Exploring the United States’ Newest National Park

When we decided in 2015 to move from Chicago to Indianapolis, I remember vividly the first response I got from one of my friends: “Why? Nothing is in Indiana!”

With each adventure we’ve embarked upon in the Hoosier state, this response has become more and more muffled. From the plentiful state parks (Turkey Run, Brown County and Fort Harrison – just to name a few of our favorites), to the unique small towns like Santa Claus, Indiana, there’s so much to discover here.

And now, there’s an even bigger reason to love this state. It’s home to the country’s newest and 61st national park: Indiana Dunes National Park.

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Here, you’ll find cacti thriving, “singing” sands – which are only found in a few places in the world – and more variety of orchids than in all of Hawaii. Oh, and the cutest little six-lined racerunners. So we think there might be something in Indiana.

Stretching nearly 25 miles along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park encompasses roughly 15,000 acres of sand dunes, wetlands, prairie, rivers and forest ecosystems.

With its rich and diverse landscape, the newly designated national park is actually considered by many to be the birthplace of ecology.

Formerly named a national lakeshore in 1966, the new distinction doesn’t change how the park operates or its funding, but puts it on the map for even more travelers.

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Last year, the park drew just less than 1.5 million visitors, which, when compared to the National Park Service’s tourism numbers, would rank the Dunes as the seventh most visited national park.

We’re not surprised! We had a great time exploring the various ecosystems and hiking the Dune Succession Trail, a one-mile loop that takes you up 250 stairs to a spectacular overlook that offers sweeping views of Lake Michigan.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your visit and check out our tips below!

Know Before You Go

  • Pack bug spray and be diligent about applying it before you start your hikes.
  • The park is spread out, so be sure to plan travel time from one area to the next.
  • There is a $6 amenity fee for West Beach, even if you have the National Park Pass.

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