The most popular of all Indiana State Parks is only an hour from Chicago and accessible by train. The beautiful sandy beach on Lake Michigan is reason enough to visit, but the unique dune environment deeper in the park is worth a look. While this is an excellent day trip destination, there is also a campground if you desire to spend the night.
Most people visit this park for the nice sandy beaches, so you can escape the crowds by trying one of the trails. The Three Dunes Challenge involves climbing to the top of the three tallest dunes in the park and is the flagship hike. Other hikes are not nearly as difficult and showcase the interesting dune ecosystem. This nature inspired H.C. Cowles of the University of Chicago to form his theory of ecological succession, which explains how ecosystems worldwide transition from sandy beaches to hardwood forest. You can learn more about this theory at the nature center and notice the gradual transition while you hike from the beach deeper into the forest.