Best Bike Trails in Indiana
Where Are the Best Bike Trails in Indiana?
Bike trails are great for those who just want to take a casual ride with the family as well as for more serious bicyclists. Many of these paths are built along old rail beds and are also known as rail trails. Some are paved with asphalt while others have somewhat of a more rugged surface such as crushed limestone, but all of them are suitable for riding bicycles.
There are of course bike trails all over the country, but if you live in Indiana or are traveling through the area, this page should help you find and learn more about some of the best bike trails in the state.
About the Rail Trails
Rail trails offer an opportunity to walk, bicycle, jog, or skate safely with minimal contact with motorized traffic. There is no fee to use the trail so it's certainly a very economical acitivity. In general, pets are allowed on the trails only when on a leash.
Bicyclists and skaters need to take care when approaching walkers and joggers. They can signal by verbally indicating their approach on the left or on the right. Excessive speed when on a bike or when skating, can create hazards for those on foot. Children and pets especially need to be approached with caution as they may change direction without checking for oncoming traffic. Those on foot should stay to their right to allow passing.
Luckily, many of the trails don't have heavy traffic and provide for a relaxed ride or walk.
Most of the trails will offer facilities only at trail heads where parking is available.
Riders should always take along water and sufficient clothing and protection from the elements. Bicyclists should also have any necessary tools and tire repair equipment.
The Monon Bike Trail
The Monon rail trail is one of the longest, and certainly one of the busiest bike trails in Indiana, and possibly the country. It runs through urban and suburban areas and connects to a variety of other trails to provide users the opportunity to bike, walk, skate, or run with minimal contact with vehicular traffic.
At the north end, the Monon Greenway begins at 161st street. It takes users through the Westfiled/Carmel area. Portions of the trail are wooded and quiet, while other areas take users through busier areas in Carmel. There are several parks along the trail as well as a waterpark and fitness complex at Central Park near 116th street, the Arts and Design District in Carmel, Skate Park, and the Clay Terrace Shoppes. The majority of crossings in this area take users over or under busy streets.
The Monon Trail officially takes over at 96th street and continues south 10.5 miles. This portion of the trail will take users through the village of Broad Ripple, past urban art, and on into downtown Indianapolis. Along the way, bike trail users can select other spur trails to further explore the area. The Central Canal towpath takes off of the Monon in the Broad Ripple Area and continues westward along the canal. Much of the surface of this trail is crushed limestone versus asphalt. It runs approximately 5 miles and takes users past the gardens at Butler University and beyond the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Continuing past Riverside Park and along the White River Waphani Trail, users will eventually find themselves in the heart of downtown Indianapolis just blocks from the State Capitol building and a variety of shops, museums, and restaurants.
For those who bypass the Central Canal Towpath and continue southward on the Monon, another trail can be taken just south of the 38th street crossing. (The 38th street crossing is probably the most treacherous along the route.) The Fall Creek Trail is just beyond 38th street and will take users westward toward I-465. This bike trail has an asphalt bed. Skiles Test Park is one of several locations along the trail.
In my experience the heaviest trail traffic along the Monon is in the Broad Ripple area. Some of the lightest traffic appears to be along the Central Canal Towpath west of Broad Ripple and the Fall Creek Trail.
North of Broad Ripple on the Monon Trail
The Cardinal Greenway
There are 60 miles of rail trails in the Cardinal Greenways system which runs from Marion, Indiana southeast to Richmond, Indiana. Not all trail sections are connected however. Currently the longest stretch of continuous trail is the Gaston to Losantville bike trail which is 27 miles in length, one way. When connect it should be the longest bike trail in Indiana.
The Cardinal Greenway is generally on flat terrain and provides an asphalt surface for easy riding. It passes through rural areas as well as through several small towns and the city of Muncie, Indiana. Trail traffic is fairly light in my experience and with the exception of a few crossings in Muncie, there is little vehicular traffic encountered. The McGalliard Street crossing is the most treacherous.
In the Muncie area, riders can also choose to take the White River Greenway Trail which takes users through older neighborhoods with stately homes. It's a particularly nice ride in the spring when flowers are in bloom.
While the Monon provides more riding distance when combined with connecting trails and greater diversity, the Cardinal Greenway is a better rural experience and, with lighter traffic,is a great choice for more serious biking or just getting away from the daily routine.
Trailheads can be found here.
Crossing the River on Muncie's North Side on the Cardinal Greenway
The Nickel Plate Trail
The Nickel Plate trail lies in the northern half of Indiana. It runs from Rochester, Indiana at it's northern most point, 25 miles southward to the north side of Peru, Indiana. The trail then picks up again on the south side of Peru and runs southward to Cassville, Indiana adding another 12.7 miles to the distance.
The ride along the trail is generally moderate to easy. The surface is asphalt and the terrain level in many portions with gently rolling features in a few sections especially near Peru and the town of Denver. There are siginifcant portions of the trail that pass through wooded areas but much of it also provides the a view of the open farmland in the area, as well as a glimpse of the small rural towns the trail passes through.
Peru (pop. est. 13,000) and Denver are the largest towns along the trail. Since the paved portion of the trail does not take users throught town, there is very, very little traffic encountered the full distance of the Nickel Plate Trail.