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The Nickel Plate Trail traverses rural Indiana from Rochester south to the outskirts of Kokomo, with a short gap in the middle in Peru. The rail-trail runs along the former corridor of the Peru & Indianapolis Railroad chartered in 1846. The line offered passenger and freight service under various names, including the nickname Nickel Plate Road. The last trains ran on the tracks in 1992, and the corridor was railbanked in 1999. Remnants of the railroad can still be seen at the trailhead gazebo in Rochester, where the paved pathway takes off to the south and the unused tracks remain visible to the north.
Beginning in Rochester, the northern segment runs 21 miles through a shifting landscape of trees, cultivated fields, and small-town neighborhoods. The route passes through the communities of Macy, Birmingham, Deedsville, Denver, and Courter before entering the outskirts of Peru, home to the International Circus Hall of Fame, which hosts a Circus City Festival every summer. The segment ends at the small country road Lovers Lane.
The official Nickel Plate Trail website provides a recommended on-road route to connect to the southern section from Lovers Lane. After the gap, the southern section, spanning more than 15 miles, picks up in Peru at Walnut Street, just north of downtown. However, the more convenient way to access the trail is at one of the various parking lots off Main Street, where a trailside gazebo and signage can be seen from the road.
From Main Street heading south along the path, you will immediately cross the trail’s iconic trestle bridge over the Wabash River. The original bridge structure, embellished with bright-blue guardrails, offers scenic views of the river rock formations that comprise the bed of Little Pipe Creek. Historical markers on either side of the bridge share some of the history along this former rail corridor, including a tragic train accident in January 1893 when the train jumped the tracks at the bridge, plunging passengers and crew 30 feet off the bridge into the icy waters below.
From the bridge, the trail passes through the towns of Bunker Hill, Miami, and Cassville, offering a bounty of dense forests, water views, and wildlife. You will 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. Many different species of birds make their homes in these trees. If you’re cross-country skiing here in winter, this path is nothing short of a snowy wonderland.
The trail continues through the forest canopy, passing small farms and rural homesteads that periodically pop into view as it passes through the small farming community of Cassville and ends at a trailhead with parking at the intersection of IN 931 and US 35.
To access the northern trailhead in Rochester: From Indianapolis, take US 31 N approximately 80 miles, and turn right onto Wabash Ave. in Rochester. In 0.5 mile turn left to stay on Wabash, and go another 1.1 miles. The trailhead and parking lot will be immediately on your left just after crossing Mitchell Dr.
To access the southern trailhead in Kokomo: From Indianapolis, take US 31 N approximately 44 miles to Exit 166 for US 35. Bear left onto US 35 and travel 0.8 mile. Turn left into the parking lot as you approach the traffic light at the intersection with IN 931.
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