“An incredible trail with oak savanna, interdunal ponds, towering dunes and Lake Michigan.
— Rafi Wilkinson
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Take the Miller Woods Trail through a globally rare oak savanna. The National Park Service conducts small, carefully controlled burns that mimic historic fires. These fires reduce the growth of woody species and the build-up of leaves on the forest floor. The savannas native grasses and wildflowers, including lupine, thrive in the sunlight and more open forest floor. The wild lupine, the only food for the caterpillar of the endangered Karner blue butterfly, grows close to the trail. Please stay single file on the narrow trail to protect yourself from the abundant poison ivy along the trail edges as well as the fragile lupine habitat.
The trail is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 30 minutes past sunset. No bicycles or motorized vehicles allowed. Stay on the trail to protect the wildlife and yourself.
Need to Know
The main trail is not accessible to wheelchairs. However, there is a short paved trail from the back of the Paul Douglas Visitor Center that is accessible to wheelchairs. The main parking lot has spots for 40 cars and is open in the summer everyday from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (Memorial Day to Labor Day). In the winter, the main lot is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and closed on Sundays.
There is a small parking lot on the west side of Lake Street that has space for 3 cars. The lot is open year round from 7:00 a.m. to 30 minutes past sunset.
Use insect repellent, wear long sleeves, and tuck long pants into socks to avoid ticks and poison ivy.
There are restroom facilities and potable water available inside the Paul Douglas Visitor Center. The center is open in the summer everyday from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (Memorial Day to Labor Day). In the winter, the center is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and closed on Sundays.
The trail starts at the Paul Douglas Visitor Center and winds its way around a wetland full of wildlife including beavers. The trail then turns north, featuring beautiful scenery with small interdunal ponds nestled among oak savanna covered dunes teeming with wildflowers in the spring and summer.
Once you cross the bridge over the Grand Calumet River, the landscape changes dramatically into a world of towering sand dunes. The trail winds around and through the dunes all the way the shore of Lake Michigan.
The trail surface is mostly sand with some sections of packed soil, gravel or boardwalk. The round trip trail distance is 3.4 miles. This route will take longer than you think due the loose footing of making your way in the sand.
The trail starts in relative shade but ends in the full sun. Please bring plenty of water, sun protection and dress in layers. The weather on the beach can be dramatically different than in the woods.
History & Background
This trail is a partnership between the National Park Service and the City of Gary, IN.
The national lakeshore was established in 1966 to preserve for the educational, inspirational, and recreational use of the public, certain portions of the Indiana Dunes and other areas of scenic, scientific, and historic interest and recreational value in the state of Indiana. About two million annual visitors enjoy the parks 15,000 acres of wetlands, prairies, sand dunes, oak savannas, forests, and historic sites. The parks beach hugs the southern shore of Lake Michigan from Gary, Indiana, to Michigan City, Indiana. For more information, visitnps.gov/indu/planyourvisit/…