Location: 1600 North 25 East, Chesterton, IN 46304
Hours: Dusk until Dawn daily
Trail Length: 5.5 miles
Entrance Cost: $7 for in-state vehicles; $12 for out-of-state vehicles; Annual State Park entrance passes can be purchased for $50 for Indiana residents and $70 for non-residents.
Parking: Yes, at the Nature Center
Dog Friendly: Yes, on a leash.
If solitude is what you are looking for, Trail 10 might just fill that need. As the longest trail in the State Park at 5.5 miles, there are several ways to change it up while still experiencing some of the most far-reaching sights on the park property. You will likely encounter a runner or two early in the morning and definitely birders in search of elusive species, but this trail is less traveled than many of the other state park trails. You can expect bird song, crickets, an occasional far-off train whistle and the hard tapping of woodpeckers to interrupt the peace and quiet.
After parking at the Nature Center, you’ll find the trailhead for Trails 8, 9 and 10 together to the right of the building. Just over a sandy hill at the start, the three trails will go their separate ways: 8 turning to the left, 9 continuing straight ahead and 10 veering to the right. At its beginning Trail 10 is wide, flat and easy to navigate through the woods toward the Great Marsh. On an early morning hike, the forest is backlit by the sun rising over the marsh and on steamy afternoons, the breezes over its surface provide hikers a cool respite.
Although the trail remains under the shady cover of tall oaks and maples, it meanders along the edge of the Great Marsh, changing from wide and flat, to narrow and grassy, to wet and muddy. As it moves closer to the marsh, several small boardwalks will keep you dry over the lower, soggy parts of the trail.
A little over halfway into the hike, the trail becomes pine-needle soft through the Pinery, turns into a long boardwalk over the marsh and the reverts back to flat and grassy as you enter Paradise Valley. Here flowers are plentiful, color abounds and it’s probable you might startle a group of woodpeckers into noisy flight.
After the solitude of Paradise Valley, the trail becomes sandy as it turns toward the lake. One significant dune climb brings Lake Michigan into view as the trail leads out to the beach.
From here the trail becomes a 2.5-mile shoreline trek back toward the Pavilion. On the way you could also access Trail 4 and 7 from the beach which circles back to the Nature Center; or you could forego the beach walk and return to Trail 10 the way you came to meet up with Trail 2, which goes directly into The Great Marsh, or Trail 9, which follows the ridge high above the shoreline. The beauty of this trail is that several options are possible to make your Dunes experience unique.