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Railroads helped Indianapolis grow into a transportation hub and manufacturing center beginning in the 1850s. One of those early railways that shaped the city’s future is remembered today along the Monon Trail, which follows a line whose tracks are long gone. It serves as a transportation corridor that stitches together Indianapolis neighborhoods, Carmel, and the northern suburbs of Westfield and Sheridan.
The 27-mile paved path follows a former section of the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway, whose lines formed an X as they crossed in Monon. The railroad adopted the train’s popular nickname, the Monon, as its official name in the 1950s. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad acquired the railroad in 1971, but by 1987 parts of the line were no longer used, including a section that launched the Monon Trail in 1999. The town of Monon itself, located 90 miles northwest of Indianapolis, is not part of the route.
Beginning in Indianapolis, the Monon Trail is undeniably urban. You will travel beneath the ramps of I-70 and I-65, passing residential areas and light industrial zones. The 10th Street trailhead is a block from the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which spans five downtown cultural districts with museums, theaters, shops, and restaurants.
Local artwork along this stretch adds a unique flavor, with pieces ranging from bright community murals to a network of pipes painted on the side of a utility substation. After 2.7 miles, you cross Fall Creek on a bright-red former railroad trestle. In another 0.5 mile you’ll arrive at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, a destination for many via the trail. Beyond the fairgrounds, the route travels along the backyards of suburban Indianapolis through a corridor lined with a ribbon of trees and green space.
At mile 6.2, you reach the gateway to Broad Ripple, a community that practically vibrates with culture, offering eateries, galleries, breweries, and shops.
After crossing two bridges, one over a canal and one over White River (the original bridge collapsed as a train crossed in 1884), the trail meanders through quiet neighborhoods before crossing busy 86th Street. From here, it’s another mile to the trailhead at 96th Street (mile 10.3) and the border of Carmel.
In 3 miles, you’ll see the Palladium, based on a grand 16th-century Italian villa and the focal point of the gardens and theaters of Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts. It’s also where you’ll find a farmers’ market on Saturday mornings in season. In 0.5 mile, you’ll pass the relocated Carmel Monon Depot, built in 1883. The side streets are chock-full of places where travelers can eat, drink, and shop.
A pedestrian bridge over 146th Street (mile 15.7) marks your entrance to the city of Westfield. Here you’ll find a junction with the Midland Trace Trail; many other community trails are also located nearby. Though you’re still not out of the Indianapolis metro area, the trail passes wood lots and farms on the north side of town on its way to Sheridan. The trail ends near the intersection of Opel and 236th Streets; a small parking lot marks the spot.
On the southern end of the trail in Indianapolis, parking is available in Frank and Judy O’Bannon Old Northside Soccer Park (950 E 16th St.). To reach the park: From I-70 E, take Exit 111 for Washington Street; turn left on Washington. In 0.2 miles, turn right on College Avenue; travel north for 1.5 miles, then turn right on E. 16th Street. After 0.2 miles, you’ll see the park entrance and parking on your right at the Bundy Place intersection; the Monon Trail parallels the east side of the park.
To reach the Broad Ripple trailhead from I-70, take Keystone Way north for 5 miles. Turn left on Broad Ripple Avenue and travel for 1 mile to Winthrop Avenue and turn right. After a quarter mile, turn a left onto 64th Street and then take an immediate right on Cornell Avenue. Parking is available all along the right side of the trail.
To access the 96th Street trailhead in Carmel, take I-465 to US Route 31 (N. Meridian Street), and drive south for a quarter mile. Turn left onto E. 96th Street and continue for 1.25 miles to the trailhead, on the left.
To reach the Westfield trailhead: From US 31 N, take the exit for IN 32 W/Main Street; keep left to get on IN 32 W and continue on the highway for 0.9 miles. Take a left onto Dartown Road and drive 0.1 miles until the short road ends at Quaker Park (17501 Dartown Rd.), which will be on your left. Another trail, the Midland Trace Trail, begins at the parking lot; take that for a half mile to the Monon Trail.
On the northern end of the trail in Sheridan, parking is available along Biddle Memorial Park (610 E. 10th St.). To reach the park: From I-465, take Exit 31 to US 31. Follow US 31 N. 11 miles, and take Exit 136, following signs for Sheridan. At the T-juncture, take a left on IN 38 W. Follow IN 38 W 5.2 miles to IN 47 (E. 10th St.) and turn left. Continue on IN 47 for 0.3 mile to Opel St. and turn left into the parking area.
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