Visiting the nation’s newest national park: Indiana Dunes

West Beach is sand — and not just a dusting of the stuff either, but the soft, deep, undulating variety you’d expect to find near a beach. In honor of its designation in February as the 61st and newest national park, this would be a good place to work across Indiana Dunes — formerly a national lakeshore.

It’s a popular place to catch some rays and swim from Memorial Day through Labor Day — and the only beach in the park with lifeguards during the high season. But on a cool, wind-whipped morning you can also get into hiking. The Dune Succession Trail loop is flat for a few paces and then it charges straight up more than 160 wooden steps to top a wooded dune and wows with immediate jaw-dropping views of the vista over Lake Michigan stretching as far as the skyline of Chicago, which is an hour’s drive away.

Continuing down through hardwoods and then evergreens, it’s hard to tell where the sound of gusting wind ends and the noise of lapping waves begins until the trail’s twists and turns finish on the lakeshore. Walking along near the edge of the water that turns from a brooding deep blue farther out to turquoise up close, one is reminded of how Lake Michigan serves as an ad hoc ocean in the landlocked Midwest.

To go so quickly from arriving at the park to seeing virtually forever is the kind of curbside pop that you get right out of the gate with this 15,000-acre, elongated park that runs along 15 miles of Lake Michigan, which is located in an otherwise heavily industrialized area.

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