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Railroads helped Indianapolis grow into a transportation hub and manufacturing center beginning in the 1850s. One of those early railways that shaped the city’s future is remembered today along the Monon Trail, which follows a line whose tracks are long gone. It serves as a transportation corridor that stitches together Indianapolis neighborhoods, Carmel, and the northern suburbs of Westfield and Sheridan.
The 23-mile paved path follows a former section of the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway, whose lines formed an X as they crossed in Monon. The railroad adopted the train’s popular nickname, the Monon, as its official name in the 1950s. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad acquired the railroad in 1971, but by 1987 parts of the line were no longer used, including a section that launched the Monon Trail in 1999. The town of Monon itself, located 90 miles northwest of Indianapolis, is not part of the route.
Beginning in Indianapolis, the Monon Trail is undeniably urban. You will travel beneath the ramps of I-70 and I-65, passing residential areas and light industrial zones. The 10th Street trailhead is a block from the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which spans five downtown cultural districts with museums, theaters, shops, and restaurants.
Local artwork along this stretch adds a unique flavor, with pieces ranging from bright community murals to a network of pipes painted on the side of a utility substation. After 2.7 miles, you cross Fall Creek on a bright-red former railroad trestle. In another 0.5 mile you’ll arrive at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, a destination for many via the trail. Beyond the fairgrounds, the route travels along the backyards of suburban Indianapolis through a corridor lined with a ribbon of trees and green space.
At mile 6.2, you reach the gateway to Broad Ripple, a community that practically vibrates with culture, offering eateries, galleries, breweries, and shops.
After crossing two bridges, one over a canal and one over White River (the original bridge collapsed as a train crossed in 1884), the trail meanders through quiet neighborhoods before crossing busy 86th Street. From here, it’s another mile to the trailhead at 96th Street (mile 10.3) and the border of Carmel.
In 3 miles, you’ll see the Palladium, based on a grand 16th-century Italian villa and the focal point of the gardens and theaters of Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts. It’s also where you’ll find a farmers’ market on Saturday mornings in season. In 0.5 mile, you’ll pass the relocated Carmel Monon Depot, built in 1883. The side streets are chock-full of places where travelers can eat, drink, and shop.
A pedestrian bridge over 146th Street (mile 15.7) marks your entrance to the city of Westfield. Here you’ll find a junction with the Midland Trace Trail; many other community trails are also located nearby. Though you’re still not out of the Indianapolis metro area, the trail passes wood lots and farms on the north side of town before it ends just past the Grand Park soccer fields on 191st Street.
The trail terminates in Sheridan near the intersection of Opel and 236th Streets. A small parking lot marks the end of the trail.
On the southern end of the trail in Indianapolis, parking is available in Frank and Judy O’Bannon Old Northside Soccer Park (950 E 16th St.). To reach the park: From I-70 E, take Exit 111 for Washington Street; turn left on Washington. In 0.2 miles, turn right on College Avenue; travel north for 1.5 miles, then turn right on E. 16th Street. After 0.2 miles, you’ll see the park entrance and parking on your right at the Bundy Place intersection; the Monon Trail parallels the east side of the park.
To reach the Broad Ripple trailhead from Interstate 70, take Keystone Way north for 5 miles. Turn left on Broad Ripple Avenue and travel for 1 mile to Winthrop Avenue and turn right. After a quarter mile, turn a left onto 64th Street and then take an immediate right on Cornell Avenue. Parking is available all along the right side of the trail.
To access the 96th Street trailhead in Carmel, take Interstate 465 to US Route 31 (N. Meridian Street), and drive south for a quarter mile. Turn left onto E. 96th Street and continue for 1.25 miles to the trailhead, on the left.
To reach the Westfield trailhead at the northern end of the trail: From US 31 N, take the exit for IN 32 W/Main Street; keep left to get on IN 32 W and continue on the highway for 0.9 miles. Take a left onto Dartown Road and drive 0.1 miles until the short road ends at Quaker Park (17501 Dartown Rd.), which will be on your left. Another trail, the Midland Trace Trail, begins at the parking lot; take that for a half mile to the Monon Trail.
It now ends in Sheridan Indiana about 10 miles north of Westfield. All paved. Great scenery. Trail head in Sheridan is across from the American Legion.
