The National Park Service has a challenge for anybody who lives in northern Indiana or the Chicagoland area and loves hiking, birding, or simply being outside.
Here’s the challenge: Hike all of the trails in Indiana Dunes National Park this spring and summer as part of the celebratory Project 1966.
“This hiking challenge will take place over the course of the summer with each week featuring a ranger-led hike on a different trail,” according to the National Park Service (NPS). “There will be a total of 19 hikes covering 66 miles to honor the year, 1966, when the park was established.”
The hikes, which will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturdays, will range in length from 1–7 miles and will take place in every area of the park. Everyone who completes all of the hikes will receive a commemorative Project 1966 sticker.
The hikes will all take place on Saturdays but don’t worry if you can’t attend all 19 of the ranger-led hikes. You can also find a check-off sheet at the visitor center and the Paul H. Douglas Center so you can complete some of the hikes on your own.
The first hike, this Saturday, May 13, will be along the Heron Rookery Trail. The 3.3-mile hike is rated “easy.”
“The Heron Rookery Trail follows along a portion of the Little Calumet River that once featured more than 100 great blue heron nests,” explains the NPS. “After 60 years of nesting here, the herons have moved on to new nesting grounds. These woods remain alive with dozens of birds including kingfishers, woodpeckers, and a wide variety of migrating and nesting warblers.”
Anyone who is interested should meet at the trailhead at the Heron Rookery East parking lot this Saturday. The event is scheduled from 8–10 a.m.
About Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park is located in northwest Indiana, along Lake Michigan’s shore. The 15,000-acre park, which is just outside Porter, Indiana, is just 50 miles from Chicago.
There are 15 miles of sandy beach as well as 50 miles of trails through wetlands, prairies, rivers, and forests for visitors to explore at Indiana Dunes. There are also 37 miles of interconnected bike trails.
Now, about those sand dunes. When a glacier receded from the area approximately 14,000 years ago, it left Lake Michigan, along with the beaches and sand dunes, behind, the NPS explains. The wind and waves from Lake Michigan continue to deposit sand on the shore, creating the dunes.
Amazingly, several of the dunes are nearly 200 feet high.
Project 1966’s Hikes
If you plan on hiking some, or all, of the trails for Project 1966, here are some key details.
There will be 19 weekly ranger-led hikes, although, you can also hike on your own. The hikes begin this Saturday, May 13, and will run through the park’s Outdoor Adventure Festival the weekend of September 16. Each hike will depart from a different location and begin at 8 a.m.
There’s also good news if you enjoy hiking with your dog: Pets are allowed on the hikes. However, they must be on a leash that is 6 feet long or shorter.
You can find the schedule and learn more about each of the 1966 Hiking Challenge trails at 1966 Hiking Challenge.
Be sure to learn more about Indiana Dunes, including finding directions to the park.
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