Beach-Going & Swimming
Fifteen miles of sandy beach along the southern shore of Lake Michigan offers a wide variety of recreational activities. Whether it's enjoying a summer sunset stroll or marveling at the arctic beauty of Lake Michigan's shelf ice, you can enjoy the beach in all seasons.
There are eight beach access points along the shoreline of the national lakeshore. Most parking lots are open from 7:00 a.m. to 30 minutes past sunset. One beach parking lot, Lake View, is open until 11:00 p.m. Hikers and bicyclists can enter at 6:00 a.m.
All beach parking is free with the exception of a $6.00 per vehicle (or $30.00 per bus) fee at West Beach from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The largest parking lot is West Beach and it rarely fills.
Every beach parking lot has restrooms. Showers are available at West Beach. Gas grills are permitted at all picnic shelters.
All parking lots are located adjacent to the beach with a few exceptions. The Mt. Baldy parking lot connects via a one-half mile mildly strenuous beach trail and the Cowles Bog parking lot to the beach requires a five mile round trip hike. The one mile Dune Ridge trail off the Kemil Road Access Point showcases a variety of dunes habitats, but does not directly connect with the beach. Visitors must use the walkway alongside Kemil Road for one quarter mile to arrive lakeside. Parking at the end of Central Avenue is only a block away from the beach where the tall dunes saddle up closely to the lake. The new Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk parking is also only block from the water's edge with picnic tables overlooking the beach and Chicago skyline. Accessible parking lots include West Beach, Lakeview, and Dunbar.
Prohibited Activities on the beach:
NPS image collection - Jeff Manuszak
Swimming is one of the most popular summer activities at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. You can find great swimming access, parking, and restrooms at the following locations:
The only access point with lifeguards and showers is West Beach where there is a fee from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
From Memorial Day through Labor Day leashed pets are permitted on beaches east of the State Park boundary in the national lakeshore up to Central Avenue Access Point.
Beach parking fills up very quickly on summer weekends and holidays. The eastern parking lots: Central Avenue, Lakeview, Dunbar, Kemil fill up as early as mid-morning. It's best to arrive early or wait until late afternoon when parking spots become available as visitors depart.
Swimming Safety Tips