Biking the Monon Trail takes you 27 miles through tree-lined paths that connect Westfield, Carmel, and Broad Ripple to downtown Indianapolis Indiana. Each stop has a unique persona that welcomes travelers, with segments containing miles of beautiful riding and photo-worthy viewpoints. Our Monon Trail guide covers the entire route from Sheridan to Indianapolis, highlighting points of interest, trail condition, and access points along the way. Read on to discover the highlights of the Monon Trail.
Map of Monon TrailBelow is our map of the Monon Trail with highlights, photo-ops, and food stops along the way. Our trail description covers everything on this map, so if it doesn’t load, just hit the refresh button 😉 You should be able to download this map to your phone and keep it with you as you ride the Monon Trail
Monon Trail Carmel (4.8 miles)
Carmel is neither the start nor finish of the Monon Trail, but, in our opinion, it’s the prettiest stretch along the trail, and the must ride segment. Riding the Monon Trail from Carmel is so fantastic that we based a romantic getaway to Hamilton County on it 😉
Colloquially known as riding tunnel to tunnel, the Carmel segment runs for five miles from Rhorer Road access on the north end to 96th Street access on the south side. The trail is wide and shady through Carmel with smooth pavement for the entire route.
Carmel embraces the spirit of the Monon and integrates the trail into their charming Arts and Design District. Seventeen bronze statues costing over 1.4 million dollars are scattered throughout the Arts District, depicting day to day activities. The renowned artist Seward Johnson created the majority of these works. In fact, the fifteen sculptures in Carmel is the most extensive collection of his work in the world. Johnson died in 2020, never having visited Carmel, but I think he would be pleased. I wonder if he was thinking of Carmel when he said -“It’s easy to forget the simple things in life that give us pleasure. If we open our eyes, life is marvelous.”
Apart from public art, you’ll find food for any fancy, from a gastro adventure at Divvy to craft beer at Union Brewing Company and everything in between. Consider picking up a BLT at Joe’s Butcher Shop and Fishmarket to eat on the trail (best bacon I’ve ever eaten!) or the 1 1/2 “Big Ugly” Pounder burger at Bub’s if you’re feeling peckish from your ride.
It’s easy to forget the simple things in life that give us pleasure. If we open our eyes, life is marvelous.
Monon Trail Carmel to Broad Ripple (4.1 miles)
The Monon Trail from Carmel to Broad Ripple is four miles of shady and smooth riding without the foot traffic you encounter cycling through Carmel. If you’re looking for the best 9-miles on the Monon, combine this segment with the route through Carmel for an exquisite 18-mile round trip day. You might even be tempted to stop for a photo-op on the picturesque bridge crossing the White River.
There’s no shame in your game if you grab an ice cream cone at BRICS (Broad Ripple Ice Cream Station) and flip it back to Carmel. If you want to stay awhile in Broad Ripple, I’m a huge fan of the fries formerly known as crack fries at HopCat, and the Broad Ripple Brewpub and Canal Bistro are local favorites.
Broad Ripple to Downtown Indianapolis (6 miles)
It’s hard to say what’s more anticlimactic, the meh ending of the trail at 10th street or neighborhoods you’re riding through after you leave Broad Ripple (south of the Harmony Mural). Also, the trail condition here is only so-so with 25 years since the last resurfacing and a 1/2 mile detour around the 38th bridge that’s under construction. This work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020, but still, If you’re riding this section of trail, it’s because you want to explore downtown Indianapolis.
If Carmel is the city of bronze statues, downtown Indy must be the city of murals. You’ll find intricate 3-d illusions and larger than life images of hometown heroes like Reggie Miller or Kurt Vonnegut as you explore Indianapolis’s murals. Not to be missed are the Soldier and Sailors Monument and Indiana World War Memorial for the granite monument crowd. There’s also a fine collection of restaurants off Massachusetts Avenue and beyond the include St Elmo’s Steak House (top 15 in America), Mesh On Main (applewood chicken salad), Soupremacy (Thai coconut soup), and YATS (frozen wine slushies). Although the Monon Trail technically ends at 10th, you immediately pick up the Cultural Trail, which connects all the highlights of downtown Indianapolis.
Monon Trail Carmel to Westfield (12 miles)
The next section of our Monon Trail guide picks up north of Carmel and continues to the trail’s northern terminus in Sheridan. The 12-mile run from the tunnel under US-31 to the end of the trail features long stretches of open blacktop where you can really get the legs going. There are a few SAG stops along the way in Westfield and Sheridan, but nothing really cute like Carmel, Broad Ripple, or downtown Indy. This trail segment is for riders who love riding.
This segment’s most notable features are the bridge over State Route 32 and the 1/2 mile spur on the Midland Trace Trail that takes you to Quaker Park. In fact, the Quaker Park spur is so prominent that we missed the hard right to stay on the Monon Trail on our first couple of trips. It’s 15-miles or so from Quaker Park to Broad Ripple, so if you’re looking for a 30-mile ride, this is it.
Art Along to Monon TrailIt’s been said that the Monon Trail is a 27-mile long open-air art gallery. That might be a bit of an overstatement, but Carmel, Broad Ripple, and downtown Indianapolis certainly have noteworthy street art. Carmel is known for its bronze statues. Broad Ripple and Indy have an excellent mural scene. Also, downtown Indy has the architecture and monuments you’d expect from a capital city. We put the highlights on our Monon Trail Map in purple and included pictures of each piece on the map. We’re sure there’s a lot more to discover, but this should get you started.
Wrapping up Our Monon Trail GuideWe hope that you find our guide to the Monon Trail useful. More than 1.3-million visitors use the trail every year for walking and biking because of its proximity to arts, cultural, and tourist attractions. For these reasons, it was inducted into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame in 2009. Here are a few quick hitters for you to remember when planning your trip to the Monon Trail. Best Rest Stops on the Monon Trail:
- Broad Ripple
- Downtown Indianapolis
- Downtown Indianapolis: Free parking on Sundays
- Broad Ripple: Downtown Broad Ripple, 75th Street
- Carmel: 96th St, Meadowlark Park, Rohrer Park
- Westfield: Quaker Park
- Sheridan: Parking lot at trail terminus
- Entire Trail: 27 miles
- Sheridan to Broad Ripple: 19.2 miles
- Quaker Park to Broad Ripple: 12.6 miles
- Rohrer Rd to Broad Ripple: 8.8 miles
- Rohrer Rd to 96th St: 4.8 miles
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