Road Trip Activities Nature

Indiana Dunes National Park Activities

Beach-Going & Swimming

Fifteen miles of sandy beach along the southern shore of Lake Michigan offer a wide variety of recreational activities. Whether it's enjoying a summer sunset stroll or marveling at the arctic beauty of Lake Michigan's shelf ice, you can enjoy the beach in all seasons.

There are several beach parking lots along the Indiana Dunes National Park. All beaches and parking lots are open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm and have potable water and restrooms. Additionally, West Beach has showers and lifeguards from the Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the Monday of Labor Day weekend.

All beach parking is free with the exception of West Beach, which collects an expanded amenity fee daily from the Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the Monday of Labor Day weekend, from 8:00 am to as late as 7:00 pm. The fee is $6.00 per car, $30.00 per bus. Cash, U.S. checks, credit, debit, and gift cards (MasterCard, Visa, and Discover) are accepted methods of payment. A 50% discount if offered for the following America the Beautiful - The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands passes: Senior Annual, Senior Lifetime, and Access Passes. There is no discount for the following America the Beautiful - The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands passes: Annual (non-senior), Military, Volunteer, and 4th Grade.

Beach parking lots fill up very quickly on summer weekends and holidays. Several lots including Lake View, Dunbar, Kemil, Porter and Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk fill up as early as mid-morning. It's best to arrive early or wait until late afternoon when parking spots become available as visitors depart. West Beach's lot holds nearly 600 cars and rarely fills up except on holiday weekends.

All parking lots are located close to the beaches. Kemil Beach parking is located one-quarter mile away from the lake while Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, Central Avenue and West Beach parking are one-eighth mile from the water's edge. Wheelchair accessible parking lots with views of Lake Michigan include West Beach, Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Beach, Porter Beach, Lake View Beach, and Central Avenue Beach.

Prohibited Activities on the Beach

  • The removal of natural items such as rocks, shells, and fossils.
  • Wood and charcoal fires on the beach. West Beach and Lake View Beach do have dedicated grills in the picnic areas.
  • Glass containers on all beaches.
  • Pet rules differ for each beach area. Please visit the Pet Information Page.
  • Launching, landing or operating any unmanned aircraft (e.g. model airplanes, quadcopters, drones) on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Indiana Dunes National Park except as approved in writing by the superintendent.

Beach-going Tips

  • Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and insect repellent. Wear a hat, shoes and sunglasses.
  • Stay on marked trails to protect the plants and animals of the dunes.
  • Stay out of the water when rip current warnings are posted.
  • Stay off the shelf ice. It is full of hidden, thin spots and gaps that people can fall through.
  • Stay out of the water when signs are posted to alert you to high bacteria counts. The bacteria may harm your health.
  • Watch for strong winds blowing away from the beach that can hijack rafts and beach toys.
  • Do not feed the gulls or other birds. Human food is unhealthy and encourages them to flock. When they flock, they make the beach dirty.

Swimming Safety Tips

  • Use caution when swimming in Lake Michigan. The bottom is uneven with holes and deep drop-offs. These inshore holes are very dangerous to small children and non-swimmers.
  • The only beach with lifeguards is West Beach.
  • Parents and guardians must keep a constant watch of children in the water.
  • Stay out of the water when there are high, breaking waves and rip currents.
  • Rip currents are caused by a sudden break in an offshore sandbar that releases water rapidly back into the lake. Rip current conditions often occur when the wind is out of the north. These dangerous currents can also occur in waters adjacent to seawalls, artificial reefs, and erosion control structures; stay clear of these areas. Obey posted and verbal rip current warnings.
  • If being pulled out into deeper water by a forceful, unexpected rip current, DO NOT PANIC. Follow the rip current or try to swim out of it by swimming parallel to shore until the pull outward into deeper water subsides.

Biking at Indiana Dunes National Park

Discover much more than just sand dunes as you bike on an interconnected trail system that spans 37 miles across the entire length of the national park.

