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Indiana Dunes State Park Camping

Portage Lakefront And Riverwalk Beach Portage In

Indiana Dunes State Park Campground Review | Camping in Indiana

This small beach is next to the Port of Indiana and a steel mill, giving it a more industrial feel than some of the other beaches. Theres a nice paved riverwalk trail that hugs Burns Waterway, and the beach has restrooms and a snack bar. There is an ongoing issue with erosion here, and Lake Michigan is in a constant battle with the dunes on the shore. In some places, the beach is very narrow, and in other places, there is no beach at all. This is a nice spot to check out the Chicago skyline on a clear day.

Taking On The 3 Dunes Challenge

And yet, given that Chicago can be seen from the shores of Indiana Dunes and given that the park is directly adjacent to a power plant and a steel mill, the latter in the economically challenged city of Gary a question emerges: just how parky is this park? Leaving my boyfriend behind in an effort to strike a Thoreauvian note, I headed to Indiana to find out.

The first efforts to turn Indiana Dunes into a park go back to 1916, when locals wanted to preserve the area from encroaching industry. The area was named a national lakeshore in 1966 this designation gave the area the same protections that national parks enjoy, but not the fame and prestige. The national park designation would take another 53 years until this past February, when it was part of the same omnibus spending bill that included funding for the wall between the United States and Mexico.

Having weeks earlier reserved a campsite in Indiana Dunes State Park, the 2,182 acres of beach and marsh and hardwood forest in the middle of the national park, I first hied myself to Indiana Duness modern, spacious Visitor Center. I told a 60-something park volunteer about the Counter Assault Bear Deterrent, and we agreed that the only bear I was likely to encounter during my stay was Mike Ditka.

The volunteer encouraged me to take the 3 Dune Challenge, a 1.5-mile hike up Indiana Dunes three highest dunes , adding that completion of the Challenge would yield a special reward.

2 mileS

1/2 mile

Are There Any Rules I Should Know

  • Quiet hours are 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Sites are limited to a maximum of eight people.
  • All tents and equipment must be set up on the camping pad.
  • RVs, campers and vehicles must remain on the pavement.
  • Some sites are limited on RV length.
  • Pets must be attended, caged or on a leash. The leash must be shorter than six feet long.
  • For other rules, visit www.nps.gov.

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Where Is Indiana Dunes State Park

So glad you asked. Indiana Dunes State Park is actually located inside the boundary of Indiana Dunes National Park. The park consists of more than 2,000 acres with a three-mile beach and awesome hiking trails. A campground includes 140 campsites with full hook-ups .

The entrance fee for Indiana Dunes State Park is $7 per vehicle for Indiana residents and $12 for non-residents. Camping rates vary from $30-$44 per not. Dogs and alcohol are not permitted at the beach in Indiana Dunes State Park.

Where To Get Supplies

Dunewood Campground, IN

Stocking up on camping supplies before your trip to Indiana Dunes National Park couldnt be easier. The parks urban location provides for tons of nearby amenities that are sure to have everything you need for your trip. Your best options are listed below:

  • Michigan City, IN: Michigan City is located just a few miles north along the lake shore from Indiana Dunes National Park. Youll find everything you need here to stock up for your camping trip including grocery stores, liquor stores, and gas stations.
  • Portage, IN: Portage is located south of the national park along I-94. While not the most convenient place to stop prior to your camping trip, there is a well stocked Bass Pro Shops located here. This will be your best bet for any camping equipment you may have forgotten.
  • Dunes Highway: The Dunes Highway cuts right through the national park and runs past the Dunewood Campground. At the intersection with Broadway youll find a gas station, small camp store, and the Goblin & Grocer diner. This is the most convenient for basic needs in the national park.

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Rv Campgrounds Near Indiana Dunes

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Indiana Dunes National Park. Check out all of your options below.

Number of sites: 115 campsitesFee: $37 $64/night depending on hookups and time of year.Capacity: Rates are based on five people per campsite.RVs: Yes, up to 40.

The Michigan City Campground is located in, you guess it, Michigan City, IN. The campground is very well located for those interested in visiting Indiana Dunes National Park as the campground is only a 10 minute drive from the park. The campground has tons of options to suit all camping styles including sites with full hookups, sites that can accommodate full size RVs, and tent camping only sites.

Amenities at the Michigan City Campground include a swimming pool, playground, WiFi access, laundry facilities, and a small camp store.

West Loop And Beach Trail

If you are planning on spending a lot of time at the beach during your camping trip, the West Loop might just be the spot for you. This portion of the campground is located closest to the beach and is where the Beach Trail starts.

Hiking a trail at the Dunes.

Campsites with wooded areas behind them can be found along the northern and western edges of the West Loop. There is a vault toilet in the NW corner of the loop, right at the beginning of the Beach Trail.

Indiana Dunes State Park campground.

The Restroom Building is located directly in the center of the West Loop and has a bike rack and bulletin board outside.

