Indiana Dunes State Park, Indiana

Photo: Indiana Dunes Tourism
Photo: Indiana Dunes Tourism

Winter is finally—maybe, hopefully—really over. After many long, cold, snowy months, you just want to go outside. It doesn’t matter that the snowbanks haven’t completely disappeared or that you still need a scarf due to the strong winds. As long as the temperature is at least 50 degrees, you’re going for a hike.

Indiana Dunes State Park is the perfect place to go for an early spring trek. The park, which was established in 1935, sits on Lake Michigan’s southern shore. It has a three-mile-long beach, windswept sand dunes, and 16 miles of hiking trails. Strong waves pound the shore. Marshes, blowouts, and forests are just beyond the waterline. While Chicago is only 45 miles to the west.

Since it’s not your first time visiting the park, you already know which trails are your favorites, though it’s certainly not because of their creative names. Trail 2, an easy three-mile walk, is lined with ferns and early spring wildflowers. Trail 4 meanders through the black oak forest. Trail 8 goes up and over the Tremonts: Mount Tom, Mount Holden, and Mount Jackson. And Trail 10, the longest path, winds around the Beach House Blowout and the Furnessville Blowout, which were created when the sand below the trees and the grasses became unstable.

But you save your most-favorite hike for last. From Trail 9, you have a view over the big dunes and the choppy lake. Two fishermen are trying to catch smelt. Seagulls are watching them closely. A lone biker is pedaling along the Calumet Trail. And the Windy City is in the distance. You breathe in the fresh air as the wind blows your jacket and hair. Spring has finally arrived.

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