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The Big 4 Rail Trail will one day stretch 50-plus miles across Boone County, from the northern suburbs of Indianapolis to Lafayette. The Big 4 in the trail name refers to the old Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway corridor. It could just as easily refer to the four communities pushing this long-term project: Zionsville, Whitestown, Lebanon, and Thorntown. The description here details the portion of this regional network that runs through Zionsville, which was formerly known as the Zionsville Rail Trail. Another 9.5 miles of the Big 4 Rail Trail are open to the northwest between Lebanon and Thorntown.
A number of railroads operated trains on those tracks, starting with the Lafayette and Indianapolis Railroad in 1850 and ending with Conrail in 1976. The tracks carried newly elected President Abraham Lincoln through this area in 1861 and carried his body home four years later. The “Big 4” Railroad operated the longest period, 1889–1930. Zionsville installed a trail along the corridor in the 1990s.
At the south end of the path, you’ll begin your adventure on a bridge 60 feet above Eagle Creek. A side trip down a boardwalk to the floodplain leads to paths in Starkey Nature Park. The first 0.8-mile stretch of the trail, known as the Nancy Burton Corridor, travels through woods on a hard-packed limestone surface. The last 1.5-mile section is known as the Dave Brown Corridor.
At 0.6 mile turn right onto a short path and take residential streets for a visit into downtown Zionsville. Founded in 1852, the town draws tourists to its brick-paved Main Street, where you’ll see a progression of architectural styles from previous eras. Dining and shopping are popular pursuits, and the town offers a full calendar of events.
The trail emerges from the woods onto asphalt in less than a mile. The route is somewhat unusual in that it passes all the way through town before encountering the first at-grade crossing, located at County Road 875 on the north side of Zionsville. The trail passes beneath all other streets via tunnels as it goes through much of town below street level. Numerous parks in town—including Jennings Field, Carter Station, and Heritage Trail Park, as well as the Rail Trail Gardens Event Center at the north end of the route—have connections to the trail.
To reach parking at the south end of the trail: From I-465, take Exit 27 onto US 421 N toward Zionsville. Go 0.1 mile north on US 421, and turn left onto W. 96th St. Go 2.6 miles and turn right onto Ford Road. Go 1.3 miles and turn right onto Starkey Ave. Go 0.6 mile and look for parking on the left. The trail endpoint is 0.6 mile south.
To reach the northern end of the trail: From I-65, take Exit 133 onto Albert S. White Blvd. Head east 3 miles (the road becomes County Road 400 S), and follow the road as it curves right onto CR 700 E, then left onto CR 425 S. Go 0.5 mile on CR 425 S, and turn left onto Zionsville Road. Follow it as it curves right onto CR 400 S. Go 1.3 miles and turn right into Heritage Trail Park. The park path connects to the trail.
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