West Loop Restroom/Shower Building

With all of the native trees throughout the campground, youre sure to see lots of adorable, busy squirrels gathering their food and chasing each other.

I love the Indiana Dunes!

Be on the lookout, throughout the Indiana Dunes, for a variety of wildlife, including Monarch Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Sandhill Cranes, Piping Plovers, Chipmunks, Deer, Red Foxes and Raccoons. There are animals that are migratory and some that call the Dunes home during all four seasons!

We love coloring at our campsite after a busy day of exploring. We recommend printing some the Indiana Department of Natural Resourcess coloring pages to take on your camping trip. They feature some of the plants and animals that can be found within the Indiana Dunes.

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Indiana Dunes National Park Campgrounds

The first step in planning your perfect camping trip to the Indiana Dunes is to understand a bit about the geography of the national park and surrounding area. Indiana Dunes National Park is unique in that the park is not located in one contiguous land mass like most national parks. Rather, it exists in several smaller parcels along the shore of Lake Michigan as well as inland. Indiana Dunes State Park is located entirely within the national park boundaries, another unique geographical feature. See the map below to get a better understanding of the geography of Indiana Dunes National Park.

All of this is a benefit for those looking to camp at the Indiana Dunes given that there are campgrounds located within the national park and state park, giving you plenty of options.

The peak season for camping in the Indiana Dunes is from May September, and the Dunewood Campground located within Indiana Dunes National Park is open seasonally from April 1st November 1st. The Indiana Dunes State Park campground is open year round, but be sure youre RV has heat if youre planning a camping trip in the off season!

Camping In Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes State Park Beach and Campground Review

For a camping option thats a little off the beaten path, consider Dunewood Campground, which is part of the Indiana Dunes National Park. This campground is right off Highway 12 in Beverly Shores and about 1.5 miles from the dunes.

This campground is a little more secluded than the State Park, and its perfect for people who are looking for more of an old-school camping experience. You wont find any electrical hookups at Dunewood Campground, but there are restrooms and a shower facility. Each campsite is nestled in the trees so you can really get in tune with nature!

Take a five-minute drive or a 30-minute walk through the quaint town of Beverly Shores to get to the beach. Keep in mind that during peak season, parking can be a challenge. Dunewood Campground is open April through October, and you can set up camp at one of the 66 sites. Four sites are wheelchair accessible. All sites are reservable online. Visit the National Park Service site for more information on reservations, rules, and requirements.

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Indiana Dunes National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Indiana Dunes National Park. First a few basics:

  • The Maximum group size for individual campsites is eight people. There are no group campgrounds in Indiana Dunes National Park.
  • Ensure youre tent/RV is on pavement or the tent pad at all times.
  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • You are not permitted to camp in Indiana Dunes National Park for more than 14 days in a 30-day period.

What To Bring On Your Indiana Dunes National Park Camping Trip

Preparing for your Indiana Dunes National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear youll need to ensure a great trip.

Were sure youll already have the essentials like a great tent, sleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in the Indiana Dunes:

  • Coleman Camping Stove This camping classic is perfect for whipping up campsite classics.
  • Pop-up canopy The sun here can get intense! You wont find much shade in the park, so we recommend bringing a portable shade structure to create your own!
  • Portable water container Save yourself the hassle of dozens of trips to the water tap and bring one of these.
  • Cooler The summer temperatures make a good cooler essential. We cant recommend Yeti enough!
  • Map Even better than paper maps, we like to use the Gaia GPS app on our phone. You can download maps for every National Park at a fraction of the cost. Get 20% off your Gaia subscription here.

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Can I Make A Reservation

Reservations are recommended and can be made online at indianastateparks.reserveamerica.com or by calling 622-6746. Checkin and checkout is at 2 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Checkin and checkout is 5 p.m. on Sundays and holidays. Reservations are available up to six months prior to visit. Walk-ins are first-come, first-served. Stays are limited to 14 consecutive nights.

The Complete Guide To Camping In Indiana Dunes National Park

Dunewood Campground, IN

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Indiana Dunes National Park is one of Americas newest national parks, having been designated as a national park in 2019. Located along the shores of Lake Michigan in northeast Indiana, the park covers over 15,000 acres with Indiana Dunes State Park fully enclosed within the national parks boundaries. We think the best way to experience everything the Indiana Dunes have to offer is by spending a few nights sleeping under the stars in your tent or RV. Youll get experience this incredible environment first hand!

Indiana Dunes National Park and the surrounding areas have plenty of options to suit all types of campers. From the more rustic Dunewood Campground within the national park, to the campground located within Indiana Dunes State Park, and nearby full service campgrounds, youll be spoiled for options.

Keep reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Indiana Dunes National Park.

