National Parks

Indiana Dunes National Park and State Park

Flickr: Matthew Dillon

Located only an hour from Chicago, Indiana Dunes National Park is known for its spectacular dunes, wetlands, forests, and beaches. The 15,000-acre park, with its visitor center in Porter, IN,  features 50 miles of trails, and 15 miles of sandy beach along the Lake Michigan Shoreline. Although the park is known for its hiking and biking, there are some excellent options for running in Indiana Dunes National Park. Our top recommendations are below.

We’ve also included some running options in Indiana Dunes State Park, which is adjacent to the National Park. Their trails are on a numbering system.  Note: some of the trails feature a soft sand surface, which is a challenge for running, so we’ve tried to point out the trails that are the most ‘runnable’.  PARK MAP

Best Hiking Trails for Running

There are 50 miles of hiking trails in Indiana Dunes National Park, covering 14 different ‘ecosystems’. Some of the more spectacular ‘dunes’ trails feature a softer sand surface and aren’t really runnable. Our top picks for runnable trails below.

Miller Woods Trail

3.4 miles. Hard pack surface with some soft sand.
Trailhead 100 North Lake Street, Gary, IN .  TRAIL MAP   Info

Nice combination of wetlands, oak savanna, lake and dune views, and a jaunt out to the beach.

Glenwood Dunes Trails

15 miles of trails. Packed dirt and boardwalk with some sandy sections.
Parking lot at 1475 North Brummitt Road, Chesterton, IN 
TRAIL MAP  Info

15 miles of interconnected trails, with a nice variety and a mostly good surface for running. A good challenge is the 6.8 mile Glenwood Dunes Trail, which has some good hills. Note that there are many trail junctions — bring a map!

Dunes Nature Preserve Area

Combine several trails here. Bailly Homestead Info

Located in the the heart of the park near Kemil Beach and the Park Headquarters. You can combine several trails here: the wooded Porter Brickyard Trail, the 0.5 mile paved Calumet Trail, and the 3.4 mile Little Calumet River/Mnoké Prairie/Bailly Homestead/Chellberg Farm/Bailly Cemetery trail.  The Cowles Bog Trail is more rugged for running, with more sandy surface.

Portage Lakefront & River Trail

1 mile. Combine with a beach walk/run! Trailhead: 100 Riverwalk Road, Portage, IN

Though only 1 mile, it’s scenic and with a paved/boardwalk surface. Combine with a walk/run in Riverwalk Beach.

Dunes Succession Trail: STAIRS!

A challenging trail for running near West Beach due to hills and surface. But for those who want to get the heart rate up and experience great views of Lake Michigan and Chicago, climb up the 270 stairs.

Bike Paths and Roads for Running

There are 37 miles of interconnected bike paths in the park. Most of them are paved and flat, except the Calumet Bike Trail, which is rugged and more suitable for trail running. INFO ON ALL BIKE TRAILS

For some paved road running, we recommend E. Lake Front Dr. This road runs for 2.8 miles from Kemil Beach east to Drake Ave. There are good water views most of the way. Note: No sidewalk or shoulder. ROUTE MAP: One-Way

Beach Running in Indiana Dunes National Park

Trail 10 in Indiana Dunes SP. Aurélie Vilmer
Wikimedia Commons

There are 15 miles of sandy beach in the park. The beaches are scenic, with great views of Lake Michigan and the city of Chicago in the distance. The beaches are not that great for running, however. They can be narrow and generally feature soft sand. You might find some firmer sand near the shoreline.

Indiana Dunes State Park

Trail 10. In Indiana Dunes State Park, Chesterton. One of the more popular hiking/running trails. Mainly firm but some sections of softer sand. Half the trail is along the lake, the other half is inland. Can be combined with Trail #2. Anywhere from 5-10 miles depending on combination chosen.