West Beach Trail System

West Beach Trail
 


Getting There
Need to Know
Trail Map
Featured Hikes
Nearby Hikes
Photos

West Beach offers a great combination of hiking and relaxing at the beach. The trails are varied and encompass many habitats. There are great views from the top of the Dune Succession Trail stairs, a beautiful pinery of jack pines, birding opportunities along Long Lake and secluded sections of forest. After hiking, relax and swim at the beach.

Trail Features: Birding, Lake Michigan, Swimming, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife
Must See Gems: View from the top of the Dunes Succession Trail stairs

 

Getting There
Trailhead Parking Lots
376 North County Line Road, Gary, IN 46403

Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.622934, -87.207747 (Decimal Degrees)
 


Need to Know

Hours & Information

  • Trails are open daily from sunrise to 30 minutes past sunset.
  • The parking lot is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 30 minutes past sunset.
  • There is an expanded amenity fee to park at West Beach collected from Friday of Memorial Day weekend through Monday of Labor Day weekend. $6 per car, $30 per bus, 50% discount for Senior and Access Passes. Cash, U.S. checks or credit, debit and gift cards (MasterCard, Visa and Discover) accepted.
  • Bicycles and motorized vehicles are not allowed.
  • Pets are not allowed on the portion of the trail that runs along the beach.
  • Pets are permitted on a leash (6' or shorter) on the other sections of the trail.
  • There is a wheelchair accessible paved path to the bathhouse that offers views of Lake Michigan.
  • The main parking lot has spots for 596 cars and 20 buses and is open year round.
  • The main trail is not wheelchair accessible.
  • Trail surface is a combination of loose sand, packed dirt, and sections of stair and boardwalk.
  • The removal of rocks, shells, and fossils is strictly prohibited.
  • There are covered picnic shelters near the West Beach parking lot. First come, first served. No advance reservations. Wheelchair accessible.
  • Alcohol is not permitted anywhere at West Beach.
  • Cooking fires at the picnic shelters are permitted in the provided grills or an approved carry-in grill. An approved grill is a noncombustible container with an enclosed bottom and enclosed sides with a minimum depth of 2 inches.Charcoal must be cooled and safely disposed of in a noncombustible container or removed from the area.
  • There are restroom facilities and potable water available year round in the contact station.
  • Seasonal showers, lockers and a beach with lifeguards are available from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. For more information, visit the West Beach webpage.


Safety

  • 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 PDF of the West Beach trail map.
Click here for a list of all hiking trail maps of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Download a national parks interactive trail guide phone app. Apple or Android.
Paper trail maps are available at the trailhead kiosk and the Visitor Center.
 
West Beach Trail Map
Click on the map for a full trail map PDF.
 


Featured Hikes

West Beach 3-Loop Trail
3.5 miles, 223 feet of elevation gain, 2% average grade, 20% maximum grade
Average hike time: 3 hours

This loop hike combines sections of the three trails at West Beach. The hike starts with the Dune Succession Trail (Loop 1), which highlights the four stages of dune development. From the parking lot, head north to the bathing house to pick up the trail. This part of the trail is only ~0.6 miles long, but includes a strenuous climb up 250 stairs for a spectacular view of Lake Michigan and Chicago. Along the way you will pass through a beautiful pinery of jack pine trees. These are some of most southern jack pines in the world and are a result of Lake Michigan and the work of glaciers transporting seeds. Support the restoration effort in the fragile dunes and ponds by remaining on designated trails.

The hike then picks up the West Beach Trail (Loop 2) for an easy hike through an area that was sand mined in the 1920s. The footing is mainly loose sand. This area is being restored as an oak savanna and is a great place to see prickly pear cactus. Birders will enjoy looking for water birds on Long Lake from the viewing platform.

The final section of the hike is the Long Lake Loop Trail (Loop 3). This section is moderate in difficulty. The trail follows along Long Lake and then heads into the dunes. There is a great view of Long Lake after the initial climb. After crossing the entrance road, the trail winds through the undulating dunes and then has a steep descent into the picnic area and back to the parking lot.

The trail surface varies from loose sand to packed dirt and sections of stairs and boardwalks. The hike will take longer than you think due the loose footing of walking in the sand. The trail starts in relative shade but ends in the full sun. Please bring plenty of water, sun protection and dress in layers. The weather on the beach can be dramatically colder or hotter than in the woods.

Dunes Succession Trail
1.0 mile, 81 feet of elevation gain, 3% average grade, 15% maximum grade
Average hike time: 45 minutes

The Dune Succession Trail (Loop 1) highlights the four stages of dune development within its one-mile length. From the parking lot, follow the road north, toward the lake and look for the trail to pick up to the west of the bathhouse. This scenic, but strenuous, trail includes a climb up 250 stairs for a spectacular view of Lake Michigan and Chicago. Support the restoration effort in the fragile dunes and ponds by remaining on designated trails.

History & Background
The flat areas at West Beach are the result of sand mining that took place in the 1920's. Imagine what West beach would look like with uninterrupted dunes.

 

Nearby Hikes
Miller Woods
Tolleston Dunes
Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk

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


 

Photos
 
West Beach Trail
Incredible views of Lake Michigan from the top of the Dune Succession trail.
 
West Beach Trail
Winter view of Lake Michigan and the West Beach bath house.
 
West Beach Trail
Summertime view at West Beach.
 
West Beach Trail
West Beach in the winter in the pinery.
 
West Beach Trail
Enjoying winter solitude at the pinery at West Beach.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1100 N. Mineral Springs Road
Porter, IN 46304

Phone:

(219) 395-1882

Contact Us