I have cross-country skied and hiked extensively in the Indiana Dunes State Park; however, I have never hiked the number eight trail. I have always hiked along the beach and then cut back through the forest. I know I have hiked up the ridge before, but I have never done the eight trail, AKA the Three Dune Challenge Trail.
Hiking the Three Dune Challenge Trail
Today would be the day that this would be marked off my list. It was the perfect day to complete it. The temperature was in the mid 70s and breezy. It was so breezy I was unable to kayak. The winds coming off Lake Michigan were creating dangerous swells. This was no problem because when one adventure closes another opens. There are plenty of Indiana Dunes adventures to partake in.
The Three Dune Challenge starts in the Nature Center parking lot. The lot was completely full and cars were parked up and down the entrance row. A beautiful sunny summer day in the Dunes does bring out a lot of people due to its proximity to Chicago. Despite the crowds, one can always find a quiet section of beach in the park.
The Three Dune Challenge is a 1.5 mile hike that climbs the three biggest dunes in the Indiana Dunes State Park. Mt. Baldy is not one of the dunes. This dune is situated in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which surrounds the state park. Mt. Baldy is just a little east of the state park.
Climbing the three dunes
The three dunes respectively are Mt. Jackson at 176 feet, Mt. Holden at 184 feet, and Mt. Tom at 192 feet. These dunes are not anything you need a supply of oxygen for, but do not take them lightly either. All three of these dunes are sand dunes. If you have ever hiked on sand you know that it is three times harder than walking on solid ground especially when on a steep incline. Fortunately, the hike up to Mt. Tom is on stairs, which is a welcome respite after the first two climbs up sand.
These three dunes will definitely get the hard pumping. The hike is not suited for out of shape people, young kids, and older people, but most people should be able to complete. In order to kick up the challenge a little higher, try running the course.
The views from the top of the three mountains are fantastic. One gets a perfect view of the Lake Michigan beaches with the cobalt blue of Lake Michigan. On a clear day, the Chicago skyline comes into view. Many people when they think of the dunes do not picture forest, but there is beautiful hardwood forest with a few pine trees thrown in that stands beyond the dunes. I am sure a lot people are surprised at the canopy of green when they make the climb.
I walked down the stairs and was soon back in my car. In one hour I walked over three sand dunes, saw amazing views, and got in a decent work out. The state park has a nice network of trails, so it is easy to extend the hike along the lakeshore or into the woods.
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