A wide variety of trails traverse the various habitats and cultural history of Indiana Dunes National Park. The varying lengths make it easy to choose the trail that's right for you. From a short easy ride to a challenging all-day trek, most of the trails are open all year and the experience will change with each season.

E-bikes are allowed in Indiana Dunes Nationa Park where traditional bicycles are allowed. E-bikes are prohibited where traditional bicycles are prohibited. Except where use of motor vehicles by the public is allowed, using the electric motor to move an e-bike without pedaling is prohibited.

The term "e-bike" means a two-or-three wheeled cycle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 horsepower).

Biking Trail System

Calumet Bike Trail Gravel, 19.0 miles round trip, flat.

Dunes Kankakee Bike Trail Paved, 3.6 miles round trip, paved, flat.

Porter Brickyard Bike Trail Paved, 7.0 miles round trip, some hills.

Prairie Duneland Bike Trail Paved, 22.4 miles round trip, rail trail, flat.

Marquette Bike Trail Paved, 4.6 miles round trip, rail trail, flat.

Oak Savannah Bike Trail Paved, 17.8 miles round trip, rail trail, flat.

Fishing & Boating

Fishing

Fishing is allowed under federal, state and local laws. You need an Indiana Fishing License and a stamp if fishing for trout and salmon. Watch for drop-offs in creeks and along beaches.

Boaters must stay 500 feet away from marked swimming areas, even when beaching. Nearby communities offer boat-launches. Personal watercraft are prohibited.

Sailing & Powerboating

Sailing and power boating are popular on Lake Michigan. There are no marinas, boat rentals or boat launches within the national park. There are services are available through commercial and city facilities in Porter, Lake and LaPorte counties. Check these county tourism links for information.

Porter County: www.indianadunes.com Lake County: www.southshorecva.com LaPorte County: www.michigancitylaporte.com

Kayaking

Kayaking is increasingly popular on Lake Michigan since the inception of the Lake Michigan Water Trail and in area waterways like the Little Calumet River and Burns Waterway. Try a new challenge by kayaking the Little Calumet River Water Trail: East Branch. Launching hand-carried, non-motorized boats from any Indiana Dunes National Park beach is permitted with the exception West Beach's lifeguarded swimming area (Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the Monday of Labor Day weekend). Lake Michigan’s water conditions can quickly change from calm to dangerous, so check the weather forecast and always use a certified personal flotation device.

Canoeing

Canoeing is also popular on the region's rivers and waterways, but is generally not recommended for Lake Michigan due to frequent windy conditions and large waves. Canoeing is popular on the Little Calumet River.

Horseback Riding

Glenwood Dunes Trails are the national park's only equestrian trails. Horseback riding is permitted on the specified portion of the Glenwood Dunes Trails from March 16 to December 14. However, if there is sufficient snow cover for cross-country skiing (3 inches or more) before December 15 or after March 15, the trail will remain closed to horseback riding. Horses are prohibited in the winter to prevent accidents with cross-country skiers on the trail.

The parking lot is large enough for horse trailers. In the parking lot and picnic area, all horse excrement must be bagged, removed from the area and disposed of appropriately. There is no horse rental concession. Horses are prohibited on all roads.

Featured Outdoor Gear

$149.96 25% off
An eco-friendly choice that doesn't skimp on performance, the 1. 5mm Of Earth Spring Wetsuit uses limestone neoprene...
Price subject to change | Available through Backcountry.com

National Park Spotlight
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Featured Wildlife
Maine Puffins
Maine Puffins


Maine ocean islands provide the only nesting sites for Atlantic puffins in the United States. Eastern Egg Rock in the midcoast region, Seal Island and Matinicus Rock at the mouth of Penobscot Bay, and Machias Seal Island and Petit Manan Island off the downeast coast provide habitat for more than 4,000 puffins each summer.