Trails & Beaches

The Secret Trail at Cowles Bog

March 12, 2019

Submitted by: Sarah Smenyak

Did you know that there are “secret” trails sprinkled throughout the Indiana Dunes National and State Parks? These are trails you won’t find on most maps, unless you look really hard. But many of these trails are worth the hike, especially if you enjoy the trail less travelled. The Indiana Dunes National Park has over fifty miles of published trails. And you can find maps of these on their website and paper copies at most trail heads. But, if you are looking for something new, or want the trail mostly to yourself, head over to one of my favorite trail systems: Cowles Bog.

One of these secret trails starts right at the Cowles Bog parking lot. You won’t find the trail on the official trail map, or the National Park website. But there are a few maps online that show that the trail heads east, directly from the parking lot, past the wooden fence that currently has a handwritten “fire road” written on it.”

The trail skirts the Great Marsh for 1.2 miles until it reaches Waverly Road. Once you get to Waverly Road, you have all sorts of options: you can hike on the road into the State Park Trail system, you can take Waverly up and down some big hills to Porter Beach, you can head back to the Cowles Bog parking lot for an easy and scenic out and back hike along the marsh, or, you can make a loop trail that will take you up and down some steep and fun hills and through Howe’s Prairie.

The trails are a lot easier to see in the late fall, winter and early spring, when there are not leaves on the trees. But on a chilly day in February, the little bit of snow, actually helped mark the trails.

In the summer, the trail can be a lot more overgrown and even hard to find from the Waverly Road end. But it is a great place to explore the Great Marsh or extend your adventure from one of the many other trails nearby. You might even be lucky enough to see the sandhill cranes that enjoy the marsh. Or maybe even another human or two, that know about this “secret” of the Dunes.

Want to learn about more places like this? Be sure to sign up for the Dig the Dunes weekly e-newsletter or join our facebook group, Dunes Discoveries!

  1. Reply


    March 12, 2019

    If you do hike around Howe’s Prairie, please be careful of rare plants out there and CLEAN YOUR BOOTS before you enter the area so you won’t vector invasive species into it.

  2. Reply

    Erik Oslawski

    March 20, 2019

    I used to frequently run on this trail almost everyday when I lived by the dunes and rented a small apartment on Waverly Road. I was not sure how well known this trail was, if at all. Thanks for the article it really brings back good memories.


Welcome to Dig the Dunes!

Dig the Dunes uncovers all the secrets of the dunes! From trails and beaches, to people, places, events and even the history and geology. Visit our page frequently for fun facts and new adventures for you to embark upon!

We offer lots of classes like beach glass art, jewelry making, wine and canvas, hikes, comedy shows and more!

Questions or ideas? email us at