Indiana Dunes, nation’s newest national park, offers students 25 miles of lakeshore views


Indiana Dunes Tourism

Though Indiana Dunes National Park is just minutes away from PNW, the access to nature and unparalleled views feel like you’re a world away from the classroom. The dunes offer 50 miles of hiking trails, one of the most biodiverse experiences in the national park system and the chance to spot more than 350 different species of birds that occupy it throughout the year.

As temperatures begin to rise and flowers start to bloom, it’s time for students – cooped up by cold and unpredictable weather – to venture outdoors.

One place to jump into the glory of nature is  the Indiana Dunes National Park, about a half hour from the Hammond campus and just minutes from Westville.  The dunes is the nation’s newest national park, its 61st, and definitely its closest to PNW students.

“It is so easy to enjoy the outdoors when the Indiana Dunes National Park is so close to campus,” said Nathan Marciniec, junior. “I usually take my dog on walks across the beach. My friends and I hike up the sand dunes for a workout. And it is even a great place to find quiet time to study near the lakeshore.”

The Indiana Dunes welcomes 3.5 million visitors each year. The dunes is among the most biodiverse parks in the nation and affords tourists the opportunity of experiencing the 350 bird species that occupy it over the summer. In the colder months, tourists can walk along the lakefront to gaze at the shelf ice.

The park is known for 25 miles of lakeshore and 50 miles of trails over rugged dunes, prairies, rivers and tranquil forests.

“[As] a photographer, I have had many sessions on the Indiana Dunes beaches, with those photographs being some of my best,”  said Laura Mielke, senior.

“Mount Baldy is quite the hike through the woods and a workout-and-a-half to walk back up the hill to leave,” said Mielke. “It is nice to get away and lay in the warm sun while watching my daughter play in the sand and water.”

People are attracted to the park’s rugged nature experience.

“The 3 Dune Challenge is especially fun,” said Michelle Senderhauf, communications director at Indiana Dunes Tourism. “You start at the Nature Center and can hike the three tallest sand dunes in the park.”

The 1.5-mile trail challenge is quite the test, its participants facing a climb of 552 vertical feet. However, the reward for the enduring hike is the vast view of Lake Michigan.

“If you share pics of you doing the challenge by tagging @IndianaDunes and using #3DC, we will share your picture on our website,” said Senderhauf.

Indiana Dunes National Park also hosts events and festivals throughout the year.

On March 14-15, the Indiana Dunes hosts a Maple Sugar Festival at Chellberg Farm, located at 618 N Mineral Springs Rd, Chesterton, IN, between U.S. Highway 20 and U.S. Highway 12 in Porter, IN.

“The 42nd annual Maple Sugar Time Festival is an easy hike through the woods and farm with interactive demonstrations along the trail,” said Senderhauf.

One-hour tours begin every 20 minutes and share the history of making maple syrup, offer hands-on activities and give visitors a chance to collect and taste recipes from locals.

As the temperature warms up, the Indiana Dunes also provides opportunities to nature lovers who want to volunteer.

“If someone wants to volunteer while spending time outdoors, we have an easy drop-in volunteer program,” said Senderhauf. “The program makes it easy to volunteer for just one day without having to make a longer commitment.”

Admission to the Indiana Dunes National Park is free weekdays until mid-April.

For more information about the dunes, trails, activities and other things, visit or stop by the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center at 1215 N. State Rd 49 in Porter.