Tag Archives: sand dune

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.

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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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Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Overview

Usually sand dunes are associated with deserts, but in southern Colorado they sit at 8,200 feet and are surrounded by snowy mountains, pine trees, and Medano Creek where kids splash and make sandcastles.  These dunes are the tallest in North America, up to 750 feet in height, blown in grain by grain from the San Juan Mountains, 65 miles to the west.

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Highlights

Medano Creek, High Dune, Medano Pass Primitive Road

Must-Do Activity

The height and steepness of the dunes makes them a great place to try sandboarding or sand sledding, which works best when the sand is wet.  If you don’t have a homemade sandboard, you can rent one in the nearby town of Alamosa or bring a plastic snow sled (round saucers seem to work well).

Best Trail

Blaze your own trail to the top of 650-foot tall High Dune.  The 2.3-mile roundtrip climb is quite a workout at this elevation while sliding backwards in the sand, but bounding downhill makes up for it.  This park is unique because it allows dogs on the dunes, but bring foot protection for your canine on sunny days.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Stay in the dune field at sunset for long shadows on the dunes.  A major bonus if you visit in the spring or fall for a backdrop of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

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Peak Season

Due to its high elevation (8,200 feet), summer is the best time to spend the night, otherwise it can be very cold.

Hours

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

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful Pass, but it is typically not collected in winter months.

Road Conditions

Other than the four-wheel drive road over Medano Pass, passenger vehicles can access all trailheads.  The park provides specialized wheelchairs are available for crossing Medano Creek and exploring the sand dunes.

Camping

Pinyon Flats Campground (fee) has two 44-site loops frequented by mule deer.  Backpacking permits are free to overnight on the dunes where the stars shine brightest.  First-come, first-served campsites are available along the high-clearance Medano Pass Primitive Road.  Dispersed camping is allowed in the neighboring Rio Grande and San Isabel National Forests.

June 2013 Colorado Trip 360

June 2013 Colorado Trip 274

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Pronghorns at the dunes
Pronghorns grazing in front of the sand dunes in December.

 

Tiff with the mountains
Tiff sledding down a wet (i.e. fast) dune in October
Tiff heading to the parking lot
October brings fall colors to the cottonwoods

 

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Explore More – What time of year can visitors “boogie board” the waves in Medano Creek?

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