Location: 1600 N 25 East, Chesterton, IN. 46304
Hours: 7a – 11pm daily
Trail Length: 3.75 miles - moderate
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
Restrooms: Yes, at the Nature Center
Whenever I have the chance to introduce a friend to hiking in the Dunes, I always choose Trail 9 in the State Park. This trail shows off the best of what the Dunes has to offer in one great hike making it a great place to start no matter what the season and one of my favorites.
By parking at the Nature Center, you will find the start to four different trails: 7, 8, 9 and 10. Trails 8, 9 and 10 will start with a wide, sandy climb to the right of the building. The trails are all well marked and easy to navigate. Trail 8 will branch off the left and eventually Trail 10 will veer off to the right, leaving Trail 9 straight ahead.
This section of the trail is sandy but flat, leaf-covered in the fall and shady in the summer. It leads leisurely around bends and easy slopes through thick forest while you get closer to the dune ridges that overlook the lake. As the trail nears the taller dunes near the lake, it will fork becoming a loop.
Taking the trail to the left leads to an immediate, extreme incline of deep sand that reaches the top of the dune ridge. Once you catch your breath and celebrate your accomplishment, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the lake from the top of the Beachhouse Blowout before completing the trail loop along its edge.
My personal preference, however, is to take the trail to the right which leads through a bit more forest, circling toward the lake and making the ascent to the ridge by a series of less severe, yet still challenging, climbs until reaching the ridge at the smaller Furnessville Blowout.
Once at the top, the trail moves along the ridge of the dunes climbing steadily, with occasional breaks in the trees for views of Lake Michigan, and on a clear day, the outline of the Chicago skyline. One final, challenging climb up deep sand leads to the top and across the Beachhouse Blowout from the opposite side and back down to where the loop began. Approaching from this direction gives you the opportunity to enjoy this steep section of the trail at a downhill run – something we can never resist – before hiking back to the Nature Center.