All American Road Trip: Indiana Dunes to Cuyahoga Valley

The sunset over Lake Michigan as seen from the Esch Road Beach, part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.



Take in the incredible views and numerous activities that great lakes and the surrounding area have to offer in this four-day itinerary. Enjoy the breathtaking scale of Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and the gorgeous landscapes of National Parks. From sweeping dunes and waves to rocky canals and waterfalls, you’ll explore the best of the Midwest. The journey begins at Chicago Midway International Airport, about an hour drive from Indiana Dunes National Park. Renting a car is recommended to make traveling along the lakes easier.

Dune Succession Trail at West Beach in Indiana Dunes National Park. Photo Courtesy of Nick Panger


Nope, that’s not an ocean! Indiana Dunes lies along the southern shore of Lake Michigan. 

This 15,000-acre park spans fifteen miles along Lake Michigan and is a wonderful place to explore or unwind after traveling. Start your day-long expedition at Great Marsh Trail. Perfect for all ages, this mile-long hike takes about an hour to complete and is excellent for bird watching. Look carefully for the vibrant kingfisher and marvel at one of the most biodiverse National Park ecosystems in the country. If you’re hoping for a quicker pace, make your way to the Porter Brickyard Bike Trail and traverse seven miles of paved trails through the park.

Take a moment to relax and soak up the sun at West Beach. If you’re traveling in the summer, be sure to get there early, as the beach gets increasingly crowded into the afternoon. Head three miles south to Running Vines Winery. Located in Chesterton, Running Vines blends unique flavors to create award-winning tastes. Treat yourself to one of the many tasting courses and learn more about the winery from Vicki, the owner. As you sip, we recommend snacking on their classic charcuterie board featuring locally sourced picks from nearby Old World Market.

Where to Stay Near Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes is known for its quaint bed & breakfasts. We recommend the Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa for its luxurious suites and wellness offerings—a short drive from Indiana Dunes.

Brandywine Falls at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Photo Courtesy of Ken Lund


Rise and shine! You’ll want to wake up early to head toward Cuyahoga Valley. This park has so much to offer, you’ll want enough to explore it all. Enjoy breakfast at the Songbird Prairie Inn before embarking on a scenic, five-hour drive through the countryside of Indiana and Ohio.

Once you arrive in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, prepare for a just over three-mile hike by heading to the Boston Store to get picnic provisions. Then it’s time to hit the trails! The Ledges Trail and Pine Grove Trail Loop offers the best vistas and features stunning rock formations. After your hike, take a swim or a quick float on the Cuyahoga River. You can access it easily from the Boston Store Trailhead.

Where to Eat & Stay Near Cuyahoga Valley National Park

After a day spent in the park, you’ll be ready for a hearty meal. Make your way to Fishers Café for the best wings in the area and everything fried—a true Ohio staple. For more vegan options, Winking Lizard Tavern is your place. For a scenic stay near the park, take your pick from stunning and historic inns. We recommend Shady Oaks Farm for a clawfoot bathtubs and a refined breakfast menu.

A peaceful sunset over Lake Erie as seen on a bike trail in Geneva State Park, Ohio. Photo Courtesy of Mark K.


The place to be is The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, an amazing resort overlooking Lake Erie. With so many activities at the resort and nearby, you’ll want to spend two full days here.

Start your day with the adventure course and zipline at Lake Erie Canopy Tours. Spend the rest of your afternoon on a bike ridedipping in the pool, or playing one of the many games the resort has to offer. Enjoy fresh seafood and a beautiful view of Lake Erie at Horizons Restaurant in the evening.

Day 4 will take you into Ohio’s award-winning wine country. Hope on the Wine Shuttle and experience three stunning wineries through an afternoon of tasting. Be sure to make reservations online before you arrive at the resort. Possible stops include Laurentia Vineyards & Winery, Ferrante Winery, Hundley Cellars, South River Vineyard, The Winery at Spring Hill and many more! Return home to hang out by the fire pit or take a scenic sunset walk. Take it in—tomorrow you’ll be heading home.

The Great American Road Trip. Photo from our Original Series Venturing Out: Park 2 Park

Read Next: Discover more than 50 Summer Road Trips throughout the United States.

Watch Next: Venturing Out: Park 2 Park

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