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Do I need 2 park passes? The short answer is YES.

Take a look at the map below. See all that green space? Well, most of that is the Indiana Dunes National Park. That includes trails like Heron Rookery, Pinhook Bog, Tolleston and Chellberg Farm. It also includes some of our favorite beaches; Central, Kemil...and well, of course, Portage Lakefront. (Home of Dig the Dunes Trail Stop).

The Indiana Dunes State Park is the area in red. This includes the popular 3 dunes challenge, the pavilion, all those number trails, the nature center and a beautiful beach. It's also the park that many have just referred to as "the dunes" for years.

The State Park pass is $50/year and the National Park pass is $45/year. (Both of the passes are good for a carload of 4 or family). $95 does sound like a lot to go places that used to be free, but we did some math.


$95 divided by 52 (weeks) is $1.82. That's less than $2/week to enjoy all this beauty.

$95 divided by 365 (days) is .26. Just over a quarter a day to help maintain all that green space.


Portage Lakefront (Dig the Dunes Trail Stop) is part of the National Park

To us, the answer is easy. We need both passes. We've been getting our state pass for years, so why would we stop? And we don't want to stop enjoying all the other spots that are right in our backyard.

You'll show your State Park pass at the gate entrance off 49 just like you always have. You'll show your National Park pass at the gate at West Beach or you'll hang it from your rearview window when you park in the other National Park lots (don't forget to ask for the plastic hanger when you get your pass!).

Now, not to confuse you...but you need to know your options. The State Park pass is simply the State Park pass. Same as always. It will get you into the Indiana Dunes State Park, but it will also get you into other State Parks, like Turkey Run and Shades. The Indiana Dunes National Park pass (the one for $45) will just get you into the Indiana Dunes National Park. (that would be all those areas in green on the map that are marked National Park). If you want to go to other National Parks (i.e. Zion, Grand Canyon, Mammoth Cave) you will need to get your America the Beautiful pass for $80.

Where can you get your passes? State Park pass get at the State Park. It is good for the calendar year. All the different National Park passes can be found at the Indiana Dunes Visitor's Center and they are good for a full year from the month you purchase it. If you're looking for the simple Indiana Dunes National Park Annual pass, you can grab that at Trail Stop all season, or THIS Saturday, April 2 from 1-6pm. We will also have the National Park Fee Supervisor on hand to answer all your questions! Read about our event here.


Looking for more articles to confuse you? Check out our "Discover the Dunes" section on,


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