The Cowles Bog Trail contains many habitats: forest, dune, and beach experiences are all here for the having. One’s hike can be an out and back, a lollipop, or a variation of either, as there are shortcuts to allow for customization. At almost 5 miles of trail, there’s something here for everyone.
One’s hike can be extended for many miles by walking on the beach and/or adding the Calumet Rail Trail or Porter Brickyard Trail from the South trailhead.
As mentioned, there are two parking lots, open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm, with no access fee for parking or hiking. The North lot at the entrance to the Dune Acres community is considered the main lot. Year round porta-potties are available at both the north and south parking lots.
One negative of this trail system is that the two lots are not connected by trail, but require a stretch of road walking to access one from the other to complete a full loop.
Cowles Bog Trail Slide Show:
The trail is made up mostly of loose sand and packed dirt, and therefore not really wheelchair accessible. Trail signage is confusing at times, so printing a map or having it handy on a phone is very useful.
There are some rolling hills and steeper sections, none more so than getting down to the beach and then back up again. I suggest trekking poles but they are not absolutely necessary.
Another negative to hiking this trail is the close proximity of an ArcelorMittal industrial area, sometimes seen, sometimes heard, and sometimes smelled. This should not dissuade you from hiking this trail.
Bicycles and motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail, though pets are, on a leash 6′ or shorter.
Bring water and a snack or a lunch if more time is desired to experience the area. The beach is an especially beautiful place to hang out. If you pack it in, please pack it out – there is no trash pickup.
During warmer months, use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and tuck long pants into socks to avoid ticks and poison ivy.
Getting to the Cowles Bog Trail:
Beach access and a variety of habitats make the Cowles Bog Trail at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore a must-do.
- Central Beach, Beverly Shores, Indiana
- The Great Marsh, Beverly Shores, Indiana
- John Merle Coulter Nature Preserve, Portage, Indiana
- Tolleston Dunes, Portage, Indiana
- Destination: Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk