Tag Archives: National Lakeshore

Top 10 Sand Dunes in National Parks

Sand dunes are like giant sandboxes for big kids to play in and hike on, so we came up with a list of our favorites from across the National Park Service (NPS) System. Unlike most NPS backcountry trails, dogs are allowed on many of these dunes if they are leashed and picked up after.

10. Cape Lookout National Seashore (North Carolina)

9. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Indiana)

8. Salt Basin Dunes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

7. Mesquite Flat Dunes at Death Valley National Park (California)

6. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Michigan)

5. Eureka Dunes at Death Valley National Park (California)

4. Kelso Dunes at Mojave National Preserve (California)

Sand sledding on the gypsum dunes at White Sands National Monument

3. White Sands National Monument (New Mexico)

2. Panamint Dunes at Death Valley National Park (California)

…and finally our #1 sand dune in a National Park:

1. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado)

 

Honorable Mention

Padre Island National Seashore (Texas)

Top National Park Service Site in Each State

We kicked off our travel blog by highlighting our favorite National Park Service site in each of the 50 states.

Alabama

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Alaska

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Arizona

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Arkansas

Buffalo National River

California

Lava Beds National Monument

Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Connecticut

Weir Farm National Historic Site

Delaware

First State National Monument

Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park

Georgia

Andersonville National Historic Site

Hawaii

Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Idaho

City of Rocks National Reserve

Illinois

Pullman National Monument

Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Iowa

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Kansas

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park

Louisiana

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Maine

Appalachian National Scenic Trail 

Maryland

Catoctin Mountain Park

Massachusetts

Lowell National Historical Park

Michigan

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Minnesota

Grand Portage National Monument

Mississippi

Vicksburg National Military Park

Missouri

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Montana

Big Hole National Battlefield

Nebraska

Scotts Bluff National Monument

Nevada

Great Basin National Park

New Hampshire

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

New Jersey

Thomas Edison National Historical Park

New Mexico

Bandelier National Monument

New York

Fort Stanwix National Monument

North Carolina

Cape Lookout National Seashore

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Ohio

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Oklahoma

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Oregon

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument 

Pennsylvania

Fort Necessity National Battlefield

Rhode Island

Roger Williams National Memorial

South Carolina

Congaree National Park

South Dakota

Jewel Cave National Monument

Tennessee

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Texas

Big Bend National Park

Utah

Capitol Reef National Park

Vermont

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park 

Virginia

Fort Monroe National Monument

Washington

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area

West Virginia

New River Gorge National River

Wisconsin

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

…and finally our home state…

Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park

 

Honorable Mention

District of Columbia

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Overview

Twenty-one of the 22 islands within this archipelago jutting from northern Wisconsin into Lake Superior are part of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.  This region is famous for its lighthouses and concessionaires offer tours to see them if you do not have your own boat.  Kayakers come for the sea caves carved into Sand Island, Devils Island, and the mainland (accessible on foot after the lake freezes in winter).

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Highlights

Islands, lighthouses, boating, camping, sea caves

Must-Do Activity

Even though this is a freshwater lake, Sand Island has sea caves carved into the billion-year-old sandstone cliffs by constant wave action.  Located only 4 miles from shore, the Sand Island sea caves are carved nearly 50 feet into the rock and can be carefully navigated by kayak.

Best Trail

Sand Island was closed at the time of our visit due to black bear activity, but it is one of the few islands that has a hiking trail (Stockton, Basswood, and Outer being others).  Lakeshore Trail on the west side of the Bayfield Peninsula offers a trail on the mainland.

Instagram-worthy Photo

You will need a kayak and a steady hand to take photographs while paddling through the sea caves on the east side of Sand Island.

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Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/apis/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None to visit, but there are fees to camp on the islands and for concessionaire boat tours.

Road Conditions

Most roads on the Bayfield Peninsula are paved and the sandy roads through Chequamegon National Forest were passable by all vehicles.

