Hiking Project Logo

Trail 8 - 3 Dunes Challenge

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.7 (32) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

The hardest hike in NW Indiana, but totally worth it. Incredible views.


Your Rating:      Clear Rating
Your Difficulty:
Your Favorites: Add to Favorites · Your List
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

2.2

Miles

3.6

KM

Loop

724' 221 m

High

604' 184 m

Low

238' 72 m

Up

237' 72 m

Down

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

10%

Max Grade (6°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · Swimming · Views

Family Friendly A great family challenge! Kids love scrambling up and down the dunes.

Pets permitted on a leash (6' or shorter). Swimming is permitted only at the Pavilion when lifeguards are present (Memorial Day through Labor Day).

There is an entrance fee to the State Park every day from mid-April through mid-November. Fees are collected on weekends only in the winter. $7 per car for Indiana residents, $12 per car for out of state visitors. $2 walk-in and bike fee.

Overview

Trail 8 climbs over the three tallest dunes in the park. There are great views at each peak.

Need to Know

Bring plenty of water. Those that complete the 3 Dunes Challenge can stop by the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center on State Route 49 (just south of the State Park) to get a free sticker and purchase t-shirts and sweatshirts. See the park's website for more information.

Description

Park at the Wilson Shelter or at the Nature Center. From the Wilson Shelter, the trail heads north and crosses the Great Marsh via a boardwalk. This is one of the best birding locations in the park. Shortly after the marsh, the trail hooks up with Trail 9 and Trail 10. The Nature Center is a couple yards to the west for those needing restrooms or water. After the junction, Trail 8 starts climbing up and down the dunes.

First up is Mt. Jackson (176 feet). Don't let the small elevation change above the lake fool you. The dune climbs are on open, loose sand. Some people will use their hands for support at times. After climbing down the back of Mt. Jackson, the trail immediately starts up Mt. Holden (184 feet). At the top, veer to the left and avoid the unmarked trail down to the lake. After scrambling down the back of Mt. Holden, cross the junction with Trail 7 to the base of the Mt. Tom stairs (Note that Trail 4 shares the stairs with Trail 8).

Climb the stairs to the boardwalk at the top. Mt. Tom is the tallest of the Indiana Dunes. Enjoy the long views above the tree canopy. To reach the halfway point, turn right (north) leaving the boardwalk and scramble down to Lake Michigan. Make sure you touch the water.

For the those with enough stamina, double back over all three dunes. For those looking for an easier route, combine Trails 4,7, and 8 to reduce the number of dune climbs on the way back.

History & Background

The Indiana Dunes State Park was established in 1925 and contains 2,182 acres of land. The park is home to the tallest sand dunes in the area that approach 200 feet in height. The park contains a diverse range of beach, forest, and wetland habitats. As a result, this is an incredible spot for birding. There are three miles of pristine beaches along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Visit the State Park's website for information on programs, camping, and other activities.

Contacts

Shared By:

Rafi Wilkinson

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 32 votes

#248

Overall
  4.7 from 32 votes
5 Star
66%
4 Star
34%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#3

in Indiana

#248

Overall
192 Views Last Month
10,224 Since Jan 28, 2016
Intermediate/Difficult

0%
0%
30%
7%
53%
10%

Photos

Climbing up Mt. Jackson on the 3 Dunes Challenge.
Jan 29, 2016 near Chesterton, IN
mt tom stairs
Sep 20, 2019 near Chesterton, IN
Made it to the top of Mt. Holden. Only Mt. Tom to go.
Jan 29, 2016 near Chesterton, IN

0 Comments

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
Unknown See History
Add Your Check-In

Check-Ins

Sep 29, 2020
Rebecca Ashby
Fun and hard
Sep 24, 2020
Laura Schneider
10h 57m
Sep 19, 2020
Lily Adams
Sep 6, 2020
Erica Graphman
2.2mi
Aug 30, 2020
Brian Parchem
Aug 11, 2020
Gwen Raih
Jul 28, 2020
Carly OBrien
3.2mi — 1h 32m
Jul 18, 2020
Jamie James