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).