Growing up in Michigan, I've always equated the word "dunes" with the Sleeping Bear Dunes, one of our state's most beautiful parks. It only recently occurred to me that you can hike up sand dunes, visit beaches, and roam historic villages in one of our neighboring states--Indiana.
Located on the shore of Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes has sand dunes and hiking trails of varying difficulty, beaches, water sports, bike trails, and wildlife areas. Better yet, it's only a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Metro Detroit, so it's the perfect weekend getaway. You can even do a day trip from Chicago--the South Shore train that runs between Chicago and South Bend makes a stop near the dunes (the ride takes about 90 minutes), and the ticket is less than $8 each way.
I've done a dune hike only once, and that was in the Sahara Desert; I think I'm overdue for another. Seriously, dune hikes are HARD. I like to think that I'm in really good physical shape, but man, nothing gets your heart rate going like ascending a giant sand hill. I basically melt once it hits 75˚F, so sometime this fall, when the temps cool, will be the perfect time to venture into the Indiana Dunes.
Mount Baldy, the crown jewel of the Indiana Dunes, is currently closed to hiking, so my eyes are set on the Tolleston Dunes Trail. At under two miles, it's a relatively short hike, but you're traversing sandy trails. You really get the best of the park on this trail: wetlands, sandy terrain, and wildlife. And once you've finishing hiking, you can go to West Beach, where clear skies will permit views of the Chicago skyline!
If you're not into climbing some sand, fear not, as there are flatter hikes (complete with boardwalks), too.
So, who wants to go on a hiking trip with me this fall?