I recently had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with my family at West Beach, part of the Indiana Dunes National Park. We were wanting something peaceful, yet active, to enjoy the nice weather. I had heard about the Succession Trail from a coworker and thought that I would check it out. The four of us: my mom, my dad, and my small dog, Harbor, made the trip with a small backpack filled with water and snacks.
The weather could not have been more perfect and the park was busy, but not overcrowded.
The West Beach Trails consist of three loops of varying distance and terrain. We decided we would start from the beach and do Succession Trail Loop 1. We made our way along the paved road through the pavilion that was serving concessions and offered restrooms.
There were plenty of beachgoers sunning themselves despite the cooler temperature. Initially, we were a little confused with the signage but, we got to a point where we reached a break in the dune grass to what looked like a path, so we climbed that way.
The environment quickly changed from beach to a lush forest, though the soil was still mostly sandy. There were roots and rocks, not pleasant on bare feet- we were glad to have left our shoes on. On this trail there was a lot of greenery at the start and the trees towered overhead casting sunbeams through their branches. I took a big look around as we walked along the path.
We reached a bridge and a set of stairs that curve around a small pond. After more stairs we paused to look back at the lake; the view was incredible! It only got better as we climbed higher.
At the peak we stopped to take a rest, my mom paused to dump a pile of sand from her shoes, I did the same. Amazing what gets trapped in there! From there we made our descent to the end of the trail.
As I said previously, we started the trail from the beach but there is an additional starting point for this trail from the parking lot. That trailhead begins with a climb up about 270 stairs… I will tell you those stairs were much more tolerable going down than up!
That loop took around a half hour to complete and was not too strenuous for any of us.
We took a quick bathroom break at the facilities, ate our snacks of cheese and almonds, then left the car to continue to the next loop, the West Beach Loop.
The beginning of this trail picks up right where the Succession Trail Loop ends. It started off on a wide path surrounded by wildflowers; buttercups and lupins all in full bloom. I took many pictures along the way. The path meandered through a meadow with wildflowers, tall grasses and trees where we eventually we reached a cross section in the path, which was once a rail line.
The train used to run alongside Long Lake, which lives up to its name. We walked out to the shore of the lake where the meadow fell into the water and became covered with lily pads and grasses. We got back on the trail and turned right onto the old rail line which was now a sandy path parallel to the lake. This was easily my favorite part of the entire hike with the lake on my left and the sweeping meadow on my right. We were lucky to come across a few butterflies along the way. The path intersected with the road and we had to cross to finish the last stretch of the trail. The meadow transformed into dunes once again and opened up into a nice day-camping area for families. There were at least seven bungalows, a nice added feature to the park. Most were occupied with beachgoers grilling with family and friends.
The end of the trail reached the parking lot. We finished it in about 25 minutes. We decided to only do the two loops and not complete the final Long Lake loop as the two loops were plenty for us novice hikers and our little dog.
It really was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. If you are in the area, I highly recommend the trails at West Beach to enjoy some exercise and beautiful scenery.
If you go:
West Beach Parking Lot is located at 376 North County Line Road in Gary. West Beach is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Parking is $6/car and motorcycle from Memorial Day weekend through Monday of Labor Day weekend. Pets are permitted everywhere on a leash with the exception of the lifeguarded swimming area (seasonal).