Cowles Bog Trail

Crocker, Indiana

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Cowles Bog might be one of the most challenging trails in Chicagoland, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. The word bog may not sound appealing to hikers, but don’t be scared away: You won’t have to trudge through any wetlands, and technically there’s not even a bog here, because the water is far too alkaline. Cowles Fen would be more appropriate, but even that name doesn’t do justice to the gorgeous red maples, yellow birches, and tamaracks nestled among mountains of sand, or the most beautiful beach in Indiana, which is hidden at the end of the trail. And for history and science buffs, this is literally where ecology was born. Dr. Henry Chandler Cowles—the botany pioneer from the University of Chicago who developed the English term ecology near the turn of the century—did most of his doctoral field work here. This challenging 4.1-mile lollipop skirts the edge of a chartreuse wetland and then plunges through a richly forested woodland before ascending a series of ancient, monumental dunes for an unforgettable view of the Great Lake. It’s a unique hiking experience.

Cowles Bog Trail Professional Review and Guide

"Cowles Bog might be one of the most challenging trails in Chicagoland, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. The word bog may not sound appealing to hikers, but don’t be scared away: You won’t have to trudge through any wetlands, and technically there’s not even a bog here, because the water is far too alkaline. Cowles Fen would be more appropriate, but even that name doesn’t do justice to the gorgeous red maples, yellow birches, and tamaracks nestled among mountains of sand, or the most beautiful beach in Indiana, which is hidden at the end of the trail. And for history and science buffs, this is literally where ecology was born. Dr. Henry Chandler Cowles—the botany pioneer from the University of Chicago who developed the English term ecology near the turn of the century—did most of his doctoral field work here. This challenging 4.1-mile lollipop skirts the edge of a chartreuse wetland and then plunges through a richly forested woodland before ascending a series of ancient, monumental dunes for an unforgettable view of the Great Lake. It’s a unique hiking experience."

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Crocker
Distance: 4.1
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Moderate
Duration: 2.5 hours
Season: Year-round
Local Contacts: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Local Maps: USGS: Dune Acres, IN
Driving Directions: Directions to Cowles Bog Trail

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May 2018