The Cowles Bog Trail in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is about a two hour drive from Kalamazoo. I stopped there recently on the way home from a trip to Chicago. The trail is about 4 miles long, with a couple of options. Parking is down a narrow dirt road, on the right, just before the guardhouse for the Dune Acres gated community. (There is another lot close to US 12.) See the National Park Service map (pdf).
The first mile of the trail is very level, lined with Sassafras, Red Maple, and White Birch and includes a short board walk over a wet section (which apparently is not truly a bog.) The next mile is hilly, through wooded dunes which eventually lead to a steep climb down to the beach on Lake Michigan.
I had the beach to myself on a pleasant Sunday, except for the looming steel mills and the loud hissing from industrial smokestacks. With the Chicago skyline barely visible across Lake Michigan, it's clearly not a pristine wilderness experience. The area is important for birds, and I did see a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers flying through the trees. The Park Service has a restoration project to remove invasive species and improve the habitat for native plants and animals.
In some ways it's as interesting to see the resilience of nature amidst heavy industry, as it is to visit a more purely natural setting. It definitely made a nice outing.
Cowles Bog Trail
N. Mineral Springs Road
Chesterton, IN 46304
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
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