I can't say enough about this trail. My opinion is that this is what most urban rail trails aspire to be. We started in Westfield and rode south toward Indy. On this day we rode down to 49th Street to the Upland Broad Ripple Tasting Room and back. There were a number of things that impressed me about this trail. It crossed a combination of urban and suburban landscapes with just enough surrounding trees and greenery to make one feel that you were riding in a more rural setting. Lots of care has been taken with this trail as there are many quite a few bathrooms and water stations along the trail. Beautiful bridges and underpasses have been created at almost all intersections with a major thoroughfare which maintains the flow of your ride. The route is well signed, though some of map signs are starting to show their age. There are plenty of people biking and walking along the route, though on this Friday morning the trail did not feel crowded. It is also obvious that this trail is an economic engine for the communities along the trail as there were many restaurants, galleries, breweries, and shops. There is great community pride in this trail as evidenced by an abundance of local art works that can be seen and enjoyed along the trail.
We rode the trail from down-town Indianapolis north to Westfield. You have to piece together the path from the intersection with Midland Trace up to the soccer fields (it is basically an oversized sidewalk that follows the roadway). We jumped on lightly traveled country roads at the soccer fields and picked up the trail into Sheridan. The portion into Sheridan was lovely and shaded. Can't wait for them to finish the portion that connects the two sections. It will be a great ride.
I rode from downtown Indy to Westfield. There were water stations and bathrooms all along the trail and a lot of shade on the trail from all the trees next too the trail.
This is one great trail! My favorite so far in Indy. Lots of water, bathrooms, people, scenery. I run it every chance I get when I'm in Indy. I live in Lake County and our trails suck compared to the Monon!
My wife and I rode this entire trial on July 23, 2016. This was are first trial of the Rail- Trail Hall of Fame book we got from this website. There are 29 Trials in all. Our goal is to ride all of them in the years to come. We Started this trial from sothern trial point in Indianapolis and rode notrh to westfield. Trial is all paved and in good shape. there is alot of cross streets in sothern part so be carefull. lots of places to eat and shop on the way. So get out ride.
I've ridden the entire length of the Monon Trail and although I like it, I can think of a number of similar trails (Boise River Greenbelt, GAP and 3 Rivers Heritage Trails in Pittsburgh, North Cedar Lake Trail, Grand Rounds and Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis) that are far superior. The problem is the road crossings. It's not just that they exist, but that they're very poorly designed. Take 86th Street, for example. It requires you to detour east to an intersection to cross this busy arterial. I understand budgetary constraints, but at the very least a dedicated signaled crosswalk seems appropriate here. It just feels wrong, as if no cyclists were consulted in the design. Lately, crime has been a bit of a problem along the Monon as well. If you live in Indy, this is a fine resource and, as the description states, a potential transportation corridor. That's good. With a few design improvements, it could be much better. If you're from out of town, there are other trails I'd travel to before the Monon.
My husband and I are 69 and, after some research, decided to visit Indianapolis in July for a 4 day bicycling mini-vacation. We left on a Wednesday morning and arrived around 1:00 at the downtown Courtyard Marriott. We enjoy casual, recreational biking, and not going much beyond 20 miles roundtrip. Indianapolis was a perfect destination! The hotel had valet parking, which we appreciated! Day one: The person at the hotel desk gave us bicycle maps and told us how to get to the Monan Trail, since we decided to go from Indianapolis to Broad Ripple that first day. We were to take the Cultural Trail through the downtown to get to the Monan. The Cultural Trail is amazing – It is a bricked trail dedicated to bicyclists, much of the time next to a sidewalk for pedestrians and totally separated from car traffic throughout the downtown area. All we had to do to get to it was cross the street! I have to admit, we got lost, but eventually found our way to the beginning of the Monan. The first part of that trail went through some industrial areas, that seemed somewhat “sketchy”, but it was sunny, there were other people along the way, and we felt safe. There is not a whole lot of shade in this area, so it was hot. We had an early dinner in Broad Ripple at a little pub, explored the area for a bit, and headed back. Total (included getting somewhat lost!) : just under 20 miles. After storing the bikes behind the front desk of the hotel, we cleaned up and rested a bit, and headed across the street to walk around the canal district. Beautiful area! A walking/biking trail goes around the whole area. Gondolas and pedal boats were going up and down the canal. Museums line the canal. We listened to a free concert and had a snack at an eating place along the way! Day two: We decided to explore downtown Indianapolis in more depth. We rode the entire Cultural Trail and found out how easy it should have been to find the Monan yesterday! We stopped and took pictures at several landmarks and public buildings. We stopped at the City Market, and walked around the stalls of food. We went inside Circle Center Mall, a shopping center with all your typical stores in the middle of the downtown. Then we rode along the canal district, which did not seem too crowded on a Thursday afternoon. As we rode by the Indiana History Center, we saw