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The Pumpkinvine Nature Trail covers just over 17 miles between the towns of Goshen, Middlebury, and Shipshewana. The railroad line between Goshen and Middlebury served as a popular passenger and mail service route at the turn of the 20th century. Because of its numerous curves and turns, the railroad received its “pumpkin vine” nickname. All service on the line ended in 1980, and the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail acquired the corridor in 1993.
This premier rail-trail offers an incredible scenic landscape and a step back in time with sights from Indiana’s large Amish communities in Goshen, Middlebury, and Shipshewana. Glimpses of Amish people tending fields with horse-drawn plows, hand-cutting fields of flowers, biking down the trail in old-fashioned clothing, and riding in buggies offer a unique experience. The trail itself is well maintained and includes mile markers. The route is paved, with the exception of a short section of crushed limestone on the leg between Goshen and Middlebury.
The path begins in downtown Goshen, close to the existing active rail line, and seamlessly connects at North Fifth Street to Wilden Avenue Trail, which runs west 3.2 miles and connects to the MapleHeart Trail, which goes all the way into Elkhart.
As you head east out of Goshen, interpretive signage explains the railroad history of the area through which you’re traveling. A restored railroad viaduct carries you across a small creek and into a quaint neighborhood. A second bridge, equally well preserved, is a short distance ahead. After the trail crosses IN 4 at a crosswalk, it immediately rolls into a wooded area on its way to Abshire Park, which makes for a nice rest area. When the path crosses IN 4 again, the surface changes to hard-packed crushed limestone for 1.75 miles to County Road 28.
At milepost 5, from CR 33 stretching to CR 35, there is a 1.7-mile on-road segment. This hilly stretch of road has limited vehicular traffic. The remaining miles toward Middlebury are beautiful, enveloped in a thick forest of maple and oak trees. More than 30 species of wildflowers bloom along the trail in spring.
In Middlebury, the route runs north through a tunnel under US 20 and runs behind businesses along Main Street as it approaches spectacular Krider World’s Fair Garden, a replica of a world’s fair exhibit that ran 1933–1934. This lovely trailhead includes a pavilion and picnic tables, bike rack, and signage. Leaving the gardens, you pass over a 160-foot wooden trestle across the Little Elkhart River before reaching Main Street, where you cross the road and follow the sidewalk north (left) for a short while to reconnect with the trail on your right.
In Middlebury, travelers can also connect to either the Ridge Run Trail or the Wayne Avenue Trail to reach a popular attraction called the Das Dutchman Essenhaus, which has an Amish-style inn, restaurant, and shops.
The remaining 5 miles of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail to Shipshewana can only be described as breathtaking. You’ll enjoy the wooded tree canopy with glimpses of farms beyond; horses are nose to nose with you along the trail, and rustic barns complement the scenery. This remarkable experience is one for the bucket list.
Extend your stay and visit one of the Midwest’s largest auctions and flea markets in Shipshewana, open May through September.
To access the Goshen trailhead from I-80, take Exit 96, and head south on County Road 17. In 8.7 miles turn right to stay on CR 17, go 0.2 mile, and turn right onto CR 45, which becomes W. Wilden Ave. In 2.6 miles turn right onto N. Fifth St. Go 0.4 mile to reach the trailhead just after crossing Crescent St.
To access the Middlebury trailhead at Krider World’s Fair Garden, from I-90 take Exit 107, and head south on IN 13. Go 5.3 miles, and turn right onto Pleasant St. Go 600 yards and turn right onto Bristol Ave. Take an immediate right onto the access road to the parking lot for Krider World’s Fair Garden.
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