Do you wish to start your mornings with sipping hot cup of tea or coffee in the foggy and snowy surrounding of huge pine trees? Yes; then winter camping is your thing. Winter is miraculous time in North America. What makes it unique from other seasons is despite of leafless trees, how nature’s pouring of love in the form of snow makes the place perfectly shine. Indiana Dunes National and State Park is no exception to it. Snow covered Hiking Trails and Sand Dunes, Sledding, Huge Icebergs floating on lake Michigan, make Indiana Dunes perfect winter weekend gateway.
Camping at Indiana Dunes Campground
Indiana Dunes State Park Campground offers year-around camping facilities. The best part about winter camping is cheaper and less crowded. You can easily reserve your campsite just 2-3 days in advance at $25 a night but minimum booking for 2 nights are required. Campground has 2 vault restrooms and one heated modern family restroom open all winter. It is important that you have good quality gear to protect you from extreme cold weather. At the end of article, I have mentioned the gear we carried to keep us warm in -5 C (23 F) to 5 C (41F).
A night before our hike it rained heavily under bright full moon light and we accidently kept our few food items out at night, so we possibly had a company of wild cat or fox at night. So little tip: Make sure you keep everything in your car or tent or get ready to welcome wild animals.
Hike to 3 Dunes challenge (Trail 8)
We started our hike from campground. Trail starts at Nature’s center. Grab State park and National Park maps and follow signs for trail 8. This trail will take you to 3 mountain tops; Mt Jackson, Mt Holden and Mt Tom. Average time to complete this trail is 1-2 hours. Hike to Mt Jackson is easy. Just last 0.1 mile of hike on sand dunes at 70-degree slope is tough part. You will get sneak a peak of lake Michigan at the top of Mt Jackson.
Follow trail 8 to go little higher to Mt Holden. At this top you will see great views of Lake Michigan. From here you can also slide down directly to lakeshore. Snow covered white sand dunes with Blue waters of lake Michigan is gorgeous site.
Continue trail 8 to Mount Tom. On this trail there are wooden stairs which look pretty in snow. Be careful on black ice on the path. Continuing this trail will take you back to the campground.
Hike to Lake Michigan Lakeshore (Trail 4 & 7)
After completing amazing 3-Dunes trail, we continued Trail 4 from Mt. Tom. On Trail 7 just before you climb stairs on the top; take a right and continue stairs going down. It will take you to the lakeshore. Just relax have a bite and enjoy rare sight of blue waters through snow covered sand dunes. You will see many huge icebergs at the edge of lakeshore. Don’t go too close to them. They are just hanging there for a moment. We witnessed huge icebergs falling and floating in lake Michigan.
Hike to Beach house Blowout (Trail 9)
We were so intimidated by winter beauty of Indiana Dunes, we decided on heading to trail 9; a beach house blowout to appreciate the beauty of Indiana Dunes from different perspective. There are no signs on lakeshore giving directions to the trail. With the help of fellow hikers, we found trail. Now challenge was to climb 50 steps of 70-degree steep sand dunes. For the view like this every step was worth climbing. Follow trail 9 away from lake Michigan to reach back to campground.
Lunch at Octave Grill, Chesterton (IN)
We started our hike at 10:30am and we completed all our hikes by 3:30pm. After a great start of the day with beautiful views of lake Michigan; who doesn’t crave for good food. We headed to nearby Chesterton town. There was cute small restaurant Octave Grill. This place took me out of surprise. They had great variety of burgers, sandwiches and cocktails. Their house-made desserts are just yummmm. I first time had Lavender gin and their homemade dessert large cherry cobbler both were pretty mind-blowing.
Sunset at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
What’s another way than to see magical sunset at national lakeshore to call off this great day. Drive to the Porter beach and enjoy views like this. Believe me, not a single filter is used in this picture.
On return journey if you are driving down on I-65 S; stop by Nine Irish Brothers in West Lafayette (IN) for dine-in. It is budget restaurant with great food, drinks and ambience. As we were in West Lafayette, we took opportunity to explore Prude University and surrounding area. It is good place to hang out after heavy lunch and for some good coffee.
Cost of trip: $75-$125
Things to carry for your winter getaway: Winter tent, sleeping bags and pads, sturdy winter shoes, winter clothing and hiking pole, firewood, stove, more than enough food and water supplies, torch, first-aid kit.
We use NEMO Equipment Inc. Kunai 2P Tent and Nemo Disco 15 Sleeping bags. You can get them on Amazon or REI store.
Camping at Indiana Dunes in winter was my first winter camping. I can’t wait to explore more parks for great winter hikes. I would love to read your winter camping experiences in below comments section.