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Cowles Bog Trail is a 4.3 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Dune Acres, Indiana that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, nature trips, and snowshoeing and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 4.3 mi Elevation gain 213 ft Route type Loop
Dogs on leash Kid friendly Hiking Nature trips Snowshoeing Running Beach Forest Lake Views Wild flowers Wildlife Bugs
Description
Waypoints (0)

The featured hike is a lollipop shaped trail and a classic of the Indiana dunes. Starting from the north parking lot, hike out back to Mineral Springs Road on the gravel entrance road and pick up the trail across the street. The trail heads along the edge of a wetland with abundant plant and wildlife diversity. At roughly the one-mile mark, you will reach the loop trail junction. The preferred direction around the loop is counterclockwise. Take the trail to the right. The trail will now run through black oak savanna and between interdunal ponds filled with aquatic life. At roughly the 1.5-mile mark, stay to the right at the junction with the cut-off trail. As you near Lake Michigan, you have to climb up and then down the steep final dune. The reward is sweeping views of Lake Michigan and a beach to yourself. Pack a lunch and stay awhile. For the return, travel 0.2 miles to the west on the beach and look for the trail and signs to head back over the dune. Stay right at the cut-off trail junction, left at the Greenbelt trail south parking lot connector and right at the loop trail junction. The trail will now take you back out to the north parking lot. For a slightly shorter and easier journey, take the cut-off trail. This will take a little under a mile off the trail length and avoids the steep dune climbs (but also avoids seeing Lake Michigan). The Cowles Bog loop trail can also be accessed from the south using the Greenbelt Trail at the south parking lot. The Cowles Bog Trail highlights an area of such outstanding plant diversity that it was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1965. This location, where Dr. Henry Cowles conducted much of his early work in plant ecology and succession in the early 1900s, remains an important focus for scientific study today. Explore several distinct habitats along this 4.7-mile trail including ponds, marshes, swamps, black oak savannas and beaches. Steep sand dunes near Lake Michigan make this a very strenuous journey. Many visitors pack a lunch to enjoy at the shoreline while resting for the return trip (don't forget to "pack out" your trash). Make sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection. - Both parking lots open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm - Free (no entrance or parking fees). - Bicycles and motorized vehicles are not allowed. - Pets are permitted on a leash (6' or shorter). - Trail is not wheelchair accessible. - Trail surface is mixture of loose sand and packed dirt. - No potable water. - Year-round porta-potties are available at both the north and south parking lots. - The parking lot is gravel and has room for 10 cars (no handicap only spots). Turn right immediately before the town of Dune Acre’s guard shack.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (511)
Photos (541)
Recordings (430)
Completed (751)
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Adam Cullers
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HikingGreat!
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Billy Enderle
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HikingGreat!

This trail was a lot of fun. We went around 930am on a weekday and we had the entire beach to ourselves. It doesn't seem like a tough trail at first, but hiking up mountains of sand is a lot harder than you think.

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Tony Stark
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Hiking

Great trail overall. Trail is a loop so it is pretty easy to know where you are. Multiple dunes to climb up and down add to the challenge. Not a ton of parking so get there early. Good views and opportunities to go to the shore. Beware of the snakes as they are abundant.

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Vicki Valpatic
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Hiking

Nice hike

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David Bauter
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Hiking

mostly sandy trail. steep by the beach.

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Carol Spires
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Hiking
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Cristin Just
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Hiking

Good stuff. Different every season. one of the busier trails but cool for nature geeks. I love the big sounds.

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Sawyer Boldt
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Hiking
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Amy Spicuzza
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HikingGreat!
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Nicole Palmer
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Hiking
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Andrew Longlet
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Hiking

Really good all around trail to get a good feel for Indiana Dunes National Park. Sandy, like they all are, but not too difficult with only one or two spots of major elevation gains. Great views of the lake and private, quiet beach.

