About this Itinerary
Spanning 62 miles, the Cardinal Greenway is Indiana’s longest paved bike trail and provides a beautiful and serene ride over rolling hills through farmland, countryside and small towns. The route follows a former rail line and takes its name from the last passenger train that provided regular service on this route, the Cardinal. Thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers, this is a very well-maintained trail and makes for a pleasurable way to immerse oneself in the stunning Indiana landscape.
Home of Ball State University and Garfield creator, Jim Davis, the town of Muncie, Indiana, is the base for our itinerary. The town was extremely prosperous in the late 19th century due to the Indiana Gas Boom, which along with active drilling and production of natural gas in the area, brought a lot of industry to town. Among these were the Ball brothers, who moved their glass manufacturing business from Buffalo to Muncie in the 1880s. The family had a significant influence on the development of the city both economically and philanthropically with the creation of the university named after them.
Unfortunately, the boom years only lasted to the early part of the 20th century, but during that time a number of architecturally significant homes were built that are now part of several historical districts and include examples of Italianate, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, Second Empire, Beaux Arts, Prairie and Craftsman-style homes. Some of these buildings have not survived the ravages of time, but the city is actively working to try to restore as many of these national treasures as resources allow. In later years, Muncie became well known as the site of Middletown, the ‘typical Mid-American community’ that became the focus of several sociological studies dealing with social change.
In Muncie, stay at The Mansion at Shaffer Gardens. Situated on 30 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, this elegant property provides a welcoming and relaxing escape. The home features 22,000 square feet with seven guest rooms, each individually decorated and with a private bath and a Jacuzzi tub. Guests will enjoy wandering the property’s walking trails, relaxing in the common spaces and lingering over a hot gourmet breakfast each morning. If you are unable to reserve a room at this B&B, another option in Muncie is the always reliable Hampton Inn.
The Cardinal Greenway begins north in Marion and travels about nine miles to Gas City before breaking for 15 miles and resuming in Gaston where it then travels continuously for 53 miles before ending in Richmond. For this itinerary, we will break the ride up in to three leisurely days. On day one, this itinerary covers 55 miles roundtrip; day two covers 48 miles roundtrip; and day three covers the northernmost section that is only 18 miles roundtrip. The trail has several trailheads along its route and all have restrooms and water fountains. As always, bike with full water bottles, but know that refills are available on the trail, and around towns there are trailside adjacent businesses from which to purchase food.
Bike rentals are not available in Muncie. Trail riders can, however, borrow a bike though a program called Cardinal Greenways’ Community Cruiser Program. Cruiser bikes are available at the Wysor Street Depot trailhead along the Cardinal Greenway (700 East Wysor Street) on weekdays between 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and between 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on summer weekends. The loaner bikes come with a bottle holder and a lock, and baskets are available. Be sure to bring your own bike helmet and call 765-287-0399 to check availability. Another option is just north of Richmond in the town of Webster. Located trailside, the Bar-B-Que King rents cruiser and mountain bikes. Call ahead to confirm hours and availability as bike rentals are limited. In Richmond, The Cycling and Fitness Warehouse also rents bicycles. They offer 25 bikes on a first-come first-served basis, but do accept pre-paid reservations.
After a hearty breakfast, bike the flat 2.5 miles to the Cardinal Greenway. To reach the trail from The Mansion at Shaffer Gardens, head south on N. Shaffer Road and take a right on W. County Road 500 N/W Royerton Road. Follow this for about two miles and look for the trail intersection. Head north on to the Cardinal Greenway. If driving to pick up a loaner bike, to reach the Wysor Street Depot, head south on N. Shaffer Road and turn left on N. County Road 500 N/W Royerton Road. After a mile, turn right on N. Walnut Street and follow this for 4.5 miles before turning left on E. Wysor. The depot will be on your left. To follow this itinerary, head north from the depot along the Cardinal Greenway.
Heading north, from the intersection with W. Roberto Road, it is only five miles to the end of the trail in Gaston. We are including this portion so that riders can get a full experience of the Cardinal Greenway, but this section can easily be omitted to shorten the distance. Along this route you can expect a flat, wide open country landscape. There is little shade, so be prepared with sunscreen and lots of liquids. At the end of the trail in Gaston, if you need a cool drink or food, The Mills Street Inn is located close to the trail and offers sandwiches, salads, pizza and homemade pie. To reach it, head east on W. Elm Street and turn right at the intersection with Main Street (or turn at the trailhead parking lot and take a right on W. Mill Street. Restrooms and a water fountain are located at the trailhead parking lot.
Back on the trail, head south towards Muncie. Along most of the Cardinal Greenway you can expect few crowds; however, around downtown Muncie you will have more company. In town, be sure to stop at the Wysor Street Depot. This restored depot was originally built in 1901 by the Cincinnati, Richmond, and Muncie Railroad, and used for passenger service throughout the 20th century. Today it is the visitor center for the Cardinal Greenway and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside is an interesting display of photographs and artifacts depicting the region’s history, especially as it pertains to the railroad. Also inside you will find a gift shop with t-shirts and other items that make perfect mementos from your ride and help support the trail.
Continue south and find two trailside businesses that offer quick lunch options. Hunnicutt’s Dairy Bar is located two blocks off the trail (take a left on E. Willard Street) and the 12th Street Cafe is located slightly further along, a half a block off the trail (turn right at E. Memorial Drive). Both restaurants serve sandwiches, burgers and other lunch items. Hunnicutt’s is also known as having some of the best sundaes and milkshakes in town.
