Photos and story submitted by: Ben Kalinowski
The dunes are a runner’s paradise. Whether you are in search of a more resistance based workout or a softer surface on which to run, the sand and trails of the dunes provide the perfect solution along with world-class scenery.
Trail #9 at Indiana Dunes State Park offers a trove of rewards to runners who traverse its dynamic surface. Starting at the Nature Center, the trail begins with a fairly level path through the surrounding woods. Roughly a third of the way through the trail, a sudden left turn brings you to a steep sand dune that cuts through the trees. The scene that awaits at the top of the dune is nothing short of magical, and you will be hard pressed to not take a much deserved break to soak it in.
Once you get moving again, your legs will experience the burn that is all too familiar to dune runners. The trail runs along the undulating dune ridge before returning to the edge of the woods. Fortunately, Lake Michigan remains in view for much of this portion. The last third of the trail meanders away from the lake back into the woods where it levels out and allows for a bit of a cool down.
The view from the ridge is breathtaking!
With the trail ground beneath your feet, the smells of the forest, and the sound of the waves crashing, the physical benefits of the run might be outdone by those of the mental, emotional, and spiritual variety. My favorite time of year to run this trail is in late summer/early fall, when the temperature cools and the lake is at its deepest shade of azure blue.
At just under four miles, the length of the trail is manageable. Don’t be fooled; it’s a challenging run that will leave you suitably drained by the time you arrive back at the Nature Center. However, you may be surprised to find that the fatigue that has set in is outweighed by the overall sense of rejuvenation that the dunes unconditionally offer.
Looking for more trails to run? Consider these!
The 3 Dune Challenge: 1.5 mile trail that includes the three tallest sand dunes at Indiana Dunes State Park.
Dune Succession Trail: 0.92 mile trail at West Beach featuring a climb up 250 stairs and a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan. Run the beach or Long Lake trail for added distance!
Trail #7 at Indiana Dunes State Park: 1.1 mile trail through the woods that leads to a secluded beach.
Tolleston Dunes: 2 or 3 mile loops with lots of hills. Great for the advanced cross country skier too!
Cowles Bog: Take a long or short loop. Climb a dune to the beach or just run through the woods. This trail has it all!