The Indiana Dunes can be a really fun place to spend time in the winter. The crowds are long gone so you will usually have the park to yourself. You can explore everything the Dunes have to offer without the crowds or having to pay to get into the park. However, while a winter visit is warranted – you need to take some safety precautions.
Here are some tips from the National Park Service on how to enjoy the park in the winter:
Do not sled. Due to hidden dangers, often partially covered by shifting sands, sledding, inner-tubing, tobogganing, and snowboarding are prohibited in the park.
Stay off the ice. When frozen, Lake Michigan looks much like the Arctic. Unlike the arctic landscape that it mimics, this ice is full of hidden thin spots and gaps (often further hidden by a layer of snow). Venturing out onto the ice is a sure way to risk death.
Stay warm. Dress in layers of loose-fitting clothes (including headwear) and keep your feet and hands dry. Minimize exposed skin. Keep an eye on the wind chill to help prevent frostbite. Gently re-warm any waxy-looking skin and seek medical attention.
Dressing properly can also prevent hypothermia. Early signs of this potentially fatal cooling of the body include intense shivering, loss of coordination, and confusion. If you see symptoms, seek warmth and immediate medical care. Prime temperatures for hypothermia are actually above freezing between 30 – 50ºF. Don’t hike alone.