Indiana Dunes State Park Trail 8 to 3

Chesterton, IN
Length: 1.50 mi.
Type: Loop

About This Trail

[Total: 3    Average: 4/5]

As attractive and popular as the beaches are, don’t forget to check out the trails. They’ll take you through the forest, close to the beach, and in the dunes. The sand is amazing for little ones to explore, build sand castles, and run through.

Trail 8 to Trail 3 will take on the “3 Dune Challenge” — visiting Mount Jackson, Mount Holden and Mount Tom. While they do have some steep sandy vertical areas, take the 1.5 mile trail one step at a time and you won’t regret it.

The views are amazing and you’re toddler and preschoolers will love reaching each peak! Pack plenty of snacks and water. The sand makes it easier to climb for little feet, with less roots and rocks than other trails. You may even consider a barefoot hike for portions of the sandy area.

Trail 8 completes the challenge, while Trail 3 helps you break away from trail 8 and back to the nature center where you started. With the steep sandy climbs, this is generally more than enough for toddlers and preschoolers but if you’re group is up for it, you can also complete trail 8 and loop back to the nature center. If you have a little one that is likes to walk and be carried, pack a light carrier just in case.

The nature center is a must stop if you’re planning to hit the trails or just need a short break with some air conditioning. They have maps, bathrooms, a drink vending machine, nature displays and even a small area for kids to explore and learn about Indiana’s ecosystems. Stop by and talk to the naturalists about any questions you have or upcoming events. And, don’t forget to snag a free discount book for coupons to local eateries!

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Trail Features

Seasons Fall, Spring, and Summer
Surface type Dirt
Elevation gain 238 ft.
Stroller friendly No
ADA accessible No
Water fountains Yes
Bathrooms Yes
Cell reception Spotty
Pet friendly Yes
Nearby convenience store Yes
Camping Nearby Yes
Emergency support
within 5 miles

Trail highlights

Beach, Boardwalk, Camping Nearby, Picnic Area, Ranger Led Hikes, Shaded Hike, Shelter, Viewpoint, and Visitor Center

The park is open and free between November and mid-April. Peak visiting time is during the summer. If you’re looking to camp, make sure to reserve your space far in advance. If you’re looking for a less-crowded visit but aren’t super interested in the beach, visit during cooler months in the Spring or Fall.

While you’re on Trail 8, don’t forget to snap photos at each trail marker! If you complete the trail head back to the nature center for a free sticker showing you completed the “3 Dunes Challenge.”

Fee & Parking Details

Fee : $7.00

State park admission fee is $7 for in-state vehicles and $12 for out-of-state vehicles.

Plenty of parking for Trail 8 is available right off of the Nature Center, located just past the campground and campground store.

Trail Contributor

[Total: 3    Average: 4/5]

Bailey Ludlam is Hike it Baby’s Membership Manager and one of the Branch Ambassadors for Hike it Baby Indianapolis. Powered by lots of coffee and a constant need to explore, she is always looking for new adventures, both on and off the trail. And, with two little boys in tow the adventures are endless!

Trail Head


Trail Map

Getting There

The primary entrance to Indiana Dunes State Park is located at 1600 N. 25 E.
Chesterton, IN 46304, which is accessible off of Highway 94 which makes for easy access whether you are coming in from Illinois, Indiana, or Michigan.  To navigate to the nature center, follow the arrows to the right, just past the state park entrance.