Tolleston Dunes Long Loop

A moderate 3-mile hike that wanders through "4,700 year-old sand dunes that were formed when Lake Michigan's water level was 25 feet higher than today."

Hiking Moderate

Distance
4.6 km
Ascent
54 m
Descent
54 m
Duration
1-2 hrs
Low Point
184 m
High Point
201 m
Gradient
Tolleston Dunes Long Loop Map

The Tolleston Dunes Trail is a moderate 3-mile hike that "winds amid 4,700 year-old sand dunes that were formed when Lake Michigan's water level was 25 feet higher than today," according to the park. One of four dune systems found in Indiana Dunes National Park, this area highlights a variety of habitats and plants including the eastern prickly pear cactus. Present as far north as Ontario, it boasts the "largest range of any cactus in the United States and can be found from New Mexico and Montana east to Florida and Massachusetts." (Source)

Description

The trailhead for Tolleston Dunes is located off of US-12, also known as Dunes Highway. No entry fee is required and the lot is open between 6:00 am and 11:00 pm daily. Neither water nor restrooms are available at the trailhead. Interestingly enough, the park notes how the "lot is also the site of former sand mining activities from before the park" was established in 1966.

1/4 mile to the west of the main trailhead, there is a wheelchair-accessible picnic area and overlook with two tables that are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. This short overlook trail does not access the main hiking loop at any point but does offer a commanding view over the dunefield.

The trail itself is a "lollipop" that begins and ends on the same path from the parking lot. The long loop (mapped here) is about 2.9 miles total, but a cut-off trail in the middle of the loop offers the option to shorten the trek to only 2.1 miles total.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IndianaDunesNationalPark https://www.nps.gov/indu/planyourvisit/td16.htm https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/opuntiahumifusa.shtml

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area