The Indiana Dunes Central Beach

The Park

Park Rangers' Favorites

Kim Swift for webKim Swift

Supervisory Education Specialist, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore 

A purple carpet of lupine blooms in the spring. Red-headed woodpeckerscareen through the tall oaks. Hidden marshes bloom between the swale ofdunes. Low bush blueberries celebrate fall in brilliant purple-red patches.This is Miller Woods throughout the year. Located in the western end of thenational lakeshore, this easy, one mile loop trail provides lots of thingsto photograph. That is what I love to do when I hike. It helps me focus onthe special features found here in the park on every trail. But I canalways count on Miller Woods to have something new to document.

This trail circles a lovely marsh where hikers can watch muskrats swimmingand red-winged blackbirds building their nests. In the northeast corner ofthe trail, hikers enjoy a panoramic view above the marsh and can look outover the oak savanna ecosystem, one of the most endangered habitats foundin our region. The stately oaks tower over a more open understory of plantssuch as blueberries, grasses, and wildflowers, making the diversity ofplants higher as compared to other woodland habitats.
These are just a few of the features hikers will find on the Miller WoodsTrail. I invite you to join me on a walk and then stop in the Paul H.Douglas Center for Environmental Education, the park's west end visitorcenter, to relax, view our exhibits, and learn about what else is going onin the park. The Douglas Center is open Monday through Saturday from 9a.m.-4 p.m. throughout the year and also on Sundays in the summer. Stop inand share with the staff what you have found as you hike one of the bestkept secrets in the park--Miller Woods.

I would have to say my favorite place is the Cowles Bog Trail. I like to hike there (or stroll really... I love to poke along enjoying all the different plants and habitats). I'll often take my camera, using the lens to explore the different colors and textures and patterns. There are spots along the trail where you are surrounded by the lush vegetation of wetlands and you meander past places that are reminiscent of the north woods, complete with paper birch! The trail curves toward the north leading you by a beautiful intradunal wetland and up over rolling sand dunes. When you reach the crest, there is the most incredible view of the lake and the beach through the trees. It's paradise! I'll sometimes read there, and I like to take a little notebook, in case I get the inkling to make a sketch or write a poem or just jot down some thoughts. It's a great place for introspection. And of course there's the beach. It's a remote enough location that on weekdays you sometimes have it all to yourself!

Ranger Wendy

Wendy W. Smith

Education Coordinator, Great Lakes Research and Education Center, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

I would have to say my favorite place is the Cowles Bog Trail. I like to hike there (or stroll really... I love to poke along enjoying all the different plants and habitats). I'll often take my camera, using the lens to explore the different colors and textures and patterns. There are spots along the trail where you are surrounded by the lush vegetation of wetlands and you meander past places that are reminiscent of the north woods, complete with paper birch! The trail curves toward the north leading you by a beautiful intradunal wetland and up over rolling sand dunes. When you reach the crest, there is the most incredible view of the lake and the beach through the trees. It's paradise! I'll sometimes read there, and I like to take a little notebook, in case I get the inkling to make a sketch or write a poem or just jot down some thoughts. It's a great place for introspection. And of course there's the beach. It's a remote enough location that on weekdays you sometimes have it all to yourself!

Ranger MicaMicah Bell

NREMT-B, WEMT, Fire Prevention and Education Tech, Fire Management Office, NPS-Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, NPS Fire Management Honor Guard

My family and I enjoy spending time at Porter Beach. Its ease of access to the water (no long walk or dune to climb) makes it really easy for my wife to bring our kids down to the water during the day, or at the end of the day when I'm getting off work. This allows us all to quickly and easily get down to the beach to enjoy some family time. My wife and I like the access to the new bathrooms (our kids are 5 and 8) and the boys like that they can run up into the dunes or along the waterline toward the state park. The wide sandy beach here is a favorite for us.

Ranger Kip

Kip Walton

Park Ranger, Outreach Program Coordinator, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

One of my favorite activities in the park is cross country skiing. I love taking groups of kids and adults out on the trail in the winter time just so they have the opportunity to see how alive and active the animal life in our park can be even in the dead of winter. What better way to explore the different parts of the park than cross country skiing; as you glide through the fresh snow you get the feeling you’re the first one to explore the woods. The excitement builds as you see the many tracks and other signs the animals have left in the snow. You never know what animal could be waiting just around the next turn in the trail.

 

 

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