Indiana Activities, Play
Comments 9

3 Dune Challenge: Steep Climbs, Attractive Scenery

Warm days are ahead, and I’m excited to play in the sand and hit the trails.  I do both simultaneously whenever I undertake the 3 Dune Challenge at Indiana Dunes State Park.

The 3 Dune Challenge is a self-guided 1.5 mile challenge loop trail with 552 vertical feet of climb! Don’t be intimidated; you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to conquer this.  I’ve witnessed people of all fitness levels take on this challenge; some slow walk it with pets, families climb it together, and yes, the warriors scale it with ease.

Important things to remember before beginning are:  bring plenty of water and dress appropriately for hiking (comfortable shoes, clothing, etc.) I’ve noticed people give up and turn around because they didn’t have adequate supplies or weren’t dressed right for the challenge.

Ready?  Here we go.

The self-guided tour kicks off at the Nature Center at the back of the Indiana Dunes National Park campground.



You will find signs directing you to the challenge’s trails.

After following the trails you will arrive at Mt. Jackson, our first climb.  Named after Indiana Governor Edward Jackson, Mt. Jackson is 176 feet above Lake Michigan and has 32 million cubic feet of sand. The first climb tests you right away; you will feel your heart working.  I usually focus on the top and never stop climbing. The struggle is real!

You’re greeted with far-reaching views once you reach the top!

 View from the top of Mount Jackson View from the top of Mount Jackson

Often, while walking the dunes, you’ll encounter friendly people, who smile and greet you as you pass. Some may even stop for a conversation.  I’m always interested in from where people are visiting.

While taking in the view atop Mt. Jackson, I met a family visiting from Bloomington, Indiana.  I inquired how they enjoyed the first climb: “so far so good they said” the view is worth it.

 Family visiting the dunes from Bloomington, Indiana  Family visiting the dunes from Bloomington, Indiana

After lingering for a while, I continued, following the signs to my next climb; Mt. Holden.

Mt. Holden is 184 feet above Lake Michigan, contains 53 million cubic feet of sand, and has a maximum slope angle of 32 degrees!

 My legs were feeling this!!!! My legs were feeling this!!!!  Climbing Mt. Holden Climbing Mt. Holden

My legs were feeling this one.  As I’m climbing, I’m thinking about how I seriously need to get back into my fitness routine!

At the top, I met and chatted with another visitor, this time from Chicago. He’s employed in Indiana and had no idea that the dunes were here.  His co-workers urged him to visit.

Chicago is only 50 miles from the Indiana Dunes State Park.  It’s an easy trip for a day of hiking.

 Chicago visitor seeing the dunes for the first time at the urging of his Indiana co-workers.  Chicago visitor seeing the dunes for the first time at the urging of his Indiana co-workers.   View of the beach form Mt. Holden View of the beach form Mt. Holden

Continuing on to Mt. Tom now, it’s the tallest dune.

The signs make this self-guided tour easy to navigate.

The perfect weather coupled with the birds singing to me create a calming and peaceful feeling while walking the trails in between each climb.

Here we are at the start of Mt. Tom, our 3rd and tallest climb.

Some may choose to take the stairs.

I usually climb the steep sides; might as well go all in!

 Stairs leading to the top of Mt. Tom Stairs leading to the top of Mt. Tom

Once you reach the top, you’ll not only take in a scenic view; you’ll also receive a lesson in history.

Imagine over 5 thousand years ago this very spot was the shore of Lake Michigan. Wow!  Read all about it at the top of Mt. Tom.

 Learning about ancient shorelines at the top of Mt. Tom Learning about ancient shorelines at the top of Mt. Tom

At this point we’ve completed climbing the 3 tallest dunes in the Indiana Dunes State Park!  It was worth the effort.  I always enjoy this hike.

Thanks for following along with me.

 View atop Mt. Tom View atop Mt. Tom  Fall evening view atop Mt. Tom   Fall evening view atop Mt. Tom

To finish the trail, take the stairs down and follow the trail 4 signs to the campground and visitor center.

Or if you prefer, head north to the beach!

 Trail leading to the beach Trail leading to the beach  Signs of Spring!!! Signs of Spring!!!

Have you completed the 3 Dune Challenge?  How’d you like it?

Let me know in the comments.

Hope to see you on the trails soon; be sure to say Hi!


  1. Dave says

    I enjoyed reading about tge Dunes. I have walked them before and it is a challenge, but the sites are very beautiful. Worth the work.

    • Flo says

      Yes they are…definitely worth it!

  2. Love this! The trail is beautiful and challenging. Hiking is my favorite.

    • Flo says

      Thanks Daniella! Glad you enjoyed it! It really is beautiful.

  3. I was just in Indiana, few weeks ago. I thought Indiana is flat and no beach area. Ahhh!!! I am totally wrong just looking at the pictures. I just showed this to my husband and said "we have to check this place". Thank you for sharing

    • Flo says

      You’re welcome Mei! I hope to see you on the trails!

  4. Wow, this sounds like quite an awesome experience! I would love to be more active on a regular basis! I love how you added so many photos to this post! It really makes me feel like I went on the hike with you!- Stephanie |

    • Flo says

      Thanks Stephanie, I’m happy to hear that the photos made you feel like you were on the hike!

  5. Pingback: Indiana Dunes Campground: Scenic and Peaceful Surroundings

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.