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The Cardinal Greenway, the longest rail-trail in Indiana, connects Marion, Muncie, Losantville, Richmond and a host of other small towns in rural northeastern Indiana. The trail takes its name from the Cardinal, the passenger train that once regularly ran the route. In 2018, the trail became an inductee into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.
The paved pathway is open from sunrise to sunset, and it’s well maintained and mostly flat for its entire length. The design elements along the path are consistent throughout, with arched steel embellishments on bridge crossings and stone mile markers every 0.5 mile.
Starting just north of Marion, the Cardinal Greenway seamlessly connects to the Sweetser Switch Trail, which heads north, while the Cardinal Greenway runs south back into downtown Marion. For a stretch at the beginning of the Cardinal Greenway into Marion, the path runs adjacent to and then crosses an active Norfolk Southern line as the greenway passes through a flat, rural landscape that highlights industrial and farmland scenery.
Heading southwest out of Marion, you will pass trailheads at Miller Avenue and Hogin Park, both featuring information kiosks 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.
An 11.3-mile gap in the Cardinal Greenway currently exists from Jonesboro to Gaston due to private landowners acquiring the former rail corridor. An on-road route has been designated between the two towns.
Wildflowers flank the Gaston section of the greenway during the spring and summer. As you reach the County Road 400 trailhead, the urban fingers of Muncie start to reach out. An influx of runners, walkers, and in-line 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 historical 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, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which serves as the main office of Cardinal Greenways, Inc.
Heading south from the depot, you will find yourself in the quiet residential neighborhoods of Muncie. Passing under US 35, you will reenter the sun-drenched Indiana countryside, where the trail meanders along the highway through Medford and Blountsville. At the Medford trailhead (County Road 500 South), equestrians can access the 3.5-mile Cardinal Greenway Horse Trail that parallels the paved Cardinal Greenway and extends to South County Road 534 East. The Medford trailhead features a circular gravel lot with hitching rails and room for horse trailers.
The newest section of the Cardinal Greenway runs from Losantville south to Richmond, continually changing from open, sunny stretches to shady sections under a wooded tree canopy. From Losantville to Williamsburg, much of the trail runs adjacent to the road, but your eye is instead drawn to scenic wood bridges and farmlands with rustic barns and silos around every corner. This stretch of the route has light traffic, giving it a remote feeling, and is relatively flat with a slight downhill grade.
From Williamsburg to Richmond the path shows its rail roots with a stretch on an elevated railbed. As you pass through Webster, the trail begins a slight uphill grade through woodlands; this is a good spot for birding. As the greenway approaches the outskirts of Richmond, you will pass under I-70 and through local parks and woodlands. This section of trail is no longer elevated as it makes its way through residential areas.
Along the final mile of the Cardinal Greenway, the trail features a trestle bridge over the East Fork Whitewater River before its official end at the D Street trailhead. From the trailhead, the greenway seamlessly connects to the 3.5-mile Whitewater Gorge Trail, which heads southwest to Test Road. The Whitewater Gorge Trail features geological landmarks, such as vertical cliffs and waterfalls, that are accessible by foot on side paths off the main trail.
This trail is a gateway to the Great American Rail-Trail, a nearly 4,000 mile developing trail that will connect the country from Washington, D.C., to Washington state. Gateway trails represent those iconic trails that make possible the Great American Rail-Trail in each of the states it connects. Learn more at www.greatamericanrailtrail.org
To access the northernmost trailhead just outside of Marion: From I-69, take Exit 264 for IN 18. Head west on IN 18, and go 10.8 miles. Turn left onto County Road 400 W. The trailhead and parking lot for the Sweetser Switch Trail (which serves both the Sweetser Switch Trail and the Cardinal Greenway) will be on your right. Cross the railroad tracks to access the Cardinal Greenway on the opposite side of the street.
To reach the trailhead in Gaston, take I-69 to Exit 255 for IN 26 toward Hartford. Head east on IN 26, and travel 1.5 miles. Turn right onto S. Wheeling Pike. In 3 miles, turn right onto S. CR 900 E, which becomes N. CR 600 W. In 4.9 miles, turn right onto CR 850 N/W. Elm St. In 0.3 mile turn left onto Broad St. to find the trailhead.
To access the southernmost trailhead near Veterans Memorial Park: From I-70, take Exit 149 or 149A, and head south on Williamsburg Pike. In 2.4 miles, turn left onto Richmond Ave. In 0.6 mile, cross the East Fork Whitewater River, and Richmond Ave. becomes N. D St. Go 0.1 mile after crossing the river, and turn right onto N. Fifth St. Immediately turn right onto N. D St. The parking lot is 0.1 mile straight ahead. The trailhead will be on your right and is located just under the Richmond Ave. Bridge.
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