Tolleston Dunes Trail System

Tolleston Dunes Trail

Getting There
Need to Know
Trail Map
Featured Hikes
Nearby Hikes

The Tolleston Dunes Trail winds amid 4,700 year-old sand dunes that were formed when Lake Michigan's water level was 25 feet higher than today. Tolleston is the second youngest of four distinct dune systems found within the national park. Together these dune ridges provide a glimpse into the changing shoreline of Lake Michigan. Tolleston Dunes has varied habitats ranging from oak savanna to wetlands and plants such as prickly pear cactus, butterfly weed and lupines.

Trail Features: Fall Colors, Wildflowers, Wildlife


Getting There
Trailhead Parking Lots
Main Lot: 5800 U.S. Highway 12 (Dunes Highway), Ogden Dunes, IN 46368
Marsh Overlook Lot: 5634 U.S. Highway 12 (Dunes Highway), Portage, IN 46368

Trailhead GPS Coordinates
Main: 41.615056, -87.192889 (Decimal Degrees)
Marsh Overlook: 41.613499, -87.206679 (Decimal Degrees)

Need to Know

Hours & Information

  • Open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm.
  • Free (no access fee).
  • Bicycles and motorized vehicles are not allowed.
  • Pets are permitted on a leash (6' or shorter).
  • The main trail is not wheelchair accessible.
  • The marsh overlook is wheelchair accessible.
  • There are two picnic tables at the marsh overlook. First come, first served. No advance reservations. No cooking fires allowed.
  • Trail surface is mostly loose sand with some sections of packed dirt.
  • No restrooms or potable water.
  • The main trailhead parking lot is paved and has 19 spots (2 spots are handicap only).
  • The marsh overlook parking lot is paved and has 4 spots (1 spot is handicap only).
  • The trail is never crowded and is a great way to get away from the summer beach crowds.
  • In the winter, this trail is popular for cross-country skiers looking for a more challenging experience.


  • Stay on the trail to protect the wildlife and yourself.
  • Use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and tuck long pants into socks to avoid ticks and poison ivy.

Trail Map
Click here for a list of all 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.
Tolleston Dunes Trail Map
Tolleston Dunes Trail Map

Featured Hikes
Tolleston Dunes Trail
2.9 miles, 127 feet of elevation gain, 2% average grade, 9% maximum grade
Average hike time: 2 hours

This featured hike is a lollipop shaped trail. Starting at the parking lot trailhead, the trail starts out in what was once a sand mining operation. This is why the parking lot and surrounding area are so flat. After roughly a third of a mile, the trail enters the rolling ancient sand dunes of Lake Michigan. The footing is generally good with some sections of sand. At the loop trail junction, follow the trail to the right. The trail wind will up and down through oak savanna and wetland habitats.

Shortly after the boardwalk (roughly the one-mile mark), you will reach the cut-off trail junction. Staying to the right will take you on the outer loop (2.9 miles total distance). Taking the left trail will cut 0.8 miles off the hike (total hike distance of 2.1 miles). The recommended route is the outer loop. At the two-mile mark, stay to the right at the cut-off trail junction. Finally, at the loop trail junction, stay right again and hike back to the parking lot.

Tolleston Marsh Overlook
This short boardwalk leads to two shaded picnic table overlook areas that are accessible to wheelchairs. The boardwalk is located at a pull-off on U.S. Highway 12, approximately one-quarter mile west of the main parking lot. There are interpretive signs and a nice view of the Tolleston Dunes wetland complex.

History and Background
The Tolleston Dunes parking lot is the site of former sand mining activities from before the park was created. Tolleston Dunes is home to globally rare black oak savanna and the karner blue butterfly, a federally endangered species. The karner blue is dependent upon the wild blue lupine flower (Lupinus perennis), which grows in abundance at Tolleston Dunes. Another plant with a large population is the eastern prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa).


Nearby Hikes
West Beach
Paul H. Douglas (Miller Woods)
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk

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

Tolleston Dunes Trail
Wildflowers along the Tolleston Dunes trail.
Tolleston Dunes Trail
Butterflies along the Tolleston Dunes trail.
Tolleston Dunes Trail
Prickly pear cactus along the Tolleston Dunes trail.
Tolleston Dunes Trail
Butterfly weed along the Tolleston Dunes trail.

Last updated: December 17, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1100 North Mineral Springs Road
Porter, IN 46304


(219) 395-1882
Indiana Dunes Visitor Center phone number.

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