View from Mt. Holden
This past May, my husband and I decided to take the 3 Dune Challenge. We found ourselves in Indiana on the last stop of our road trip which included Milwaukee and Chicago. We just checked into our Bed and Breakfast in La Porte. I will admit, I did not plan out this portion of our trip. I already knew that I wanted to see the Indiana Dunes. I just needed to do some last minute research to bring some structure to our day.
I was sitting in the wingback chair in our room when I came across the 3 Dune Challenge on the Indiana Dunes website. The 3 Dune Challenge is a 1.5 mile hike up the three tallest sand dunes at Indiana Dunes State Park. The three dunes are Mt. Jackson, Mt. Holden, and Mt. Tom. Some of the uphill inclines are as steep as 40 degrees. Hiking in sand is considerably harder then hiking on dirt or a rock surface. The trail is suited for moderate to advanced hikers. I jokingly asked my husband Eric, if he would like to take the 3 Dune Challenge. He looked at me, completely serious, and said “why not.” I should have known; Eric likes to try different athletic challenges.
We woke up the next morning and packed our essentials. When going on any hike, you always want to make sure you have sunscreen, water, and bug spray. Since it was 80 degrees out and on a beach, we wore shorts, light t-shirts, and sneakers. I know it can be tempting to wear flip flops or go barefoot on the sand, but it is not wise for this challenge. There are twigs and rocks in the sand. You don’t want to have to worry about losing a flip flop while you are hiking up a steep hill.
When we arrived at Indiana Dunes State Park, we parked at the Wilson Shelter. This was one of the starting points for “trail 8” which is the path you take during the 3 Dune Challenge.
Start of “3 Dune Challenge.”
The first sand dune that we would climb is Mt. Jackson which is 176 ft. above Lake Michigan. The first park of the hike was really not that hard. There were some inclines but nothing too steep. I also wasn’t expecting the hike to take place in a wooded area. I thought that because it was sand dunes, we would be on the beach and out in the open. I was actually happy to be in a wooded area because the shade offered some respite out of the sun. I kept thinking to myself that this wasn’t much of a challenge at all. I was completely wrong.
We reached the base of Mt. Jackson and we had a completely uphill climb to get to the top. In sand… We could see the top of the dune. While it looked so close, it took a while for us to make it to the top. We pushed through and the view was spectacular.
Sign with the stats of Mt. Jackson. Husband in background.
View from top of Mt. Jackson.
I could not believe that the steepest incline was 31 degrees. It felt like more. We knew then that we were definitely in for a challenge. We haven’t even conquered Mt. Holden or Mt. Tom yet. We were determined to push though. In case we were unable to complete the challenge, there were plenty of easy trails coming off trail 8. We rested for a few minutes and continued our hike.
Sign for Mt. Holden.
Sign and view for Mt. Tom.
View from Mt. Holden.
View of staircase from Mt. Tom.
Hiking downhill on the sand dunes was obviously very easy. Climbing up Mt. Holden was a little more challenging due to a steeper incline. In my opinion though, Mt. Holden had my favorite view. You could see the trees and the water. I have a picture at the top of this post. We were also much closer to the water. When we reached the base of Mt. Tom, I will admit I was slightly disappointed that we had to climb stairs. My disappointment was mixed with a little relief because I was pretty tired by then.
Once we climbed down the stairs of Mt. Tom, I felt such an accomplishment. We finished the entire hike within 40 minutes which is a pretty good time. Most people who are runners finish the trail in 20 minutes. I never hiked in sand before so taking the 3 Dune Challenge was definitely an amazing introduction.
Indiana Dunes State Park is such a hidden gem in Northern Indiana. It is only about an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Chicago. We went on a weekday, but the area was not crowded. The actual beach portion of the park is beautiful. We would have spent more time there if it didn’t rain the next day. If I am lucky enough to ever visit Indiana Dunes State Park again, I would probably take an easier trail and just take in the views.
For more information about Indiana Dunes State Park, please visit http://www.indianadunes.com/.