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blue Tolleston Dunes Trail

  4.5 ( 8 ) Favorite

Trail

2.9 mile 4.7 kilometer loop
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 127' 39 m
Descent: -127' -39 m
High: 662' 202 m
Low: 608' 185 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 2% (1°)
Max Grade: 9% (5°)

Dogs

Leashed
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Trail shared by Rafi Wilkinson

A great uncrowded trail though ancient dunes and rare black oak savanna.

Rafi Wilkinson

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm. No bicycles or motorized vehicles allowed. Stay on the trail to protect the wildlife and yourself. Pets are permitted on a leash (6' or shorter).

Overview

The Tolleston Dunes Trail follows 10,000 year-old sand dunes that were formed when Lake Michigan was 25 feet higher than in recent years. Tolleston is the second youngest of four distinct dune systems found within the national lakeshore. Together these dune ridges provide a glimpse into the changing shoreline of Lake Michigan. Older dunes, like Tolleston, are found farther inland from Lake Michigans present shoreline and were formed thousands of years ago when the lake was much larger than it is today.

In winter, this trail is a popular spot for cross-country skiers looking for a more challenging experience.

Need to Know

Free parking and access. The main trail is not accessible to wheelchairs. However, there is a short boardwalk leading to 2 picnic table overlook areas that are accessible to wheelchairs. The boardwalk is located at a pull-off on U.S. Highway 12, approximately mile west of the main parking lot. The main parking lot has spots for 19 cars (2 handicap spots) while the overlook parking lot has space for 4 cars (1 handicap spot).

The trail surface is mostly sand with some sections of packed soil, gravel or boardwalk. The outer loop trail distance is 2.9 miles. The shorter cutoff loop is 2.1 miles.

Use insect repellent, wear long sleeves, and tuck long pants into socks to avoid ticks and poison ivy.

There are no restroom facilities and no potable water source.

Description

The trail starts out in what was once a sand mining operation. This is why the parking lot and surrounding area is so flat. After roughly a third of a mile, the trail enters the rolling ancient sand dunes of Lake Michigan. The footing is generally good with some sections of sand. The trail winds up and down through dune and wetland habitats.

The trail is never crowded and is a great way to get away from the summer beach crowds. If you have the time, take the outer loop. While admiring the black oak savanna, keep an eye out for the karner blue butterfly and the prickly pear cactus.

Flora & Fauna

Tolleston Dunes is home to globally rare black oak savanna and the karner blue butterfly, a federally endangered species. The karner blue is dependent upon the wild blue lupine flower (Lupinus perennis), which grows in abundance at Tolleston Dunes. Another plant with a large population is the eastern prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa)!

History & Background

The Tolleston Dunes parking lot is the site of former sand mining activities from before the park was created.

Indiana Dunes National Park (formerly national lakeshore) was established to preserve portions of the Indiana Dunes and other areas of scenic, scientific, historic and recreational value. Up to two million annual visitors enjoy the park's 15,000 acres of wetlands, prairies, sand dunes, oak savannas, forests, and historic sites. The park's 15 miles of beaches hug the southern shore of Lake Michigan from Gary, IN, to Michigan City, IN. For more information, visit nps.gov/indu/index.htm or facebook.com/IndianaDunesNPS.

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Check-Ins

Jul 11, 2018
Amanda Keene
Large tree down across trail of large loop 3mi
Apr 29, 2018
Melissa Ann
Feb 1, 2018
Fabian Martinez
Nov 11, 2017
Dianna Thompson
Jul 2, 2017
KateandJohnny Boehlefeld
High grass over parts of the trail
Jun 15, 2017
Anna Swan
Hiked with Sarah.
Jun 9, 2017
Kari Kiel
Jun 5, 2017
Justin Molina
North Leg after split through bog. Deck boards are muddy and splash up when walked on. Turtles, lizards, and chipmunks running around. 3mi

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 8 votes

#1739

Overall
  4.5 from 8 votes
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Rankings

#9

in Indiana

#1,739

Overall
31 Views Last Month
719 Since Dec 17, 2015
Intermediate Intermediate

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