Big 4 Rail Trail (Zionsville)


Big 4 Rail Trail (Zionsville) Facts

States: Indiana
Counties: Boone
Length: 5.6 miles
Trail end points: Heritage Trail Park off CR 875 East and bridge over Eagle Creek south of Starkey Ave.
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6015377
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Big 4 Rail Trail (Zionsville) Description

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 is open to the northwest between Lebanon and Thorntown.

When greenways are done well, they deftly weave into the fabric of a town and become a material part of people's lives. Zionsville's rail-trail system masterfully exhibits great greenway design: it threads through neighborhoods, tying together schools, parks, and shops. Children use the corridor to travel safely to school and across town, while employees of local business use it for leisurely lunch-hour walks.

The trail's south end in Nancy Burton Memorial Park starts with a dramatic view of Eagle Creek from a bridge over the water 60 feet below. A descent down a mammoth boardwalk brings you to Starkey Nature Park and an extensive system of walking trails in the Eagle Creek floodplain. This system is not a part of the rail-trail, but it makes a nice side trip. This southern mile of the trail, known as the Nancy Burton Corridor, was built atop a massive embankment and travels northwest deep into old-growth woods. The hard-packed limestone surface makes for easy walking and biking, and there are plenty of pleasant picnic spots, including on the bridge over Eagle Creek. In the winter, cross-country skiers flock to this corridor.

Leaving the park and the tree cover that has dominated the landscape, the trail goes through a couple of tunnels underneath city streets, and the surface changes to asphalt for the remaining 2.5 miles. As it continues north and west, the trail progresses from a rural setting into a small town ambiance, passing under bridges and beneath roadways and curving past churches and the town hall. A mere 0.5 mile east of the trail at W. Oak Street is the brick-street downtown area of Zionsville, with its immaculately preserved 19th century village.

For a short stretch, just past the tunnel under W. Oak Street, you briefly depart from the old rail corridor, but the trail quickly picks it up again. At this point the rail-trail is below street level, almost tunneling through the surrounding neighborhoods. Connecting trails drop down from the streets above. This northernmost section of trail from Mulberry Street to the new Heritage Trail Park near County Route 875 East, which runs past newer residential development in Zionsville, is known as the Dave Brown Corridor.

Parking and Trail Access

To get to the south trailhead from Interstate 65, take Russell/State Route 334 east for 4.6 miles. Turn right on 6th Street and after 0.25 mile, turn right again on Starkey Road. In 0.2 mile you go under the trail bridge; after just 130 feet, turn right into the trail parking lot.

To get to the trailhead in downtown Zionsville from I-65, take Russell/East SR 334 for 4 miles to Zionsville Town Hall (1100 W. Oak Street). Park in the lot in back of building, where you will also find the trail.

There is also a new trailhead with ample parking at the trail's northern end in Heritage Trail Park on County Route 875 East (directly across from Shelburne Way).

Big 4 Rail Trail (Zionsville) Reviews

This is my neighborhood rail trail; I've used it extensively for hiking, running, biking, and walking for many years. It is well-maintained most of the year and offers a fair amount of shade when leaves are on the trees. Zionsville needs to start clearing and salting it promptly in winter weather, though; it's a shame that it often can't be used.

I love that this trail is 5.6 miles long and easily accessible from many neighborhoods. I'm training for a marathon, and I can drive there, park, and run segments of it out and back for distances up to 11 miles.

The half-mile segment from the Starkey Avenue entrance south to the 0 mile marker is unpaved and shaded, so I head down there and back to start and finish each run. If you feel like running trails, the beautiful Starkey Nature Park is accessible at the 0 mile marker.

A previous poster mentioned that there is no bathroom, but I think there is a port-a-potty in the Starkey Avenue parking area. I've also used the Starbucks and the McDonald's on Oak Street in emergencies. And, just north of Oak Street, there is a bench and water fountains for people and dogs. (Thank you, Zionsville Christian Church!)

Amazing trail with very friendly people. Will definitely use this one again. One thing to note, though, there are no bathrooms or water areas available as of Spring 2015. There is a bathroom icon at the top of the trail, and my guess is they will have one eventually. We headed back south and got off the trail briefly to use Starbucks facilities and grab some water. My favorite trail so far for Mini training!

...just wish it was longer! The Zionsville Rail Trail reminds me of the Monon, but much less crowded! I think they might be extending it further north...I've seen some construction? (hope so!)

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