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Bright yellow, orange, red, and some green are waiting for you along the trails at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Your neighbor national park is just one hour from Chicago or South Bend. The fall colors will peek over the next couple of weekends and you can take in nature’s canvas for free!
The national lakeshore is easily accessible via the South Shore train, or by car from Interstates 80/90, and 94. Indiana Highway 12 also ambles through the park. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore charges no fees of any kind for entrance or parking and encompasses more than 15,000 acres in Lake, Porter and LaPorte Counties in Indiana. With more than 12 miles of Lake Michigan shore and 40 miles of trails, this unit of the National Park System offers a colorful hike or drive.
Maple trees are showing their bright red color and can be found throughout the park. They are prevalent in the sugar bush along the trail between the Chellberg Farm and the Bailly Homestead. There is ample parking nearby on Mineral Springs Road between U.S. 12 and U.S. 20 in Porter, Indiana. Cottonwood trees shine a bright yellow along the 12 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Oaks and other trees are holding on to their green, and create a quiet canopy to walk or hike along a trail. A special fall treat awaits those who venture to the open house at Pinhook Bog, and meet the Rangers on the trail from noon-3:00p.m. Saturday October 16, 2010. Pinhook bog can be found off of County Road 200 North, turn south on to Wozniak Road drive about one mile, then look for the NPS sings. Be sure to arrive by 2:00p.m.
Hiking in the national lakeshore is an adventure, and even though it is hunting season you do not need to wear blaze orange because hunting is not allowed in the national lakeshore. Most people understand hunting includes animals, but are often unaware that it may include other organisms. In the national lakeshore, the hunting prohibition also includes mushrooms. Mushrooms perform an important function in the ecology of the forest and removing this organism slows down the production of soil. Mushrooms do not typically grow conveniently on a trail. When people go off trail to take the mushrooms they stomp on fragile plants leaving a path that may take years to recover.
Not sure where to start your fall adventure? Stop at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Visitor Center in Porter, Indiana at the intersection of US 20 and Highway 49 to pick up self guided trail maps of several places in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Do not forget to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to be back. Fall is fantastic so do not forget your camera.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is one of 394 units of the National Park System ranging from Yellowstone to the Statue of Liberty. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore includes 15 miles of the southern shoreline of Lake Michigan and 15,000 acres of beach, woods, marshes, and prairie in the northwest corner of Indiana. More than 2 million visitors come to this national park each year. More information can be found at www.nps.gov/indu.