Kids who love the outdoors have a wide range of camping options, including overnight camps and nighttime hikes at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
The Dunes Learning Center offers a variety of camps for kids aged 6 through 16, beginning in June and running through August.
The Dunes Learning Center is a unique setting for camps because it is located inside the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on the grounds of the former U.S. Steel Good Fellow Club Youth Camp. The center includes 63 acres and, for overnight camps, lodging in cabins that sleep eight.
“Kids have the special opportunity to explore parts of the national park that the public doesn’t always get to see, and in some camps, they have the opportunity to spend the night,” said Sandi Weindling, director of marketing and development for the center. “After spending five days in the camp, a kid can really call the park their home.”
The center offers five different camps, including the popular Dunes Discovery Camp, a five day, four night camp for 10 to 13 year-olds.
During the camp, kids get to explore the dunes, do historical and science projects and games, participate in campfire rings and do a night hike.
They also get to do a daylong hike of the Cowles Bog Trail, Weindling said.
“They pack a lunch and then hike up and over the Dunes to the lake, eat lunch there and play in the water,” she said. “It’s a seven hour, four mile day for them and at the end, they feel a great sense of accomplishment.”
Another highlight is the nighttime hike.
“They go out on a hike in the dark, with flashlights,” she said.
For campers under aged 10, there is a critter camp, a weeklong day camp where they focus on mammals and habitats.
“They come in the morning, and spend the day engaged in hiking and other outdoor activities,” she said.
There are several other camps, including one for military kids, she said.
A popular option for teens 14 to 16 is the Dunes Adventure Camp. The format is similar to the overnight camp for 10 to 13 year-olds, Weindling said.
“It has the adventure quotient notched up,” she said.
Campers work with the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association to do kayaking on the lake. They also do a nighttime insect investigation as well as a camp out. There are also sessions on nature photography and a chance to have a beach party.
“We really do have a lot of great opportunities for kids,” she said. “They have a unique chance to come and explore the lakeshore that might not otherwise be possible.”