Family Fun in the Dunes. Our Top 5 Trails for Tykes!
Photo Credit: Jen Soffin
We all love to get outside, but sometimes the trails are a little too tough for the kids. Well, Dig the Dunes sent our team out to research all the area trails and found five of our favorites for the little ones. Each one lists what’s in it for the kids, how tough it is and what the reward is in the end! So here they are, from West to East…
- Miller Woods Trail. Miller, IN – The short loop at the beginning of this trail is perfect for little kids. It has a bridge, a swamp, the extremely rare oak savanna habitat and lots of birds and wildflowers. It’s under a mile and a fun loop to run or walk. The more adventurous or older kids can head out on the 3 mile (out and back) trail towards the beach. Climb a dune or two and feel like you’re on top of the world! The parking lot for this trail is right at the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education which is open daily in the summer and has all sorts of fun activities for kids. It’s the perfect ending and something fun for the kids to check out after a hike.
- Dune Succession Trail. West Beach, Portage, IN – This trail is a little higher on the difficulty level, but it sure is a lot of fun. Park at West Beach and take a look up and you will see the long set of stairs that reaches an observation deck. The trail is about 1 mile, but has a lot of stairs and walking in the sand. Kids will love running along the boardwalk, and adults will love the views of the dunes, Lake Michigan and the Chicago Skyline. The reward at the end? The beach! Take a dip in the lake before heading back to your car. There is a parking fee to park at West Beach.
- Bailly Homestead, Chellberg Farm, and Little Calumet trail System. Porter, IN – Here we’ve actually listed three spots in one. They are all connected and could be hiked in one day or split up between several. Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm will provide the kids with a taste of Northwest Indiana’s settlement history. Take a look at restored houses, the old farm and during the summer at special times you can actually go inside and look at the old farmhouse. Feel like being more adventurous? Cross the street to the Little Calumet River Trail and see a beautiful view of the prairie, the river and cross many fun bridges with stairs. Towards the north, you can treat the kids to a peek at the Bailly Cemetery.
- Indiana Dunes State Park, Trail 3 and Trail 8. Chesterton, IN. – There are 7 trails at the state park, but we chose trail 3 and trail 8 for the kids. Trail 3 is a moderate out and back trail that is just one mile in length. You can view lots of wildflowers and prickly pear cactus. At the end of the trail is a sky deck to climb and overlook the beach and pavilion. Trail 8 is the well-known 3 dune challenge. It’s not an easy one, but lots of kids we talked to loved it. Climb three of the areas highest dunes over a 1.5 mile course. Take pictures at the top with the signs that show the elevation. Once you are finished, head to the nature center to discover more fun things and pick up your free sticker! (have older kids, try trail 9 for some absolutely amazing views of the dunes and the lake. This one is great for runners too!
- Galien River County Park. New Buffalo, MI – On this hike kids can take a series of small trails that walk your through both upland and wetland habitats. Walk along a path that goes right through the New Buffalo Marsh and ends at the Galien River where you can watch kayakers and paddle boarders pass by. The highlight of Galien County Park is the 300′ canopy walkway that leads to a 60′ high marsh overlook tower that you can feel sway in the wind. Have a teen snap a selfie here that will be sure make her friends wish they had come along!
Just remember, no matter the age, the important thing is to get the kids outside and have a good time!