West Beach Trails

Overview of West Beach bathhouse from trail.
Summer overview of West Beach bathhouse from trail.

Katrina George

Getting There
Need to Know
Trail Map
Featured Hikes
Nearby Hikes

West Beach offers a great combination of hiking and relaxing at the beach. The trails are varied and encompass many habitats. There are great views from the top of the Dune Succession Trail stairs, a beautiful pinery of jack pines, birding opportunities along Long Lake and secluded sections of forest. After hiking, relax and swim at the beach.

Trail Features: Birding, Lake Michigan, Swimming, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife
Must See Gems: View from the top of the Dunes Succession Trail stairs


Getting There
Trailhead Parking Lots
376 North County Line Road, Gary, IN 46403

Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.622934, -87.207747 (Decimal Degrees)

Need to Know

Hours & Information

  • Hours – Open daily from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm Central Time.
  • Passes are required.
  • Hike Length – 3-loop: 3.4 miles. Dune Succession – (Loop 1): 0.9 miles. West Beach (Loop 2): 1.2 miles. Long Lake (Loop 3): 2.2 miles.
  • Hike Time – 45 minutes to 2.5 hours.
  • Difficulty – Easy to moderate with some steep grades on the Dunes Succession (270+ stairs) and Long Lake loops.
  • Trail Surface – Packed dirt with some sections of loose sand. Be aware, trail conditions can change quickly due to high lake levels and storms.
  • Facilities – Year-round restrooms and potable water.
  • Swimming. Due to a lack of applicants, lifeguard availability is limited for the 2024 swimming season. This is subject to change as we continue to look for more applicants. Call the visitor center at 219-395-1882 for more information. Lifeguards may not be present. Swim at your own risk. Rip currents and large waves can make swimming hazardous.
  • Pets – Permitted on a leash (6' or shorter). Pets are prohibited in the lifeguard swimming area in the summer.
  • Prohibited – Littering and hunting.
  • Prohibited – Bicycles and motorized vehicles.
  • Prohibited – Removing plants, rocks, shells, and fossils.
  • Prohibited – Glass and fires on the beach.
  • The main parking lot is paved and has spots for 600 cars and 20 buses.
  • Seasonal showers and lockers are available from the Friday of Memorial Day weekend through the Monday of Labor Day weekend. For more information, visit the West Beach webpage.
  • There are eight covered picnic shelters near the West Beach parking lot that are wheelchair accessible. The shelters are reservable at www.recreation.gov starting six months in advance of the desired use date. The reservation is good for day use from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm. The shelter reservation does not waive the West Beach car entrance fee collected during the summer months.
  • Cooking fires at the picnic shelters are permitted in the provided grills or an approved carry-in grill. An approved grill is a non-combustible container with an enclosed bottom and enclosed sides with a minimum depth of 2 inches. Charcoal must be cooled and safely disposed of in a non-combustible container or removed from the area.
  • Sledding is permitted at one location in the park: the dune just southwest of the West Beach picnic shelters on the east-facing slope of the West Beach Trail. To protect this dune, sledding is prohibited on marram grass and is only permitted when adequate snow cover is present. Please call the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center at 219-395-1882 with any questions.


  • Please stay on the trail and respect closed area signs. Going off trail damages fragile habitat.
  • Ticks are present year-round. Take precautionary measures to prevent bites.
  • Poison ivy can be present on the edges of the trail.
  • Be prepared for changing weather conditions.
  • In case of an emergency or to report a crime, call 1-800-PARK-TIP.


  • Trails are not wheelchair accessible. The walkway to the bathhouse and beach is wheelchair accessible as are two of the picnic shelters.

Trail Map

Click here for a list of all hiking trail maps of the Indiana Dunes National Park.
Download a national parks interactive trail guide phone app. Apple or Android.
Paper trail maps are available at the trailhead kiosk and the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center.

West Beach Trail Map
West Beach Trail Map

Featured Hikes

3-Loop Trail
3.4 miles, 223 feet of elevation gain, 2% average grade, 20% maximum grade
Hike time: 2.5 hours

This loop hike combines sections of the three trails at West Beach. The hike starts with the Dune Succession Trail (Loop 1), which highlights the four stages of dune development. From the parking lot, head north to the bathing house to pick up the trail. This part of the trail is only ~0.6 miles long, but includes a strenuous climb up 270 stairs for a spectacular view of Lake Michigan and Chicago. Along the way you will pass through a beautiful pinery of jack pine trees. These are some of most southern jack pines in the world and are a result of Lake Michigan and the work of glaciers transporting seeds. Support the restoration effort in the fragile dunes and ponds by remaining on designated trails.

The hike then picks up the West Beach Trail (Loop 2) for an easy hike through an area that was sand mined in the 1920s. The footing is mainly loose sand. This area is being restored as an oak savanna and is a great place to see prickly pear cactus. Birders will enjoy looking for water birds on Long Lake from the viewing platform.

The final section of the hike is the Long Lake Loop Trail (Loop 3). This section is moderate in difficulty. The trail follows along Long Lake and then heads into the dunes. There is a great view of Long Lake after the initial climb. After crossing the entrance road, the trail winds through the undulating dunes and then has a steep descent into the picnic area and back to the parking lot.

The trail surface varies from loose sand to packed dirt and sections of stairs and boardwalks. The hike will take longer than you think due the loose footing of walking in the sand. The trail starts in relative shade but ends in the full sun. Please bring plenty of water, sun protection and dress in layers. The weather on the beach can be dramatically colder or hotter than in the woods.

Dunes Succession Trail
0.9 mile, 81 feet of elevation gain, 3% average grade, 15% maximum grade
Hike time: 45 minutes

The Dune Succession Trail (Loop 1) highlights the four stages of dune development within its one-mile length. From the parking lot, follow the road north, toward the lake and look for the trail to pick up to the west of the bathhouse. This scenic, but strenuous, trail includes a climb up 270 stairs for a spectacular view of Lake Michigan and Chicago. Support the restoration effort in the fragile dunes and ponds by remaining on designated trails.

History and Background

  • The flattened area around the parking lots at West Beach are the result of sand mining that took place in the 1920s, prior to the land's protection. Sand was loaded onto railcars and shipped away for use as fill and other construction purposes. Thanks to activists like Dorothy Buell and Charlotte Read, the remainder of West Beach is preserved in its natural condition, and the sand mined areas have filled back in the native vegetation.

Nearby Hikes
Paul H. Douglas (Miller Woods)
Tolleston Dunes
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk

Click here for a list of all hiking trails in the Indiana Dunes National Park.


Photos & Multimedia

West Beach Trail
Incredible views of Lake Michigan from the top of the Dune Succession trail.
West Beach Trail
Winter view of Lake Michigan and the West Beach bath house.
West Beach Trail
Summertime view at West Beach.
West Beach Trail
West Beach in the winter in the pinery.
West Beach Trail
Enjoying winter solitude at the pinery at West Beach.

Last updated: June 4, 2024

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1100 North Mineral Springs Road
Porter, IN 46304


219 395-1882
Indiana Dunes Visitor Center phone number.

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