Indiana’s Nickel Plate Trail is currently open in two sections on a former Norfolk Southern rail corridor. The northern segment runs for 20 miles between Rochester in the north and Peru in the south. Coursing through the countryside, the trail passes through the communities of Macy, Birmingham, Deedsville and Denver. Part of the trail is shaded in summer and the landscape is a mix of trees, cultivated fields and small-town neighborhoods. Amenities are available in the towns.
There is a 3.6-mile gap through the town of Peru before the second portion of the Nickel Plate Trail begins. The southern segment is 12.7 miles long and promises a bounty of dense forests, water views and wildlife. The path starts in Peru at Walnut Street on the south side of the railroad tracks. Heading south, it crosses the mighty Wabash River, where you get an excellent view of the rock formations that comprise the bed of Little Pipe Creek.
You will soon find yourself in a forest thick with willows and maple trees. It may seem quiet here in the forest, but you are not alone: deer, rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks are likely to cross your path. Summer foliage creates a canopy over the trail that, in many sections, shields you from the withering sun. A wide variety of bird species make their homes in these trees. If you're cross-country skiing here in winter, this trail is nothing short of a snowy wonderland.
The view on the east side of the trail opens up about 1.5 miles into your trip. Near here, look for an old concrete dam that sits low in the creek bed; it has a lookout platform along the edge of the creek. The dam was originally built to supply water for the steam boilers on the locomotives pulling trains along the tracks. In spring and summer, a lovely flower bed next to the viewing platform flaunts cheerful blooms.
The trail continues through the forest canopy, passing small farms and rural homesteads that periodically pop into view. This segment ends just north of Kokoma in a small farm town next to Chrysler Group.
When complete, the Nickel Plate Trail will be more than 40 miles long. Plans call for extending the trail farther north into Rochester and farther south into Kokomo, as well as for connecting the two trail segments in Peru.
Access and parking is available in all the towns along the way. Park at Lovers Lane north of Peru, at 1st Street in Denver (where the trail crosses the road), in Deedsville at W. 1000 N., in Birmingham at W. 1180 N., in Macy at Walnut Street and south of Rochester at Judy Burton Nature Preserve.
To access the northern trailhead for the southern portion of the trail, take US 31 North to US 31 Business, and follow this for 1.5 miles. Turn right on Ellis Road and drive 0.02 mile. Turn left on SR125 West (Wallick Road). Look for the trailhead, with parking, on the right. This is the preferred access point as it has public parking.
The southern trailhead in Cassville can be accessed via US 31 as well. Heading north, take a right onto County Road E 560 N (Walnut St). Shortly thereafter, take a left onto Washington Street and a right onto County Road E 550 N. The trailhead will be on the left.