  • Free camping near the Indiana Dunes
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    Central Avenue Beach Town Of Pines In

    Central Avenue Beach was relatively quiet when we were there, but I dont know if it is always this way. Its a narrow strip of sand sandwiched between Lake Michigan and the huge sand dunes, so there isnt a lot of room for sunbathing or Frisbee throwing. The beach was closed for many years due to erosion, but as of 2020 is open to visitors. Its a bit of a walk from the parking area, but the swimming area is shallow and sandy perfect for families.

    What To Do Nearby

    Those in search of craft breweries will be pleasantly surprised by northwestern Indiana. In the triangle between Portage, Valparaiso, and Michigan City on the border with Michigan, eager imbibers will find no fewer than seven microbreweries venture a bit further afield to South Bend and Elkhart for even more options.

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    Car Camping Sites Near The Indiana Dunes

    If youre after car camping sites near Indiana Dunes National Park youll have at least one good option. In addition to the campground listed below, car camping is permitted at all of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above. Keep reading below to see what your best bet is for car camping near the Indiana Dunes.

    Number of sites: 6 campsites.Fee: $15/nightReservations: Recommended. Call 219-465-3586 to make a reservation.Pets: AllowedMore Information

    The Sunset Hill Farm Campground is located south of Indiana Dunes National Park in Valparaiso, IN. From here, it is an approximate 25 minutes drive to the national park. Sunset Hill is perfect for those looking to camp in their tent, as no RVs are permitted. The campsites are more rustic and are all walk-in only. Each campsite has a fire pit and picnic table as well as access to basic toilets. There is no trash service at Sunset Hill, so youll need to pack out your own trash.

    There is no potable water at Sunset Hill Farm Campground, so plan to bring all that youll need.

    Did Someone Say Sand Dune

    Camping At Indiana Dunes State Park | 3 Dune Challenge | Full Time RV Living

    Of course, no trip to the beach would be complete without climbing Devils Slide sand dune. The sand dune is almost 100 feet tall and is a must do!

    Devils Slide sand dune near beach, MUCH taller than it looks!

    Climbing a sand dune takes a LOT of energy and we always work up quite a thirst by the time we reach the top. Be sure to take plenty of water with you. There are a few shady spots at the top to sit, take a drink and enjoy the view!

    Looking out from Devils Slide.

    Cant get enough of climbing the dunes?! Plan a day to take a hike up the three tallest sand dunes in the 3 Dune Challenge. Youll start at the Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center and wind through a variety of trails leading you to Mt. Jackson, Mt. Holden and Mt. Tom. The dunes range in size, with Mt. Tom coming in as the highest at a towering 192 feet.

    We recommend taking plenty of snacks and water and also using the restroom at the Nature Center before beginning the challenge.

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    When Is The Campground Open

    The campground is open year round. Only a family-style bathroom with a shower and two frost-free spigots are left open for campers during the colder months until the frost is done for the year. Contact the campground about access to amenities during this time. Full amenities are available May through October.

    How Much Does It Cost To Visit Indiana Dunes National Park

    As of 2020, there is no fee to get into many of the day areas at Indiana Dunes National Park. The exception is the popular West Beach, which charges $6 per vehicle per day or $30 per busload. If you planned ahead and purchased an America the Beautiful Pass, congratulations! Unfortunately, your pass wont cover the $6 expanded amenity fee.

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    Dunes : Where To Go Camping At The Indiana Dunes

    There are so many things to do while visiting the Indiana Dunes, you’ll definitely want to make your trip a multi-day stay. There are plenty of hotels, inns, and BnBs to stay in, but there’s no better way to truly immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area than camping at the Indiana Dunes. Whether you’re looking to pitch a tent for the weekend, settle down for a while in your RV, or stop for a few days while on your van life road trip, the Indiana Dunes has great camping options.

    Forest canopy covers most of the Indiana Dunes, keeping the sandy beaches hidden from the main roads. This offers the kind of privacy you need for an amazing camping experience! Both the State Park and National Park have designated campsites for tent and RV camping, each site within walking distance of the beach.

    Indiana Dunes State Park

    Indiana Dunes campground to accept reservations

    A state park surrounded by a national park, the Indiana Dunes State Park is 2,182 acres of dunes, marshes, swamps, hardwood forests, and white pine groves with a lifeguarded beach . The park features some of the best hikes in the area, including The 3 Dune Challengethe three tallest sand dunes along the southern shore of Lake Michiganand Trail 9named the best place to hike in Indiana by USA Today. The park also offers camping and a park naturalist housed at the Nature Center with interpretive programs held throughout the year. Just take Interstate 80-94 or the Indiana Toll Road to Indiana 49 North. Check our events page for information about guided tours and ranger-led hikes.

    Amenities: Contact, Venue Photo, Outdoor, Beach, Motor Coach Parking, Credit Cards Accepted, On/Near Lake, Family Friendly, Public Restrooms, Group Friendly , Accessible, Swimming, Pet Friendly , Camping, Fee, Picnicking, Swimming Beach, Capacity Range, Indoor/Outdoor

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