A hotbed of summer shoreline activity, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s West Beach is the start point for this 3.2-mile loop. Begin by walking through the center of the bathhouse to the beach--bring a lock and stash your swimsuit in the locker room until the end of the hike. The Succession Trail’s boardwalk leads east and then south over a series of dunes. At the base of a long staircase overlooking the parking lot, turn south on the Long Lake Trail. In the summer, look for goldfinches and king birds on the 0.3-mile savanna-like stretch leading to the edge of Long Lake. The trail heads west, skirting the lakeshore and wetland area for 0.4 miles before crossing the park road twice and climbing an oak-covered dune ridge to a lookout. The north-bound portion ends with a short climb and rewards hikers with Lake Michigan views. The only sand dune-climbing opportunity too. It's a sandy descent back to the parking lot.
Plan ahead: Extend your West Beach trip with a cool dip in Lake Michigan; this is the only area beach with summer lifeguards on duty. Expect a $6 day-use fee mid-May through mid-September.
- Mapped by Ted Villaire
Trailhead: Exit I-80/I-94 west of Portage, IN onto US 51 and head north for 0.7 miles. Turn right on US 20 and drive 1 mile before turning left on County Line Road. Drive 1.2 miles north to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore West Beach entrance and turn right. The parking area is 1 mile away.