Location: 1600 N 25 East, Chesterton, IN 46304
Hours: 7am-11pm daily
Trail Length: 3.75 miles
Entrance Cost: $7 for in-state vehicles, $12 for out-of-state; free admission from November until April; Annual State Park Entrance Passes can be purchased for $50 for Indiana residents and $70 for non-residents
Parking: There are numerous paved lots around the park but for this trail the closest lots are the Nature Center or Wilson Shelter lots
Dog-Friendly: Yes, on leash
Restrooms: Yes, in parking areas
Blogger Thoughts: (Laura Niemiec)
• Best vistas in the park • A bit rugged, be prepared for climbing some dunes and changing elevation
Trail 9 at Indiana Dunes State Park is one of my favorite trails in northwest Indiana. Reasons why it is one of my favorites: (1) the view from the ridge (2) the various elevations (3) the blowouts (in case you are wondering, a blowout is a vast depression in the sand caused by wind erosion – you’ll see three on this trail), and (4) the fact that about a third of the trail travels high along the shoreline.
Parking in the Nature Center parking lot will put you closest to the start of the trailhead but, depending on when you visit, the Nature Center lot could be pretty full. If that is the case, drive a little further down and park near the Wilson Shelter (parking at Wilson Shelter you’ll do a short jaunt on Trail 8 but it’ll still put you pretty much at the beginning of Trail 9).
The trail starts off pretty level but quickly transitions to some hills as you traverse the first mile of the sandy trail to the fork on Trail 9. From here you can either decided climb up a steep dune to the ridge for a stellar view of the Lake Michigan shoreline at the Beach House Blowout or keep heading northeast and cross the ridge on your return trip. I prefer the former so up the dune we go, above the treetops, to a view that awakens your senses. You can see for miles above the canopy in all directions at the top of the ridge. You’ll take in the lake, the blowout landscape, fields of dune grass and even manmade landmarks in the distance. If you’re visiting on a good weather day you’ll get an excellent view of Chicago’s skyscrapers standing tall on the horizon in the distance.
Continuing onward from there you’ll skirt the shoreline for about a mile through the woods, up and down smaller elevations and across two more blowouts before the trail begins to curve back around. Keep an eye out for hidden tree roots close to the surface. There are many on this trail due to wind erosion and foot traffic, I’ve succumbed to their treachery a few times over the years with a stumble here and there. As you start heading back west, the trail levels out again as it winds through the dune country back to the trailhead. Whether you do the climb first and breeze through the remainder of the trail or vice versa, this 3.75-mile trail will surely show you why we all dig the dunes.