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Dave A
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Hiking

Cowles Bog East Nice lightly used trail. Some parts very overgrown make it tough to follow trail. Distant Lake Michigan views if you climb sand dune, but basically woods. Not as good as regular trail, but a nice change up if it’s busy.

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Kamal A
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WalkingGreat!

Reached an hour before sunset and the lakeshore was beautiful - worth the effort! The trail was sparsely marked and we had to rely on the park and AllTrails map to navigate. Steep uphill and downhill elevation changes at 3-4 places. I wore hiking shoes and had difficulty hiking in the sand.

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Allison Attonito
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Hiking

Clearly marked and interesting changes in elevation. There isn’t much diversity in flora and no wildlife to be seen.

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Sarah Raines
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RunningGreat!

Beautiful! Great conditions. Not buggy at all- probably because of the season. Decent signage. Got off the route a bit and ended up going about 7.3 miles. Had to park at the DNR area- but it was really just passed route 12. Lots of parking there. Loved it!

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cathy sutton
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Hiking
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Kevin Zhang
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Hiking
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Melissa Zdyb
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Hiking
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Greg Hertler
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Hiking

Steep sand was challenging but overall a nice hike.

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Giselle Hipkins
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Hiking

I officially can’t stand sand after this hike...bring your bug spray for the mosquitos

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Moises Roman
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Hiking

sandy. pretty sandy. fun though

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Julia Kaminski
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Running

Beautiful! Not nearly as crowded this morning as I expected. Got here just before 9 AM and the north parking lot was full but the south parking lot had a few spaces left. Not many people wearing masks.

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Joseph Belknap
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Hiking

It’s certainly a bit of a tough hike- steep sandy hills you barely move up on... but when you get to the beach you have it mostly to yourself - the water is clear and warm and you get the ultimate cool down from the climbing.

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Bryce Mazur
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Hiking

was very pretty, quite biologically diverse trail, loved seeing the wetlands leading up to the beach. Overall very easy trail, only the 1/3 mile leading to and from the beach is moderate due to elevation and going up sand. Didn't really see dunes as much as just the beach front

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Laura Jolley
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Bird Watching

Absolutely not a moderate hike. The elevation gain doesn't look very impressive on paper, but it happens all at once, in ankle deep sand. If I ever do it again, I will go counterclockwise and skip the entire section that goes down to the beach, which was pretty much 100% of the problem. Straight uphill, sinking in sand. Not isolated this time of year either, dozens of boats pulled up and legit hundreds of people on the beach. Beautiful bog, oaks, beach views, but totally not worth it when it is 90 degrees outside. ALSO worth mentioning, the official trailhead has like 2 parking spots. I had to park in the overflow lot FOR the overflow (3 lots away), so had to hike in from the southern part, which is all out in the open, hardly any shade. So be prepared to park far away if you don't get there early.

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Teresa Lindemann
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Hiking

This is not moderate!!!! Walking through the sand was very hard. the trail itself was pretty but I would be ok to not see it. Lake Michigan was pretty but it wasn't worth the struggle to see it! Put it this way.... I normally take tons of pictures on the trail and I took 3.

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Jane Pearre
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Hiking

Not sure if I’d call this moderate, but a good workout with all the sand

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Karen Sharpe
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Hiking

Meh. Moderate difficulty, only a few people on the trail and garbage all over the beach.

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Kaylee Rosenberger
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HikingGreat!

This was a hard trail!! Hiking up sandy hills was difficult. The trail was mostly shaded the entire time which was really nice! Go early if you can- we had the trail to ourselves at the beginning! Beautiful views make the work worth it :) it’s a good workout. plant life is super diverse here as well, and we spotted a lot of wildlife

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Daniel Brasuell
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Hiking

A nice trail. If you go counter clockwise the back half of the trail is close to industrial and it sorta loses the special feel. The rest is very nice though. Nice bogs. Nice views of Chicago. Nice dunes. Nice beach. Etc. We parked at 6:30 am on a Sunday and were the first cars in the lot. At 9:30 the lot was closed and full.

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