that it was free admission on Thursday, so we went in for a short visit. We only got in about 13 miles total on day two and went back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner in Zionsville at a restaurant we had heard about called the Salty Cowboy - great restaurant, cute town! That night we walked over to the Canal District to listen to a free concert in front of the Indiana History Center. We sat on the hillside across the canal from the venue and thoroughly enjoyed the music and watching people dancing along the canal! Day three: We put our bikes back on the car and traveled to Broad Ripple to continue on the Monan Trail and get to Carmel! This ride was almost totally through shaded areas – so nice for another hot day! Carmel is an upscale, beautiful area, with restaurants along the bike trail. If we go back, we would stop at Bubb's Burgers for a meal! Lots of fun statues on the trail, including a police officer directing traffic, a man helping a child ride a bike, and more. We would have explored longer, but it looked like we might be getting rain, so we headed back. About 18 miles round trip. We spent that evening with a relative... Day four: We got a late check-out time of 1:00, so we had time in the morning for some more exploring. We decided to take the Skywalk in the hotel to go to the center of downtown and have breakfast. The Indianapolis Skywalk goes all over the city, between hotels, to the Lucas Oil Stadium, to the City Center Mall, and more. It was pretty deserted, but it was interesting to follow. We came out at City Center Mall and ate breakfast outside at Cafe Patachou. We then walked the rest of the way back to our hotel, got our bikes and went back near the Canal area, but this time went towards the Indianapolis Zoo. So glad we didn't miss this area! We were able to ride via bike trail almost all the way around the zoo. We also discovered another connecting trail – the White River Trail. We turned back after a short time, but enjoyed the scenic ride along the river. Then we went on the other side of the zoo and rode on the White River Promenade quite a distance, a trail separated from the zoo by huge boulders stacked along the path. Beautiful! Total ride about 15 miles. Synopsis of why we loved Indianapolis for biking: 1. Trails were almost totally flat 2. Crossings were mostly easily done – crossing buttons at most of them, to stop traffic; drivers were used to bicyclists and stopped for you at crossing areas whether there was a button or not 3. Trails connected to almost everything and connected to other trails in the area. 4. We stayed right across from the Cultural Trail and had easy access. 5. It felt VERY safe. 6. It was VERY clean. 7. Lots to see and do.
The trail connects with several other trails, but remains the main urban corridor north/south highlights being downtown Indy, Broadripple, Carmel, and Westfield is coming along. Only thing to consider is the section between Broadripple and downtown Indy is a little risky for loners. During weekends and holidays the Carmel area will be packed as the Monon is both the main path to the weekend market and most of the bars, etc. in one of the fastest growing areas in the USA.
When you're on it you'll question where all the people came from as the trail heads are not that full, but there are many cross trails that connect the Monon from housing developments and in Carmel the Monon Center located inside Central Park has it's own network of trails connecting housing areas, nature preserves, water parks, etc.
Recommendation would be to stay in Carmel's hospitality corridor along the south end for easy access to the Monon and the many bike rentals if needed.
I remember listening to the train whistle late at night growing up in Nora just minutes from the tracks. As a boy, I dreamed of travelling along the rail. I remember watching the trains pass from a classroom window at Northview Jr. High School.
Years later, returning home for visits, it has been a dream come true to bike along the trail. I've ridden the entire length many times, alone and with my kids.
I have been riding the Monon ever since it opened. Every few years another section gets opened. Now the Monon is paved all the way to Hwy 32. Westfield has installed a parking lot at the Trail Head. That makes the trail a few miles longer than the guide books show. Nice ride. It is all uphill on a shallow grade from Broadripple, which makes it nice on the way back. The cars are mostly learning to give way, but you still need to be careful. Best time to ride is weekdays when everyone is at work.
On Saturday, Carmel has it's Farmer's Market right next to the trail. Don't even think about going fast through Carmel on Saturdays.
Plans are in the works for a bridge over Highway 32 and extending the trail all the way to Kokomo.
Outstanding trail, rode from Broad Ripple north via the Central Canal. Great experience, will do it again soon.
Excellent bike trail with the usual problems of crossings streets BUT in most cases the cars yielded to me while crossing. There was a section near town that was not in a very good neighborhood but it seemed ok . I would not ride there near dusk without Conceal Carry . The trail was busy , but it was a Saturday and we had no problems. I have a bell and a horn to notify walkers of my impending arrival. As usual they are either oblivious or have their radios too loud so they don't hear me. . I rode from Broad Ripple to 16th street and then over to Talbot Street . 16th street was the wrong street to use and was advised that 17th was better. Excellent urban biking trail
Rode from 96th to the red bridge south of the fair grounds. Great in parts like the bridges going over the rivers but also have to ride through BroadRipple (many groups of people walking slowly). The upside side of riding through that area are all the neat shops and places to eat. Quite a few stops at cross roads as well. Neat path tho!