Camping

Many visitors come with their own boat to camp on one of the 18 islands with sites (permit required and reservations recommended).  Car camping is available at Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island (ferry service) and throughout Chequamegon National Forest on Bayfield Peninsula.

The outside of the Apostle Island Visitor's Center
Pick up your camping permits at this historic Visitor Center.
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Sunset on Lake Superior.
The sandy beach at York Island
York Island
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Our campsite on York Island.

Tiff taking pictures on Bananas (with Wondon in his baggies)

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Sand Island Lighthouse
They were pretty stunning
Sea caves on Sand Island.

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It looks alien
A view of the sea cave arch from underwater.

Explore More – When was Long Island added as the twenty-first island in the park?

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Overview

The turquoise waters of Lake Superior beneath the sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore make it seem warmer than it actually is.  Glaciers carved this shoreline thousands of years ago, but the Ice Age never seems far off in the lake’s cold waters.  Minerals leaching from the stone paint the cliffs in many hues, hence the name Pictured Rocks.

Pictured

Highlights

Petit Portal, Miners Castle, Munising Falls, Sable Falls

Must-Do Activity

Kayaking through Petit Portal is an unforgettable experience.  Guides can provide the necessary gear and know-how, as well as commercial boat operators that get close to but do not actually pass through the natural arch.

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Best Trail

Not far from the visitor center is a short trail to Munising Falls, one of several waterfalls in this 42-mile stretch of shoreline.

Instagram-worthy Photo

It will be hard to maintain a flat horizon line while bobbing on the waves in your kayak as you pass through Petit Portal, so take plenty of pictures.

Peak Season

Primarily a summer destination, but even then be prepared for sudden storms that can suddenly blow across Lake Superior.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

No entry fee, but there is a charge for backcountry camping permits that are only available online.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved (to our knowledge).

Camping

Three campgrounds, plus 14 backcountry camping areas in the National Lakeshore.  More backcountry campsites can be found offshore in Grand Island National Recreation Area, administered by Hiawatha National Forest, which also offers dispersed camping opportunities.

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Tiff with the Petit Portal

Colors like Yellowstone

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Munising Falls
Munising Falls near the south Visitor Center

Explore More – What valuable mineral stains the sandstone cliffs green and blue?

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Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Overview

A 20th-century battleground east of Chicago between industrialists seeking to build more steel mills and conservationists wanting to preserve natural diversity, in 1966 Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was created as a compromise between the opposing sides.  Its scattered bogs and dunes surround a beachside state park on Lake Michigan that dates back to the 1920s, with an Art Deco bathhouse dating to that era.

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Highlights

West Beach, Mount Baldy, Glenwood Dunes Trail, heron rookery

Must-Do Activity

It is worth the price of admission to access the trail system within Indiana Dunes State Park to complete the 3 Dunes Challenge.  Take your photos back to the joint NPS-State Park visitor center to claim your prizes.

Best Trail

Cowles Bog Trail covers 5 rugged miles and accesses an isolated beach with views of the Chicago skyline.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Beach grasses with a backdrop of a steel mill are a surreal mix on the Cowles Bog Trail.

Indiana

Peak Season

The park is open year round, with the Lake Michigan beaches attracting crowds in the summer.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/indu/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

No admission for most of the National Lakeshore, except $6 per vehicle for summer lifeguards at West Beach and $12 per vehicle day use fee year round to enter Indiana Dunes State Park.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved.

Camping

While it is not on the beach, we enjoyed the quiet Dunewood Campground (fee) with its hot showers.

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Historic bathhouse at Indiana Dunes State Park.

Climbing the dunes - there was a hiking challenge, so we had to do it
Tiff hiking up a sand dune.

A view of Chicago from the dunes
The Chicago skyline is visible from the beach.

Baby geese!

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Dunewood Campground

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Explore More – Mount Baldy stands 126 feet tall, but how much shorter is that than Mount Tom in neighboring Indiana Dunes State Park?

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