Cowles Bog Trail

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana

Elevation Gain779ft
Trailhead Elevation605ft
Elevation Min/Max593/716ft
Elevation Start/End605/605ft

Cowles Bog Trail

Cowles Bog Trail is a hiking trail in Dune Acres, Indiana. It is within Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It is 2.7 miles long and begins at 605 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 5.4 miles with a total elevation gain of 779 feet. The Gate House ranger station is near the trailhead.

Cowles Bog Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

"A loop hike around a bog, through wooded dunes, past marshes, and along the Lake Michigan shoreline."
Best Hikes Near Chicago (Falcon Guides)
Adam Morgan
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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."
60 Hikes within 60 Miles-Chicago-4th Edition (Menasha Ridge Press)
Ted Villaire
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"Cowles Bog Trail runs past wetlands, through oak forests, and over wooded dunes that increase in height as you approach the sandy beach. As one of the more famous spots at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Cowles Bog is well known for its beauty and historical significance in the field of environmental science. Except for a few open spaces littered with large fallen branches, the trail in the summer is shaded under a canopy of oak leaves. Passing the second connector trail at 0.9 mile beyond the beach, the terrain flattens and leads you along the marsh and back to the parking lot."

Cowles Bog Trail Trip Reports

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Hiking here can be tough on busy days due to the parking situation. This is still a great place to go for a hike that runs through a forest. wetlands and some sand dunes and out to a lovely beach. Make sure you bring a lot of bug spray! My trail-loving dog enjoys this hike too. :)

Cowles Bog Trail Photos

Trail Information

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Nearby City
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Skill Level
Local Contacts
On trail board and at the website. USGS Dune Acres, IN
Local Maps

Trail Log