This past weekend our family of four (10 to 48 yrs old) jumped on our bikes for a 2 night trip to downtown Indianapolis. We rode from our home in Westfield Friday night, made multiple stops at ice cream shops and markets along the way and arrived at our downtown hotel later Friday evening. (Note: very friendly people all along the trail and the occasional patrol car for the added security) Dinner downtown Friday and Saturday night, trips to NCAA Hall of Champions, rides around the canal on a double sourey (four seater bike)and an evening show at Cirque du Soleil made for a great visit downtown. The downtown Cultural Trail now makes it very easy to maneuver around downtown. And the hotel held our bikes for us all weekend at no charge, as well. Then we capped off the trip with a leisurely ride home with more market and ice cream stops along the way. We highly recommend jumping on your bikes to tour Indianapolis and all points along these great trail systems.
My wife and I rode this trail on May 5, 2014. We started in Carmel and rode south. There are too many busy cross streets. It seemed like every mile or less there was a cross street in which you either had to wait for a traffic light to cross or wait for traffic to clear. The trail is well maintained and the trailhead parking (96th street) was very good. But to stop so often took the joy out of the ride.
Fantastic trail, beautiful ride
Not too busy and very enjoyable
Enjoyed thoroughly. This trail has wooded areas to trail side dinning, bike store, water park and life size sculptures and more. Lot's of friendly bikers and runners too.
I rented a bike at Bicycle Garage Indy. From 86th St. I rode both directions. I felt like I was driving a train through a canopy of trees at times. People and motorist were very polite. The trial was clean and there were some bicycle bridges over busy streets and waterways. Parts were crowded, such as a small jazz festival in Carmel, but with people outside, active and having fun it was all good.
This is the best trail I have ridden. Great bridges, tunnels, and varied scenery. Busy on the weekends.
The trail is great,we did find it difficult to find the trailhead. Our GPS was no help. We did find it on Greyhound Pass 3 blocks East of Oakridge ave. Was very impressed with the beauty and care that went into the trail flowers etc.
I have done the entire length of the Monon with the exception of the new extention to Westfield and here are my thoughts about it. Starting at the north end is typical suburban terrain, nice homes interspersed with farmland, very scenic. Getting into the area around Carmel where it gets busier and having more to offer such as eateries and shopping. A nice touch I liked a lot. Further south there are activities such as parks and recreational areas. Another plus I liked. Then down around 38th street there is a four or six lane dangerous crossing with heavy traffic and on below that industrial and blighted area that I did not feel comfortable going through. I made it all the way to the interstate which is the southern most end of the trail. There have been problems down this far with robberies and after reading about the need for increased surveilance and patrols I won't be going here again without protection. Overall a very nice trail I will use whenever I get the chance.
If you ride the Monon, you have two choices: you can ride the north end near Carmel where it is crowded, or you can ride on the other side of town where it is blighted. The closer you go to the city the more streets you cross, the more unsafe you feel, and the less bikers you see. The trail itself is in excellent condition, and the riders are considerate, but there are many crossings and cars were inconsiderate. My advice: ride north, fight the crowds, but enjoy a safe, scenic ride. This trail is a 3, tops.
I've lived in Indy for 5 years now, and love taking the Monon from my downtown apartment up to the Indianapolis city limits. I keep meaning to make it past that, but with stops at Broad Ripple about half way, it always manages to be a whole morning already! The trail DOES go through the inner-city, but it is all very well lit, and I have never felt unsafe when riding. You just have to be smart, aware, and just as polite as usual. :-)
My husband and I rode this trail Thurs Aug 26. Although the trail was busy in places, it is wide enough to acommodate heavy traffic without feeling crowded. Also, a big thumbs up for the people who live there and use this trail. No one throws garbage down, everyone was extremely polite, kept their dogs leashed, and understood trail etiquette. The trail itself was wonderful--well maintained and well marked for road crossings and a few spur trails. It is in tree cover with filtered sun 3/4 of the time with the rest being full sun. Several parks, tunnels, bridges, creeks and woodlands will enhance your ride. We parked in Carmel and rode South toward Indy. We had been warned that it could be dangerous going further than Broad Ripple, but there were plenty of other bikers and it felt ok until just south of the fairgrounds. The bike traffic had thinned to hardly anyone and the surroundings were getting very run down looking. We turned back at that point and calculated we only skipped the last mile or so which we made up off of one of the spur trails later. There are plenty of restrooms and eating places along the way. We had lunch at Bub's Burgers and it was great. I tried an elk burger which was supposed to be much leaner and healthier. Tasted like beef to me. The burgers run large so be careful. The 1/4 lb one was huge. Be sure to try the waffle fries. They are lightly dusted with a slightly spicy cornmeal. Different and very tasty. We purchased our bikes in March and have over 800 miles on them. This was undoubtedly the best 35 miles we have done to date. We live just outside of Louisville and had a 2 1/2 hour drive to get there. It was so worth it and we will be returning soon. I think we will compare all future trails to the Monon and it will be hard to beat.
