Trail Safety

Three visitors walk down a grassy trail with large trees above and ferns along the trail's edge
Three visitors walk the Pinhook Bog Upland Trail in summer.

Rafi Wilkinson

Over 50 miles of hiking trails spread across Indiana Dunes National Park. Hitting the trails is one of the best ways to connect to this landscape. Please review the following information to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable park adventure.

General Tips

  • Wear supportive hiking footwear; trail surfaces may be uneven or slippery
  • Poison-ivy grows along many trail edges; avoid brushing up against plants and remember: leaves of three, let them be!
  • Be prepared for changing weather conditions
  • Please stay on designated trails and respect closed area signs: going off trail damages fragile habitat
  • Be mindful of current air quality conditions; check before you go on AirNow.
  • In case of an emergency or to report a crime, call 1-800-PARK-TIP.

Please visit Hike Smart for general hiking safety tips.

Blacklegged tick on a leaf.
Black-legged tick on a blade of grass.


Ticks and Insects: Bites and Stings

Ticks and biting insects such as mosquitos present a serious risks to visitors because of their ability to transmit disease. Mitigate the risk with these tips:

  • Use insect repellent
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing permethrin
  • Ticks are present year-round. Take precautionary measures to prevent bites and vector-borne disease
    • Wear light-colored pants and long-sleeved shirts to help spot ticks on your clothing
    • Tuck the bottom of your pants into your boots or socks to make a "seal"
  • Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn to help prevent mosquito bites and vector-borne disease

Stinging insects such as wasps and bees have the potential to cause dangerous allergic reactions:

  • Avoid loose and bright clothing to help prevent yellow jackets and other stinging insects
  • Do not wear sandals while hiking; avoid wearing perfume, lotion and hairspray
  • Insect repellents DO NOT work against stinging insects
  • If stung, seek medical attention if symptoms of a systemic allergic reaction develop

For more information on ticks, visit Tick-Borne Diseases
For more information on mosquitos, visit Mosquito-Borne Diseases

View from atop a sand dune overlooking Lake Michigan. The lake's blue waters under a blue sky with white clouds in background. Foreground is a grass-covered dune with some shrubs and trees.
A sunny day at the beach on the Cowles Bog Trail.

Rafi Wilkinson

Heat and Sun

Overheating on the trail presents a serious risk. Keep cool with these tips:

  • Remember to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • Stay in the shade when possible to prevent heat stroke
  • Remember sunblock to protect your skin
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes

For more information on heat safety, visit Beat the Heat: Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses

A poison ivy plant with bright green leaves against the tawny forest floor.
A poison ivy plant awaiting its next victim.


Harmful Plants

For your safety, please stay on officially designated trails and avoid brushing against vegetation. Multiple species of plants can cause skin irritation to visitors. A few notable plants to avoid include:

  • Poison Ivy + Poison Sumac: Allergic contact dermititus: Urushiol oils present on the surface of plants can cause itchy allergic reactions that last over a week. Oils can pass onto skin by brushing up against plant leaves, stems, or vines. Posion ivy is a native plant species that is abundant along many trails. Posion sumac is a native plant species that is confined to few wetlands in the park.

  • Poison Hemlock: Phytophotodermititus: Sap from inside the plant makes skin highly susceptible to UV damage from sunlight and can cause painful blisters and chemical burns. This invasive plant species can be 5-12 feet tall, has white flowers, and is common in disturbed areas along roads and trails. This plant is locally abundant along the newly paved portion of the Marquette Greenway Trail through the City of Portage and the Town of Burns Harbor. Avoid breaking plant stems or leaves to avoid sap.

Last updated: July 25, 2023

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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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