The Cardinal Greenway, the longest rail-trail in Indiana, stretches more than 60 miles from Marion to Richmond along a former CSX railroad corridor. The trail takes its name from the Cardinal, the passenger train that once regularly ran the route. The long greenway connects Marion, Muncie, Losantville, Richmond and a host of smaller towns in rural Indiana. Most of the route runs through Indiana countryside that may well have inspired the lyrics to “America the Beautiful”: spacious skies, fruited plains, and amber waves of grain provide much of the backdrop.
In Marion, the Cardinal Greenway links many neighborhoods and provides a non-motorized transportation corridor through the city. Marion takes great pride in its “coolness”, and for good reason: the city was the birthplace of James Dean, star of film classics such as “East of Eden” and “Rebel Without a Cause” before his untimely death at age 24. Depending on your definition of “cool,” another famous Marionite—Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, the lasagna-loving comic strip cat—still remains local, with a studio in Muncie. In fact, the Sweetser Switch Trail, which is directly linked to the Cardinal Greenway just east of the town of Sweetser, features a 4-foot Garfield statue in the downtown area.
From the Cardinal Greenway’s northern endpoint, you continue southwest to trailheads at Miller Avenue and Hogin Park, which both feature an information kiosk and ample parking. After the park, you will cross the first of nine bridges in rapid succession. Once the trail winds its way into Jonesboro, you will cross US 35; the trailhead is on the left. A slight uphill climb takes you to a bridge that overlooks the Mississinewa River. Students who attend school on the far side of the bridge often use this bridge to get there. After the school, it is a mere 0.5 mile to this section of the trail's end at E. 10th Street.
There is currently an 11.3-mile gap in the Cardinal Greenway from Jonesboro to Gaston due to private landowners acquiring the former rail corridor upon abandonment. Fortunately, there are plans in the works to designate a safe on-road route between the two towns.
The Cardinal Greenway resumes in Gaston, where the trail is flanked by wildflowers. As you reach the 400 North trailhead, the urban fingers of Muncie start to reach out. An influx of runners, walkers and inline skaters—many of them students at nearby Ball State University—hit the trail. Farther south, the McCulloch Boulevard trailhead allows for a connection to Muncie’s White River Greenway, which follows the trail's eponymous river. Here, you will also be faced with two bridges: to the right a historic trestle bridge, to the left the bicycle and pedestrian bridge that takes you across the White River. Another 0.3 mile south is the beautifully restored Wysor Street Depot, which now also serves as the main office of Cardinal Greenways, Inc.
Heading south from the depot, you will find yourself in quiet residential neighborhoods of Muncie. Passing under US 35, you will reenter the sun-drenched Indiana countryside, where the trail meanders along the highway. Note that the rocks marking the mileage here show it decreasing; these numbers signify the mileage to Cincinnati, the original destination of the railroad.
The trail next passes through the tiny towns of Medford, Blountsville, Losantville, Economy, Williamsburg and Webster while winding through the rural countryside. If Economy sounds familiar, it's because Stephen King featured the community in his popular novel The Stand.
The final stretch of the Cardinal Greenway begins when the trail enters the larger city of Richmond. This portion runs through downtown Richmond and near playing fields. It also incorporates a curved trestle over the Whitewater River.
To access the Marion trailhead, take SR 18 (West 2nd Street) in Marion and turn south on S. Miller Avenue. The trailhead is located on the left after about 0.25 mile, just beyond the railroad crossing. The Jonesboro trailhead can be accessed from US 35; turn south on S. Lincoln Boulevard and look for the trailhead immediately on the right.
The Gaston trailhead is located in Gaston at the end of Broad Street on the left side. In Muncie, access the trailhead at the depot by taking N. Vine Street across E. Wysor Street and into the depot parking lot.
In Losantville, parking is available at the trailhead on S. Main Street. Parking can also be found north of Richmond off Industries Road. In the heart of Richmond, you can park across from the playing field on Hub Etchinson Parkway or at the intersection of Richmond Avenue and N. 3rd Street. The southern endpoint of the trail offers parking on Test Road.