From apple picking to hikes in the Dunes, there's plenty of activities in the Region during the fall season.
When the Indiana Dunes changed to national park status this spring, the park itself didn't change much beyond its welcome signs, but the title change raised the profile of the dunes.
Already a popular summer destination, the park takes on different look in the fall and winter, as hyped up days playing Frisbee on the beach give way to hikers and motorists in search of changing leaves and a peaceful afternoon.
Fall in love with the Dunes all over again by checking out the newest national park in a new light.
Start a scenic drive at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center in Porter, 1215 Ind. 49. The center is the start for two paths to take meandering drives through Indiana Dunes country. Find detailed, turn-by-turn directions at indianadunes.com/cars.
The "downtowns and country roads" driving loop takes you through the downtowns of Chesterton and Valparaiso, both lined with great restaurants and shops. Grab lunch in either downtown, and hit the road again for several parks where you can enjoy a fall stroll. Then wind your way back home on scenic country roads.
Drive tree-lined roadways on the "dunes and lake" driving loop and then watch as Lake Michigan and the sand dunes appear before you. You’ll also pass historic homes, marshland that explodes with color and great places to stop for a hike. Beverly Shores isn't a town to be skipped over, featuring some beautiful homes and a great shoreline. Grab a sandwich at Goblin and The Grocer to take with you and watch the sun set over Lake Michigan from Kemil Beach.
Want to leave the driving to someone else? The national park also offers ranger-led shuttle bus excursions Oct. 6 and 27. Call the visitor center at 219-395-1882 to reserve a spot on the free tours.
Discover much more than just sand dunes while hiking through 14 distinct trail systems covering more than 50 miles.
One featured hike takes two hours for 3.4 miles and is rated easy-to-moderate for hikers new to the Dunes. Check out Bailly Homestead, Chellberg Farm the Little Calumet River and Mnoke Prairie Trail System on this must-do trail. Visitors hike through a forest dominated by maple, beech, basswood and oak trees. Follow a stretch of the Little Calumet River, once a critical transportation route for early regional travelers, and explore the recently restored Mnoké Prairie for a glimmer of the vast stretches of pre-settlement grasslands.
Explore the historic Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm while on the trail to see the nearly 200-year-old homestead of one northwest Indiana's first settlers — they are buried nearby in Bailly Cemetery. Don't miss the residents of Chellberg Farm — chickens, cows and horses — on this hike. The horses love posing for pictures.
At the Kemil Beach parking lot, take a much shorter, 30-minute hike on the Dune Ridge Trail. Only 0.7 miles in length, perhaps no other area in the national park will take you through as many diverse habitats in such a short trail. The Dune Ridge Trail offers views of the extensive wetlands and forests south of this tall, forested dune. The different habitats along the trail help make Indiana Dunes National Park one of the most biologically diverse of all the national parks.
Enjoy a night out under the stars until Nov. 1 while camping at Dunewood Campground in Beverly Shores. The national park's campground has 67 sites, four that are wheelchair accessible, for $25 per night. Sites 1-34 are reservable at recreation.gov starting six months in advance of the check-in date. Sites 35-67 are on a first come, first served basis with no advance registration. Spots are quickly gone during the summer months, but demand softens in the fall.
The South Shore Line includes a stop in Beverly Shores a quarter-mile from the campground. Facilities include restrooms and showers but no electrical hook-ups, so plan on un-plugging and cozying up around the campfire.
If bug spray and double layers of socks aren't your style, find a listing on AirBnB for homes near Chesterton, ranging between $50 and $150 a night. Cute bungalows, cabins in the woods or basement digs await with homey comforts.
People who like trains more than the outdoors should stay at Riley's Railhouse in Chesterton. The 1914 New York Central Freight Station is a bed and breakfast, opened after decades of accumulating railroad antiques, art and memorabilia. Stay in the main building or box car rooms, but you need to really love trains because they're always passing close by. Rates begin at $140.
Gallery: A look back at fall colors in the Region
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