After a stretch following US-35, the trail returns to a more rural setting including passing a nature preserve. You will notice along the trail rocks showing decreasing mileage. These markers show the mileage to Cincinnati, the original destination of the railroad. Further along, you will find Mt. Pleasant Grocery, located about a half mile off the trail (turn left on S 419 E. Road). Enjoy the tranquil Indiana countryside as you bike along to our final destination for the day, Losantville. At the trailhead, refill water bottles before turning around and heading north on the trail.
On the way back, if you still have energy, take a detour and travel along the White River through Muncie on the White River Greenway. The trail intersects with the Cardinal Greenway just north of the Wysor Street Depot (you will have passed it on the way south). At this intersection, you can head either east or west. West will take you through Muncie and along the river following a narrow greenway between the river and urban neighborhoods. The total length of the trail is 5.6 miles.
Retrace your route and return to The Mansion via W. County Road 500 N/W Royerton Road. Spend the remainder of the day relaxing and exploring the grounds at your beautiful B&B.
For dinner, there are a number of casual restaurants serving a variety of cuisines in Muncie. Popular restaurants include Damask Cafe, featuring a wide variety of Mediterranean dishes such as humus, spanakopita and lamb kebabs; Sitara, serving Indian classics such as chicken tandoori, lamb vindaloo, samosas and tikka masala; and Amazing Joe’s Grill, which has an extensive menu including steak, fish and salads.
After breakfast at The Mansion, drive 25 miles to the Losantville trailhead, where you ended your journey yesterday. To reach it, take a left on N. County Road 500 N/W Royerton Road and then a right on IN-3 and on to US-35 S. Take a left on S. Main Street in Losantville and look for the trailhead.
Bike south on the Cardinal Greenway through beautiful Indiana countryside to Richmond. Along the way, pass through the small towns of Economy, Williamsburg and Webster. These towns do have trailheads with restrooms and water fountains; however the only trailside business is the Bar-B-Que King in Webster. This trailside stand is more a smoker with several picnic tables, but does serve barbecue that is popular with locals. As noted above, this business also has a number of bicycle rentals available.
In downtown Richmond, a block-long section of the trail is on-road. Riding parallel to East-Fork Whitewater River, follow S. 1st Street to where the trail ends and pick up the trail again before crossing the river. The trail ends a little further along. As you return through Richmond, turn at D Street Trailhead Park to reach several restaurants that serve lunch. Follow N. D Street and take a left and then a right to stay on N. D Street. This is the Historic Depot District of Richmond and features 19th century commercial buildings that now hold some of the most interesting restaurants and shops in town. Turn left on Fort Wayne Avenue to reach Little Sheba’s and Roscoe’s Coffee Bar and Tap Room, or continue farther along to the corner of N. D Street and N. 8th Street to find Firehouse BBQ and Blues. All are good options for a tasty sandwich, burger, or salad, and a cold drink. After refueling and filling water bottles, head north on the trail to the Losantville trailhead.
Today is the shortest day of riding as we will be covering only the remaining nine miles (18 roundtrip) from Gas City through Marion. To make the ride a little longer, an additional three miles of paved trail that takes you in to the town of Sweetser is also included. To reach the trailhead in Gas City, drive 22 miles from The Mansion. Follow US-35 E to I-69N and take exit 259 to IN-22 W/US-35. At N. Main Street, turn right and double back on IN-22/US-35 to find the parking lot and trailhead. The trail actually starts several blocks south, but this is the closest parking lot. Head north (or ride the few blocks to the south to get the full trail ride in) and head toward Marion.
Marion is home to Indiana Wesleyan University and is famous for being the birthplace of actor James Dean. In Marion, the trail travels through town and is popular with locals as it links many different neighborhoods. Travel through a mostly residential area of the town before reaching the Cardinal Greenway’s northern terminus at N. 400 W. Located across the street, find the entrance to the Sweetser Switch Trail, which travels through the neighboring town of Sweetser. The trail ends just outside of town. On your return, stop for lunch at Sweetser Cafe or Weaver’s Main Street Grill, both located trailside at the intersection with S. Main Street. Both are small local restaurants that serve a variety of sandwiches and salads. Enjoy a filling lunch before returning riding back to Gas City.
Time should allow for exploring more of Muncie and the surrounding communities today. Visit the extensive grounds and buildings that are part of Minnetrista. Named after the home built by influential Muncie businessman F.C. Ball, it means ‘a gathering place by the water.’ Minnetrista includes more than 40 acres of gardens and grounds, a museum chronicling the history of East Central Indiana and a historical home where the Bells lived. Numerous events take place on the grounds, including a twice-a-week farmer’s market (during the summer) and Summer Stage Fest, which features live music by local musicians.
Tour the galleries of the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University. The museum’s collection holds more than 11,000 pieces including many paintings, sculptures and photographs by American and European artists. The recently expanded collection also includes many works from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands. In addition, the museum hosts a number of special exhibits during the year.
In nearby Millville, visit the Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum. Take an organized or self-guided tour to learn what life was like on the Wright farm in the 1860s and, through video and exhibits, discover how the brothers lived and worked at Kitty Hawk. Stroll through a reproduction of a 1903 street and gain a better appreciation of the remarkable feat the brothers accomplished and the challenges they faced.