Trailheadin’: Li-co-ki-we Trail

During the three years I lived in Indiana, I tried as often as I could to take advantage of the beautiful scenery that the area had to offer. Whether it was trout fishing along one of the many rivers or running with my dog along the beaches of Lake Michigan, the options for recreation were plentiful. One of my favorite things to do was hike the sandy trails that meander throughout the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, in Chesterton, IN, and it is one such Trailhead—the Ly-co-ki-we Trail—that I’ll be spotlighting today.

The beach can get crowded in a hurry at the Dunes Lakeshore, especially in the summer. The Li-co-ki-we, however, allows day hikers to escape the bustle of the shoreline and embark on a nearly 10-mile loop. While you won’t be privy to views of the beach, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in marshes, swamps, hilly dunes, and prairies. I will warn you, though; the trail is located among sand dunes, which means you’ll be trekking through sand the entire time. This is not a hike for those who can’t handle the nearly 700-feet of elevation gain or the exertion that is demanded from 4 hours of walking in the sand.

You’ll find the Li-co-ki-we trailhead off a small parking lot just south of the junction between East County Road 1500 N and North County Road 275 E. The difficult part about this trail—other than the demanding terrain—is that it is riddled with junctions and offshoot loops that may confuse newcomers. I suggest that, after hitting the trailhead, keeping to the right as you hike the trail. Doing so will keep you on the trail loop on a counter-clockwise path that will steer you in the right direction. One good thing about the many loops, though, is that it allows you to plan your hiking mileage if burning calories or cardio is your aim. Almost 2 miles in (the tip of the main trail loop), you’ll find the Dunewood Trace Trail junction, which takes you to the park campground for an overnight stay, if that’s your goal. If not, the far tip of the Li-co-ki-we is also home to the Calumet Dune Interpretive Center, where you’ll find restrooms if needed. Continuing along the trail, you’ll eventually reach the Li-co-ki-we Extension, which is an out-and-back offshoot that adds another 2 miles to the trail. After the extension, the trail makes its way back to the parking lot trailhead.

The Li-co-ki-we is open to horseback riding and cross country skiing, so be sure to be respectful and courteous when sharing the trail. As I stated earlier, this region is riddled with sand and ever-sloping dunes, which can be tough on those who aren’t physically prepared. I guarantee you, though, that you’ll sleep well after working up a sweat along any of the trails found among the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Besides, if you get too hot, simply cool off by taking a dip in the lake!