While nothing compares to hiking along Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is full of small surprises away from the lake. Hiking in the dunes is a much different experience when you cross Route 12, but it is no less worthwhile.
Just outside Ogden Dunes sits Tolleston Dunes (formerly known as Inland Marsh), somewhat removed from the busier areas of the dunes. Two parking lots service the park, one at the trailhead and the other overlooking part of the marsh.
Tolleston Dunes Slideshow:
Once a sand mining operation, Tolleston Dunes is an approximately 3 mile loop over sand, packed dirt, and grassy trails, with some steep dune climbing, making it moderately difficult. Feel free to bring your adventure dog, but be aware they must be kept on leash. As you walk, you’ll travel through a variety of different habitats: the dunes, a black oak forest, and marshland.
The park is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to dusk. Free parking and no access fees offers a great way to access the Lakeshore’s bounty. Due to the soft ground, the main trail is not wheelchair accessible. Those in wheelchairs should make use of the marsh overlook parking lot just up the road, benefiting from a short boardwalk that is accessible.
People come to this trail (and the area) primarily for hiking, birding, the beautiful wildflowers, and, in the Fall, the leaf colors. As you hike in Tolleston Dunes Park, keep an eye out for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly and the prickly pear cactus (only cactus found in all 50 states!).
Bring water for drinking, and, in warmer weather, put on insect repellent, wear long sleeves, and, to avoid ticks and poison ivy, tuck long pants into socks or wear gaiters.
While it would be a fun place to ride, bicycles are not permitted (happily, either are motorized vehicles). I’ll be back to do some trail running here – the elevation change, soft trails, and variety of scenery make this a great place to run, especially as there are both a shorter and longer loop.
*One item of concern is the lack of restrooms. The Lakeshore website states there is a porta-potty available, but I didn’t see one. Maybe during the Summer season?
In the Winter, this trail is popular for hikers and cross-country skiers looking for a different experience.
Directions to Tolleston Dunes Park:
Main Lot: 5800 U.S. Highway 12 (Dunes Highway), Ogden Dunes, IN 46368
Marsh Overlook Lot: 5634 U.S. Highway 12 (Dunes Highway), Portage, IN 46368