This 4-mile lollipop loop in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore pairs sandy shoreline with a botanical tour through Cowles Bog. Named for botanist and ecologist Henry Chandler Cowles who helped protect this dynamic landscape from encroaching industry, this wetland hosts unusually diverse plant populations for the area.
From the busy trailhead on Mineral Springs Road, the route heads west across marshy wetlands toward the park’s western boundary. Turning north, the sandy trail cruises oak forest and progressively newer dunes, climbing a 100-foot mound before descending a grassy expanse bordering the shoreline. Although this sandy stretch draws crowds in the summer, it is typically less busy than easy-access spots in the park including Lake View, Porter, and West beaches. The return route climbs away from the shoreline and dips behind the dunes. Forested marshlands offer welcome shade for the final 1.5-miles of the return trip.
Note: This beach-bound loop is perfect in the summer and during the fall when the dense forest reveals a rainbow of autumn colors.
-Mapped by Ted Villaire