A New National Park in the Midwest
Indiana Dunes became a national park on February 15, 2019 and already is very popular. From Chicago, it’s less than an hour’s drive, making it an easy weekend getaway for city dwellers. From my home in Southern Illinois, the park is about a four-hour drive north on I-55, so it’s easily accessible for much of the Midwest. Eager to scout out this new-to-us destination, my girlfriend, Jenifer, and I loaded up our rental car with hiking gear and photographic equipment and set off on our three-day weekend getaway. We planned to explore every square inch of Indiana Dunes National Park.
Open year-round, the park offers unique recreational opportunities for visitors in every season. We chose to visit in late spring to take advantage of the warm weather and an abundance of wildlife, including many newborn animals. We didn’t camp on this trip, but locals speak highly of the Indiana Dunes State Park Campground, which features more than 100 sites located less than a mile from the water.
We arrived late in the afternoon, with just enough time to stretch our legs and look for a secluded section of beach where we could watch the sunset. From the head of the Mount Baldy Beach Trail, we wound our way through the woods to the trail’s end, some 126 feet above Lake Michigan. There, we found sweeping views of the water punctuated by the Chicago skyline, floating like a beacon on the distant horizon.
In shifting shades of orange and crimson, the sky appeared to be on fire as the setting sun burst through the clouds, creating a display of sunbeams sparkling on the lake. Jenifer declared that sunset was one of the most amazing she had ever witnessed, and I agree — what a great way to start our weekend adventure.
The next morning, by 5:30 a.m. we were up and out of our hotel in Portage, Indiana, a town of about 36,000 located just 15 minutes from Indiana Dunes National Park. After a quick stop for coffee and doughnuts, we rolled down the car windows, inviting in the fresh air, and headed out for the day.