Hoosier solitude at its finest
I started at the new southernmost point, just north of Chrysler plant at 931 and 35. What a lovely 40-mile day! Rode to Peru and wandered through town to the Lovers Lane trailhead (you have to look closely for the road markings, but they are there) and then headed back to town for a little time in the Miami Co. Museum and a burger at Gabriels. The whole experience was just central Indiana in a nutshell. Beautiful views of barns and crops, small critters and birds everywhere, small towns, and a "big town" experience with Peru. Particularly idyllic was the last 2 miles into Peru along a chattering Little Pipe Creek. If you are looking for crowds, social life, and buildings, head for the Monon. If you are looking for solitude and country, head to the Nickle Plate. I can't wait to get back up there and do the northern half.
Nice Trail, Despite Poor Parking and Amenities
The trail itself from end to end is a very enjoyable ride. The rises are gradual and easy to manage. The pavement is smooth, with just a few minor issues to navigate around. While riding today, we saw a variety of wildlife ranging from a deer, tons of playful chipmunks, several groundhogs, and many different colorful birds.
Our only complaints about the trail which prevents us from rating it as a 5-star trail, is the lack of restrooms along the trail, the poor parking conditions at many of the trail-heads, and the fact that signage leading to the trail from area highways is nonexistent.
We will definitely be back to ride this trail as it is still worth the ride despite the lack of amenities.
Southern Portion - Watch for Woodchucks
Started from the Southern Mile 13.7, I believe. I biked across a really nice route. The trail was clean and well-marked and I could just cruise! Because I had just quite smoking, it was nice to just zone out, until stop signs came. A fair bit of traffic, about a person every mile. Easily navigated.
I read some people declaring this one big hill. I thought it was a perfect flat ride with a couple dinkers. Really nice bridges. The south Wabash Bridge is really cool. It was interesting to see the retrofitting of it. Looks like they kept the tracks to act as "longitudinal reinforcement" of the concrete.
I got a bit lost when looking for the northern portion. Granted, I didn't look at the map very well and I had no service in Peru (Verizon). So I just rode around town, saw some nice stores.
On my way back, it was 630pm, I was tired, but enthusiastic. I saw many species of bird: finch, blue jay, woodpecker (technically heard him). About 5 woodchucks dive-bombed me over about 6 miles. One played varsity ball, apparently, because he went straight for my ankles. It was an experience. I'll be going back for the northern route!
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!