The Monon Trail is a colossus in the world of Midwest rail-trails. The trail is attractive and well designed, with an astonishing practicality as an urban transportation corridor. The trail stitches together neighborhoods, recreational facilities, cultural centers and schools between Indianapolis and the northern suburb of Westfield.
Beginning in Indianapolis, at the trail's south end, the Monon is undeniably an urban trail. You will travel beneath the ramps that comprise the intersection of Interstates 70 and 65, passing a mixture of residential areas and light industrial zones. At 10th Street, you can connect to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail that spans five cultural districts in downtown Indianapolis, offering a wealth of museums, theaters, shops, and restaurants.
After 2.7 miles, you come upon the first of this trail's bridges; the fire-engine red, transformed railroad trestle is a true marvel. After crossing a bridge and a couple overpasses, you will arrive at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, an enormous complex with a popular annual fair that many people bike to via the Monon Trail.
Beyond the fairgrounds, the trail travels along the backyards of suburban Indianapolis through a corridor lined with a ribbon of trees and green space. Local artwork placed randomly along this stretch add a unique flavor to this trail, with pieces ranging from bright community murals to a network of pipes painted on the sides of a utility storage building.
At Broad Ripple Avenue (mile 11), you reach the gateway to Broad Ripple, a beautiful village with a bright red bridge. This town practically vibrates with culture, offering many eateries, galleries, breweries and shops—a must-stop destination on your Monon trip.
After crossing two more impressive red bridges, the trail meanders through quiet neighborhoods for another 2.5 miles before crossing busy 86th Street. From here, it is just one short mile to the trailhead at 96th Street, which marks the beginning of the trail's Carmel section. Interstate 465 looms overhead just beyond the trailhead, but soon you again travel past lovely backyards. Some wonderful trailside displays and rest areas—sponsored by local residents and community associations—provide nice spots for respite along the trail.
At 111th Street you reach the Monon Center, a new development with a water park, fitness center, skate park and meeting facilities. The trail then cuts through downtown Carmel, where you may want to take a detour to shop along bustling Main Street. Carmel's section of the Monon ends at 146th Street.
Just across 146th Street is the southern terminus of Westfield's section of the Monon. Currently, the paved section extends 1.5 miles north to 161st Street. The trail is hard-packed limestone for another 1.5 miles to Quaker Park (which has a sprayground for those hot days, as well as restrooms). Westfield will build a total of 8 miles of trail, sections of which will be under construction beginning in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The best access points for the Monon are the Broad Ripple and 96th Street trailheads.
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.