Useful Information and Tips
The Nickel Plate Trail is currently under active construction, so beware that any information is only accurate for the date it was written. We rode it in its entirety early November of 2011. We enjoyed it a lot, particularly since the fall leaves at this time were still colorful. While there are many exposed sections, much of it does have trees on one or both sides of the trail. It has a lot of very nice bridges, and the trail is well-maintained. The path is totally paved from the parking at Wallick Road in Peru to the town of Cassville. As of November 2011, the trail offers many rest areas with a bench and trail map sign, and occasionally a picnic table, but it does not have any trail-provided water sources or restrooms. However, there are mini marts or gas stations at or near Bunker Hill, Bennetts Switch, and Cassville. These can be located on Google Maps. We ate lunch at the gas station in Cassville (on Highway 31), which offered very friendly service, a wide variety of hot food, drinks, snacks, and also had indoor tables.
I checked to see if each of the parking areas designated on the maps from nickelplatetrail.org did exist, and they indeed did, although occasionally it seemed they might have been a bit difficult to find in a car with just the maps provided, without better detail or verbal instructions. Each of these can be located on Google Maps, as it shows the intersection of each street name with the Nickel Plate corridor. Note also that many of the parking areas were very small, including the one on Wallick Road, and could potentially fill quickly on weekends with good weather.
One of the trail maps on nickelplatetrail.org could imply that the trail continues through the city of Peru. This part is still under active construction, and an alternate map on that site does provide a street alternative. However, note that as of November 2011, the mile and a half from the city of Peru north to the Lovers Lane Parking is a narrow dirt path on the old rail corridor with a lot of natural debris such as branches, briars, sticks, etc. in the path. There is also one creek crossing that involves negotiating a short but extremely steep path.
Beautiful trail, close to Indy
My family was pleased to discover this well-maintained, picturesque trail so close to our home near Indianapolis. Just an hour's drive north put us in beautiful farm country, with most of the trail wooded to provide respite from the summer sun. On a Friday afternoon, we started from Cassville trailhead, which was a little tricky to find, and worked our way to just south of Bunker Hill before our six year old's legs gave out. We returned Sunday to the Peru trailhead, only to find no parking. So we back-tracked to the Bunker Hill parking lot and then continued where he had left off. Facilities are not abundant, with no water that we could find and only an occasional, foul-smelling "port-a-potty." So have little ones (and big people) "go" before you start! Traffic was much less than encountered on our local Monon Trail, allowing our six year old to wander more freely and at her own pace. Other users included pedestrians walking their dogs, a couple "intense" bicyclists, but mostly locals enjoying a beautiful summer afternoon on their bicycles. We will definitely return!