Looking for a breathtaking adventure on the shores of Lake Michigan? If so, head on over to Indiana Dunes National Park! From top-of-the-line bird watching to a paddler’s paradise, this place is truly special. Every single year, millions of people flock to this area to experience the beauty and several adventure opportunities.
If you’re interested in visiting, we recommend doing so in a campervan! The area is home to multiple campgrounds, placing you right in the heart of all the excitement.
Keep reading to learn more benefits of visiting Indiana Dunes National Park, including the best activities to experience this time of year.
About Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park spans 15 miles along the southern shores of Lake Michigan. While that doesn’t seem too large, the park is home to 15,000 acres of beautiful landscapes. Whether you enjoy hiking over unique dunes or catching a glimpse of rare bird species, this national park makes for the perfect vacation. But before you arrive in your campervan, you’ll want to see some adventure on the ride over!
Where to Stop Along the Way
Are you ready to embark on an exciting road trip to Indiana Dunes? Before you hit the road and start your adventure, make a plan to stop at the following destinations along the way:
If your drive takes you north, you may pass through parts of Kentucky. If that’s the case, consider stopping at Mammoth Cave National Park. Here you can experience the world’s longest known cave system! In fact, there are over 420 miles of surveyed passageways!
When driving through Tennessee, you can’t pass up Great Smoky Mountains National Park! This place features stunning waterfalls, gorgeous hiking trails, and a massive wilderness to explore.
On a western drive into the area, consider a few stops in Ohio, such as Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This place has some of the most gorgeous waterfalls in the country! Hocking Hills State Park and Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve are a few other top attractions in the state.
If you cruise through parts of Pennsylvania, consider checking out the fall colors! If you time the trip just right, you could see a dazzling display of autumn foliage. Pine Creek Gorge, Allegheny National Forest, and Three Rivers Heritage Trail are some top spots to see the changing leaves.
If you’re driving south through the state of Michigan, be sure to check out Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This place is straight out of a postcard! You can experience magnificent rock formations along the coast, including picturesque waterfalls and cliffs.
Driving through Wisconsin instead? If so, some of our favorite stops include Devil’s Lake State Park, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, and Mirror Lake State Park—which is especially beautiful during the fall months!
If you’re headed east on your journey, Iowa has some cool destinations you’ll want to see. First, stop by Maquoketa Caves State Park. You can find great hiking trails and a fascinating cave system. A few other awesome stops along the drive include Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Nebraska and North Avenue Beach in Chicago, Illinois.
Indiana Dunes National Park—Activities and Attractions
Once you arrive at Indiana Dunes National Park, it’s time to explore! Take a look at some of our favorite attractions and activities in the area:
Beachgoing & Swimming
Many people travel to this national park to soak up the sun and relax on the beach. And we can’t blame them! With warm summertime temperatures and gorgeous sandy beaches, it’s the ideal place to unwind. It’s also a great swimming spot!
Take a look at some top beaches within the park:
- Porter Beach
- West Beach
- Kemil Beach
- Lake View Beach
- Dunbar Beach
To make these beaches even better, some are even located near the campgrounds!
Going for a hike is another beloved activity in the area. And while the sand dunes are a leading attraction for many hikers, there is so much more to see! In fact, the park is home to 14 distinct trail systems. If you’re searching for a route that offers a bit of everything, check out Dune Ridge Trail. You’ll get to experience excellent views of large wetlands and forests, including a dune! Furthermore, this trail is only 0.7 miles long, making it very accessible. Other popular hikes in the area include Great Marsh Trail, Cowles Bog Trail, and Heron Rookery Trail.
Indiana Dunes National Park is an important feeding and resting area for migrating birds. That said, bird watching is a popular activity for both visitors and locals. The fall is especially great for bird watching as southbound birds are escaping the cold of the north.
There are a number of bird species that pass through the area each year, including hawks and waterfowl. Additionally, as wetlands are found throughout the park, several different wetland bird species are also found in the region.
Sailing, powerboating, kayaking, and canoeing are all popular activities within the park. However, you won’t find any marinas, boat rentals, or boat launches. However, there are services through commercial and city facilities in the nearby counties of Lake, Porter, and LaPorte. If you’re searching for a little kayaking challenge, try to conquer the Little Calumet River Water Trail: East Branch.
As you’re planning a trip to Indiana dunes, you’ll need a place to park your campervan. Luckily, there are a few fantastic campgrounds in the area! Dunbar Group Site is a great option, especially if you have several people in your party. Each site holds up to 30 people! Furthermore, this wonderful campground is less than 500 feet from the beach, and you’ll also get excellent views of Lake Michigan and the Great Marsh. The other campground in the park is Dunewood Campground, featuring 53 RV sites and 66 tent-only sites.
- Arrive at the beaches and lakeshore early; you may experience long lines late in the day.
- Stop by the visitor center; you can talk to park rangers and learn a lot about the area!
- Pack sunscreen, hats, and possibly a beach canopy for staying comfortable in the hot sun.
- Try a stand-up paddle board on the lake! They’re available for rent along the beach.
- Don’t miss the sunset; it can provide some of the best views of the trip!
- Conquer the 3 Dune Challenge; this 1.5-mile long trail takes you up and down 3 different sand dunes. The total elevation gain is 552 feet.
Here’s more info on some of the area’s most popular attractions:
- Porter Beach: Located at the intersection of Wabash Avenue and Johnson Beach Road in Porter, IN.
- West Beach: 376 North County Line Road, Gary, IN 46403
- Dune Ridge Trail: North of U.S. Highway 12 on East State Park Road (300E)
- Great Marsh Trail: North of U.S. Highway 12 on Broadway Avenue
- Cowles Bog Trail: 1450 North Mineral Springs Road, Dune Acres, IN
- Dunewood Campground: Golf Wood Road & Dunewood Parkway, Beverly Shores, IN 46301
- Dunbar Group Site: 1100 North Mineral Springs Rd, Porter, IN 46304
As this national park can get crowded, you may want to go somewhere off the beaten path. Here are some of the top hidden gems in the area:
- Brincka Cross Gardens & House
- Westchester Migratory Bird Sanctuary
- Hobart Prairie Grove
- Meadowbrook Conservation Center and Nature Preserve
- Stoney Run County Park
- Pinhook Bog Upland Trail
- Kankakee Sands Prairie Restoration
- Dunn’s Bridge County Park
To escape the crowds for some relaxation, you can’t go wrong with any of the locations above!
Start Your Indiana Dunes Journey Today!
Whether you want to enjoy the spectacular beaches or witness a rare bird species, Indiana Dunes National Park has your needs covered. If you’re considering a trip out here, allow Rec Van to make this dream possible. We carry hundreds of high-quality campervans for any road trip adventure!
Take a look at our campervan inventory today, and call us if you have any questions!