QUICK TAKE: Indiana Dunes
DRIVE TIME: The Dunes are 45 miles (1 hour) southeast of downtown Chicago, 165 miles (3 hours) north of Indianapolis, and 235 miles (4 hours) west of Detroit.
THE WAY: From I-94, take IN 49 north straight into Indiana Dunes State Park. Or turn off IN 49 onto US 12 to get to the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center and the Dunewood Campground.
TRAILS: The national lakeshore contains about 40 miles of trails.
ELEVATION: Nada, but dune hiking can be arduous.
CAN’T MISS: Trail 9 through the Dunes Nature Preserve offers a spectacular vista of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline beyond.
CROWD CONTROL: Both campgrounds are packed with RVs and car-campers through the summer months, but the trails are surprisingly empty.
PIT STOP: Stop at the Duneland Brewhouse (exit 34B off I-94) and empty the sand from your boots.
WALK SOFTLY: Minimize dune deterioration; stick to trails.
MAPS AND GUIDES: The national and state park maps are thorough and free. Dune Country: A Hiker’s Guide to the Indiana Dunes, by Glenda Daniel (1984; Swallow Press, Athens, OH), is available at the National Lakeshore Visitor Center for $12.95.
MORE INFORMATION: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 1100 N. Mineral Springs Rd., Porter, IN 46304; (219) 926-7561. Indiana Dunes State Park, 1600 N. 25E, Chesterton, IN 46304; (219) 926-1952.