In the wintertime, this Indiana park’s more than 15,000 acres are often covered with snow. Over 50 miles of hiking trails meander among the covered dunes, lakefront and forests.
Situated on a 15-mile stretch along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes holds the title of the United States’ 61st national park, following its redesignation in 2019. With oak savannas, swamps, bogs, marshes, prairies, rivers and forests, plus 1,100 flowering plant species and ferns, it is one of the most biodiverse national parks in the country.
Over 11,000 years ago, the Wisconsin glacier, the last glacier to cover this region during the Ice Age, began the slow process of melting. This gave rise to the park’s four significant dunes — landforms made up of wind- or water-driven sand — and formed Lake Michigan. In the wintertime, the park’s more than 15,000 acres are typically blanketed with snow. Over 50 miles of hiking trails that are perfect for all skill levels meander among the covered dunes, the icy lakefront and through the forests, where evergreens add a touch of holiday magic.
Begin the journey at the Dorothy Buell Visitor Center to purchase a Park Entrance Pass, pick up maps and chat with a ranger. The best way to explore the park during the winter is on cross-country skis or snowshoes. Free snowshoe rentals are available at the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education, located within the park.
Indiana Dunes National Park is known for its bird-watching year-round, with more than 350 types of birds spotted within the park. Some species, like the dark-eyed junco and snowy owl, migrate from the north to enjoy a milder winter on the northern Indiana shore. Spot other animals on the ground such as wood frogs, which can survive in the wintry bogs because of the natural antifreeze in their bodies.
Be on the lookout for fresh animal tracks, too. More than 37 animal species call this beautiful park home, including the white-tailed deer and red fox. Dorothy Buell Visitor Center: 1215 N. Indiana 49, Porter, Indiana 46304, 219/395-1882, nps.gov/indu