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Cowles Bog Trail @ Indiana Dunes National Park

Cowles Bog Trail - Indiana Dunes National Park
4.7 ml
4 hr
202 ft
1450 North Mineral Springs Road, Dune Acres, IN 46304

Image provided by the National Park Service

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 can make this a 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, sun protection, and extra clothing layers as the the weather at the lake can be very different than at the parking lot.

Trail Features: Fall Colors, Lake, Views, Wildlife
Must See Gems: Lake Michigan

Getting There
Trailhead Parking Lots

Main Lot (north): 1450 North Mineral Springs Road, Dune Acres, IN 46304
(Look for the gravel entrance road on the right just before the town guardhouse)

Greenbelt Lot (south): 1184 North Mineral Springs Road, Dune Acres, IN 46304
(Look for the entrance road on the left just after the railroad tracks)

Overflow parking can be located at park headquarters when the main and Greenbelt lots are full. The park headquarters is located just south of Rt 12 at 1100 N. Mineral Springs Rd. These brown buildings have several parking lots for employees and fill up daily. Please use the lot closest lot to Rt 12. Be aware that there are no public restrooms at this particular parking lot. However, there are restrooms available at the other two lots. A pedestrian bridge is available to safely cross Rt 12 to the Cowles Bog Trailhead (Greenbelt, south).

Trailhead GPS Coordinates
Main (north): 41.645191, -87.084633 (Decimal Degrees)
Greenbelt (south): 41.636898, -87.087185 (Decimal Degrees)

Need to Know

Hours & Information

  • Hours – Open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm.
  • Passes are required.
  • Hike Length – 4.7 miles, 202 feet of elevation gain, 15% maximum grade.
  • Hike Time – 4 hours.
  • Difficulty – Moderate to rugged with steep dune climbs in loose sand.
  • Trail Surface – Mixture of loose sand and packed dirt.
  • Facilities – Year-round porta potties. No potable water.
  • Pets – Permitted on a leash (6' or shorter).
  • Prohibited – Littering and hunting.
  • Prohibited – Bicycles and motorized vehicles.
  • Prohibited – Removing plants, rocks, shells, and fossils.
  • Prohibited – Glass and fires on the beach.
  • The main (north) parking lot is gravel.
  • The south (greenbelt) parking lot is paved.
  • The south parking lot is also the trailhead for the Calumet Bike Trail and Porter Brickyard Bike Trail.


  • Please stay on the trail and respect closed area signs. Going off trail damages fragile habitat.
  • Ticks are present year-round. Take precautionary measures to prevent bites.
  • Poison ivy can be present on the edges of the trail.
  • Be prepared for changing weather conditions. The weather at the lake can be very different than at the parking lot.
  • In case of an emergency or to report a crime, call 1-800-PARK-TIP.


  • The trail is not wheelchair accessible.

Part of the Indiana Dunes National Park


Hiking Trail