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Discover Cowles Bog

The lush wetlands and thriving ferns of Cowles Bog form a primeval landscape unlike any other in the Indiana Dunes. A 4.7 mile-trail winds its way beneath the shady branches of black oaks, red maples, birches, tamarack pines, and white cedars. Cowles Bog sits at the foot of a steep sand dune, and the trail climbs dramatically before descending to the shore of Lake Michigan. The beach here is one of the most secluded in the Indiana Dunes, and it offers majestic views of the lake, the city of Chicago, and the mighty steel mills neighboring this natural treasure.

Cowles Bog is named for the scientist Henry Chandler Cowles from the University of Chicago. Cowles is one of the founders of the modern science of ecology, and a tireless champion of the dunes in the early twentieth century. Today Cowles Bog is home to over 400 species of plants, and countless varieties of mushroom and fungi. The National Audubon Society designated Cowles Bog an Important Bird Area, and the woods and wetlands here attract a stunning array of birds and waterfowl. 

In 1953 Indiana Dunes champion Dorothy Buell and the newly formed Save the Dunes Council purchased the land in hopes it would one day serve as the foundation for a park. In many ways Cowles Bog is the heart of the Indiana Dunes.

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Get Involved

Be the Change — Volunteer! Get more involved with the Indiana Dunes! There are many no-hassle, drop-in volunteer opportunities available for everyone. Just show up! The organization provides the gear and training.

Be Safe

While the Indiana Dunes area is considered a safe, family-friendly destination, there still some things you need to know. In this video, we explore different safety tips and visitor responsibilities. From understanding rip tides to protecting yourself against ticks, this video offers important information for keeping you and your loved ones safe during your stay in the Indiana Dunes area.

Visit Off Season

If you’re looking for a plethora of diverse wildflowers then park at the Greenbelt parking lot during the spring. Visitors will hike along an open landscape covered in flowers as they travel toward the main trailhead. Spring migration offers birders the opportunity to scout out a variety of birds as they rest in the trees at Cowles Bog before heading over Lake Michigan. 

What to Expect

There are two parking lots available at Cowles Bog. For quick access to spring flowers, and ponds filled with Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, and Capsian Terns, take a left after the railroad tracks on Mineral Springs Road and park in the paved Greenbelt Trailhead lot.

For the fastest route to the boardwalk viewing platform, enter the trailhead through the main parking lot which is located just before the Ogden Dunes town guardhouse.

The trail is a mixture of loose sand and packed dirt with moderate to rugged dune climbs. Visitors will hike along ponds, marshes, and black oak savannas, eventually leading to Lake Michigan.

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.

  • Free to enter
  • Open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm
  • 4.7 miles with loops for shorter routes
  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • No handicap parking
  • No drinking fountains
  • Porta-John available year round

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.

  • Free to enter
  • Open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm
  • 4.7 miles with loops for shorter routes
  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • No handicap parking
  • No drinking fountains
  • Porta-John available year round