This is my second visit to the Monon. I started at the 96th St. parking area and rode north towards Carmel. I really enjoyed the numerous long stretches of shaded trail, especially welcome on a hot August day! I noticed two new tunnels, complete with lights and security observation. There were ample restroom facilities, in addition to the local eateries adjacent to the trail. The town of Carmel is just delightful with many residential buildings adjacent to the trail. What a great benefit! The two statues on the trail in Carmel are so life-like! I rode to the end of the trail, a section closed to construction, a total of 6.68 miles from 96th St. I was impressed with the signage along the trail, including the RTC Hall of Fame Trail. What really impressed me was that I did not see a single piece of litter at all on the trail! How do they accomplish this? Unfortunately, litter has become commonplace on the other rail trails that I ride. The only negative observation I have is that none of the other bikers I encountered on the trail today used any type of warning when overtaking pedestrians or other bikers. I thought this is just good bike etiquette. Overall, the Monon is a top notch trail, and one I will ride again.
The new section from 146th street in Carmel to 161st in Westfield is partially complete. A new paved section extending 2 plus miles north available as of March 2009.
Visited Indy several times a few years with my hybrid bike. Found the trail system there to be the best imaginable. The MOMON was only one of many bike routes in Indy. Truly one of the highlights of my life.
"My friends and I spend endless hours on this trail.... There is no better place to meet friends than the ""half circles"" in Broadripple.... Where the canal path and monon meet...
If you like to people watch this is the spot as well "
The abandoned Monon railroad was a peaceful quiet place. Runners and cyclists talk very loud. The trail disturbs the peace we once had.
"In college I did an independent study course about rails to trails and used the Monon as my main inspiration. That was in '98, the trail was still in its infancy, and I was not even into biking. In the past year I have really gotten into riding rails-to-trails. Finally this past Independence day weekend I got my chance to ride the mighty Monon. Although it was a four hour drive from my home, the trip was well worth it. At 10 years old the Monon has become a classic rail to trail. It contains all the aspects of a great rail trail: paved surface (in great shape), small destination towns along the trek, beautiful bridges, neighboring land owners that connect to the trail, shops/restaurants, and connections civic attractions (fairgrounds, Central Park, downtown Indy). I'd recommend starting in the middle of the trail at broad ripple. From here you also have quick access to the Canal Tow Path which starts in broad ripple too. North from b.r. to north Carmel is a wonderful ride. Very crowded.
Overall I am extremely impressed with this trail. Indy residents need to keep funding this trail for future extenstions! Dont let your jewel get tarnished."
"I enjoyed every bit of running I did on this trail. I would have liked to have ridden my bike but unfortunately I didn’t bring it. People are friendly, the trail is clean, the landscaping is nice and there's easy access to nearby shops.
I would recommend early morning or early evening because of trail traffic. It's very scenic along the way but be careful on cross roads in the Broad Ripple area."
"The new extension past Carmel is great. I haven't skated south of Broad Ripple, but from Broad Ripple north there is really only one boring section (86-91st). The rest of trail is pleasant and FAST!. Nice wide trails and not overly crowded.
For out of towners, this trail is worth the trip. "
"When I was a kid growing up at 84th and College Ave in Nora, I would listen to the freight trains on the Monon as they passed through my neighborhood late at night, wondering where it came from and where it was going on its long journey. Now whenever I get back home I can ride it at my leisure and see my childhood world from a perspective that once I could only dream about! What a wonderful use of the old right of way! I love it!"
"This was the first rails to trail that we'd ever been on, and it was so nice. It's also been expanded up to 146th St. Very enjoyable bike ride. It was busy, but everyone was very considerate. You could go at whatever pace you wanted to, whether slow or fast, walkers or runners or bikers. Great way to people watch!! "
"The Monon is very busy. It is used by walkers, runners, bikers, in-line skaters, etc. In fact it is so busy I prefer the canal tow path that takes off from the Monon in Broadripple and runs all the way downtown to the NCAA plaza and Art Garden at the zoo."
"I am a hard core runner, this is a nice wide trail, but it seems very busy at all times. This trail can be more crowded than the I-465 loop freeway, only without the cars."
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