Our quest to visit all of the US National Parks continues. In all actuality, this is Natalie’s goal, not mine. But I’m certainly here for the ride and that’s how we found ourselves hiking Indiana Dunes in Gary, Indiana.
The drive from the Columbus area is about 4 1/2 hours. You can certainly do it in one day, but if you’d like you can make a weekend of your travels. It’s only an additional 45 minutes to Chicago. On the way there, we took a quick stop at Lulu’s Diner in Lima for breakfast, which I highly recommend.
Many of the national parks charge admission and Indiana Dunes is no exception. The entrance fee for the day was $25 for our car. Walk-in or bike-ins are $15 per person. The pass is actually good for up to seven days.
If you plan to visit the adjacent Indiana Dunes State Park, they charge an entrance fee of $12 per car for non-Indiana plates. One special note is that both parks do have camping facilities that can be reserved through the websites.
Hiking Indiana Dunes
We decided on the Dune Succession Trail. This trail wound it’s way around and through the dunes, all they way to the shores of Lake Michigan.
As I walked along the beach, I sighed. Finally a hike with no hills, no steps, no up and down and up again.
Lake Michigan is beautiful, clear and cold. As we sat watching the waves, we picked out the skyline of Chicago in the distance. There were very few people there on the beach, but I imagine in the summer it would be filled with beach goers. There at West Beach there were shower facilities and life-guard stands.
As we continued the hike, back toward the parking lot, we headed through a forest and that’s when I saw it. Stairs. There were so many stairs. And there I was on the usual journey, up and down and up again. Natalie, with her young knees, laughed at my plight. I’ve got to stop hiking with her.
Diana of the Dunes
At one of my many stops to rest, I learned about Diana of the Dunes. Diana was born Alice Mabel Gray in Chicago, but was given the nickname Diana of the Dunes by a local reporter, posting a story of her life in Indiana Dunes.
Alice was educated at the University of Chicago and at one time worked for the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC, performing mathematical calculations. Then, at some point, frustrated with city life, she decided to move to the shores of Lake Michigan and live there on the dunes.
She lived fairly isolated in a shack and mostly ate berries and fish. She occasionally walked to town for provisions and to visit the Miller branch of the Gary Public Library. After gaining notoriety from the many news articles on her life in the dunes, Alice began to speak and write about the preservation of the Dunes which were being threatened with increased development.
Diversity in Our National Parks
I continue to be surprised with the diversity in our National Parks. My experience in the past has been with a few of the parks out west and the Smokey Mountains. Now, we’ve hiked to glaciers in Alaska and to a beautiful beach in the US Virgin Islands. We’ve hiked over giant sand dunes and through a swamp. We’ve hiked up mountains and down into tremendous gorges. It’s true that no two parks are alike.
If you plan to visit Indiana Dunes, make sure to bring comfortable footwear and plenty of water. I left my hiking stick at home, but it would have come in handy, especially in trying to get some traction going up the dunes trail. And be sure to dump the sand out of your shoes before you get back in the car! As usual, you’ll want to check their website before you travel.
Thanks for joining us FindingOhio and beyond. We enjoy bringing you with us on our travels. If you’re looking to start your National Parks journey, consider starting close to home with Ohio’s own Cuyahoga Valley National Park in the Cleveland area.
Be sure to visit us regularly as we post new articles at least once a week. In the meantime, we really appreciate you sharing our content to social media. Help us get the word out that Ohio is a great place to live and play!