“A classic run in the Indiana Dunes combining all three trails at West Beach.
— Rafi Wilkinson
Birding · Lake · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This run combines the three different loops at West Beach. From the parking lot, follow the road north, toward the lake and pick up the trail to the east of the bathhouse.
Parking and access open daily 8:00 am to 10:00 pm Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend and 7:00 am to 30 minutes after sunset the remainder of the year. There is a $6 per car expanded amenity parking fee collected from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. No bicycles or motorized vehicles allowed on the trail. Stay on the trail to protect fragile dunes and yourself. Pets are permitted on a leash (6' or shorter) everywhere except for the lifeguarded swimming area.
Need to Know
The main trail is not accessible to wheelchairs. However, there is a paved path from the parking lot to the bathhouse that offers views of Lake Michigan that is accessible to wheelchairs. The main parking lot has spots for 596 cars and is open year round.
There are restroom facilities and potable water available year round in the West Beach Contact Station. Seasonal showers, lockers and a lifeguarded beach are available in the summer. Alcohol is not permitted anywhere at West Beach.
There are covered picnic shelters near the West Beach parking lot. First come, first served. No advance reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Cooking fires at the picnic shelters are permitted in the provided grills or an approved carry-in grill. An approved grill is a noncombustible container with an enclosed bottom and enclosed sides with a minimum depth of 2 inches. Charcoal must be cooled and safely disposed of in a noncombustible container or removed from the area.
The run starts with the Dune Succession Trail
(Loop 1) which highlights the four stages of dune development. This part of the trail is only ~0.6 miles long, but includes a strenuous climb up 250 stairs for a spectacular view of Lake Michigan and Chicago. Support the restoration effort in the fragile dunes and ponds, or pannes, by remaining on designated trails.
The run then picks up the West Beach Trail
(Loop 2) for an easy run through an area that was sand mined in the 1920s. The footing is mainly loose sand. This area is being restored as an oak savanna and is a great place to see prickly pear cactus. Birders will enjoy looking for water birds on Long Lake from the viewing platform.
The final section of the run is the Long Lake Loop Trail
(Loop 3). This section is moderate in difficulty. The trail follows along Long Lake and then heads into the dunes. There is a great view of Long Lake after the initial climb. After crossing the entrance road, the trail winds through the undulating dunes and then has a steep descent into the picnic area and back to the parking lot.
History & Background
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, IN, to Michigan City, IN. For more information, visitnps.gov/indu/planyourvisit/…