Chicago Dog Daycations

The latest trend in the Chicago region is the “staycation” a vacation that lasts one day and usually does not include an overnight stay.   In most cases, a short trip won’t require an overnight stay, so visitors don’t have hotel or excessive food costs or board their dogs.  These staycations are great for dogs! Here we will discuss the Skokie Lagoons in Cook County, illinois and the Indiana Dunes National Park in Indiana.

The Skokie Lagoons

Some of the activities that you and  your dog can share are a day at the Skokie Lagoons. The Skokie Lagoons are Located south of Lake-Cook Road, North of Willow Road, East of the Edens Expressway, and west of Forest Road in Skokie. Ample free parking is available.  In the summer, fishing, canoeing and kayaking are some water-based adventures that your dog will enjoy.

In the winter the snow sports of sledding, cross country skiing and and skijoring are all activities that the Skokie Lagoons are perfect for. The little township of Northfield is just west of the Willow Road entrance so that you can your dog can grab a quick Starbucks coffee, a slice of pizza or desert after your playtime. The wonderful village of Winnetka is due east on Williow and is a very dog friendly community.

The Indiana Sand Dunes

At the Indiana Sand Dunes you and your dog can enjoy every sport imaginable; from swimming and sunbathing in summer to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter, each season offers your and your the chance to experience this unique park. The Indiana Sand Dunes are blessed with at least eight different beaches, here is a brief guide that lists the charm of each beach:

West Beach
At the beach splash in the water, build a sandcastle, and stroll the three miles of open beach. Admire and photograph the scenic vistas of sweeping dunes and Lake Michigan. Beyond the beach grill a delicious meal at a picnic shelter, and then walk the marked trails that traverse dunes and forest. Learn how plant and animals communities are replacing one another through time. Watch migrating waterfowl at Long Lake during the autumn and spring.

Cowles Beach
At the beach skip stones, examine driftwood, and observe the sea-rocket and bug seed plants growing in the sand at this isolated, sandy beach. Enjoy sharing the beach with boaters who set anchor here. To and from the beach, hike the four-mile-round-trip trail that leads you through an open forest of scattered black oak trees and invites you to walk up tall sand dunes on your way back to the parking area. Bring binoculars for bird watching.

Porter Beach
At the beach chase waves or relax to the sound of soothing waves lapping up onto the shore of this accessible beach.

Kemil Beach
At the beach search for small shells, smooth stones, and brightly colored glass. Remember you must leave all natural treasures at the beach.
Beyond the beach hike the half-mile Dune Ridge Trail starting at the south edge of the parking lot.

Dunbar Beach
At the beach swim, chase the waves, gaze at the setting sun, and enjoy a picnic dinner at this lesser-known, accessible beach.

Lake View
At the Beach admire Lake Michigan™s magnificent blue colors from Lake View™s accessible deck while having breakfast at the picnic tables. Meander down to the beach for an early morning stroll or jog. Arrive early as parking is limited during warm seasons.

Central Beach
At the beach swim, picnic, listen to the singing sands, and stare in awe at the steep dune cliffs.
Beyond the beach walk the one mile of beach that leads to Mt. Baldy.

Mount Baldy
At the beach catch your breath, jump into the lake, and cool off after you have walked the designated trails to Mount Baldy. Beyond the beach marvel at the stunning view of Lake Michigan and the forested dunes from atop Mount Baldy”the national lakeshore™s largest moving dune, which stands 126 feet tall. Relax before hiking on the dune trails back to the parking lot. Look for cliff swallows in the steep banks.

Hiking the Dunes is rewarding in every season even deep winter. Spring wildflowers  and the returning bird population are abundant along the Little Calumet River in April and May. Summer is an ideal time to build sand castles and admire Lake Michigan sunsets. The Calumet Bike Trail is especially pretty in late summer and early fall. The colors of fall can be enjoyed from late September through October, with the peak color occurring around mid-October. Bird watching is especially interesting during spring and fall migrations. Here is a sample of some of the most interesting trail hikes:

Bailly Homestead & Chellberg Farm Trail “ Moderate; two loops; 2.5 miles through beautiful woods and old fields; connects the historic areas. Southeast of the homestead, the Little Calumet River Trail will add 2.2 miles. Excellent for spring wildflowers and fall colors.

Cowles Bog Trail “ Moderate to rugged; two trail heads; 3 loops; 5 miles. Features include interdunal ponds, marshes, stand of northern white cedars, forested dunes, foredunes, and open beach. A great way to experience several different habitats. Excellent for fall colors.

Dunewood Trace “ Easy to moderate; 1.8 mile linear trail. Follows along wet woods between the Dunewood Campground and Kemil Road. Ends near the Calumet Dune Interpretive Center.

Heron Rookery Trail “ Easy to moderate; 2 mile (one-way) linear trail running parallel to the river on the south side. Forested watershed, reclaimed farmland, excellent bird watching, and spring wildflowers.

Inland Marsh Trail – Moderate; two loops; 3 miles. Trail skirts the edge of a marsh and crosses through an oak savanna. Excellent for bird watching.

Ly-co-ki-we and Horse Trail – Moderate; two trail heads. Series of loops, up to 6.4 miles. Horseback riding permitted March 16 through December 14. Trail winds through climax black oak forested dune ridges, wetlands, and reclaimed prairie. Pets are prohibited. The linear Ly-co-ki-we extension will add 1.2 miles.

Miller Woods Trail – Easy; 1.5 mile trail around a lovely wetland and through Miller Woods. Features include wetlands and black oak savanna.

Pinhook Bog Trail – Easy; 0.75 mile trail through Indiana’s only “true” bog. Available by ranger-guided tour only.

West Beach Trail – Easy to moderate; two loops, 2.5 miles. The Dune Succession Trail adds a moderate extra mile starting at the beach. Dunes, woods, prairie, Long Lake, and ponds.

Camping and fishing are popular ways to relax at the dunes. Overnight camping is available from April through October at the Dunewood Campground. Fishing the Little Calumet River during the summer steelhead run is a worthy challenge.

Did You Know?
Without fire, there could be no prairie at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Non-prairie plant species would crowd out native prairie grasses. These rare grasslands are maintained through periodic controlled burns.

Did You Know?
Cowles Bog is not a true bog but rather a fen because it has an underground water source. This water source has contact with limestone bedrock, making the fen™s water slightly alkaline. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is restoring a portion of this fen.

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