Follow Indy’s Monon Trail through the heart of the region.

Exterior Two bicyclists take a picture from a bridge on the Monon Trail

Photo courtesy of Visit Indy

The Monon Trail is Indiana’s signature walking and biking trail. It’s a connective thread through downtown Indianapolis and stretches over 25 miles to the suburbs north of the city. Like the railroad it once was, the trail provides a lifeline through some of the Indianapolis region’s most vibrant communities. It connects to countless shops, restaurants, and events worthy of a stop off the trail. 

That’s why more than a million people hit the Monon asphalt each year! On a sunny Indiana afternoon, the Monon Trail is the city’s bustling recreation epicenter. You’ll find cyclists, runners, dog walkers, and families all enjoying the outdoors. 

From its downtown starting point on 10th Street, the Monon Trail intersects with the Cultural Trail—another world-class urban trail that loops around the city’s six historic cultural districts. Venturing north from there, the Monon Trail passes by the Indiana State Fairgrounds and travels through the lively Broad Ripple neighborhood before heading into Hamilton County. There, the trail veers toward Carmel—where it’s called the “Monon Greenway”—and then continues northward to Westfield and Sheridan. 

The Monon is a rail-to-trail success story.

The Monon has a long, celebrated history in Central Indiana. In the state’s rail heyday, the Monon Railroad was proudly considered the “Lifeline of Indiana” and called the Hoosier Line. Established in 1854 as the “Chicago, Indianapolis, and Louisville Railroad,” the railway played a central role in turning Indianapolis into a transportation and cultural hub.

The railroad was responsible for transporting passengers and cargo, including the famed Indiana limestone used to build landmarks across the country. As one of the few North-South routes, it became an important supply line for the Union troops during the Civil War. The railway didn’t officially adopt the name the “Monon Railroad” until the 1950s. By then, trains were transporting passengers between Chicago and Indianapolis twice a day, connecting many of Indiana’s major universities. 

But with the decline of railroad travel by the 1980s, the Monon’s stretch of track through Indianapolis sat abandoned. The unused rails were an untapped opportunity. In 1999, the city paved the first section of trail through downtown, creating a new avenue to connect the region’s communities. Carmel paved their greenway by 2002. And in 2018, the last miles of the trail were paved, linking from Westfield to Sheridan. Where trains once ran the route, the Monon Trail again connected downtown Indy to its neighbors to the north. 

The Monon Trail is your ticket to explore Indy.

There may no longer be railway stations along the Monon, but now there are destinations worth stopping for at every turn! So, grab your bike, scooter, skateboard, roller blades, or just your walking shoes and start your route at Monon’s downtown trailhead. 

In downtown Indianapolis, the Monon also links up with the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and intersects with Massachusetts Avenue. The Mass Ave cultural district is a vibrant street lined with local boutiques, restaurants, and bars. And at the end of the street is the new must-see Bottleworks District—an innovative one-stop shop for culinary, retail, and entertainment experiences.

Hopping back on the trail and heading north, the Monon passes by the Indiana State Fairgrounds and through Broad Ripple Village. There, you’ll find even more places worthy of a pit stop with a lively mix of bars, shops and parks scattered along the trail. Then, the Monon skirts through Marrott Park and Nature Preserve—the perfect spot to take a break from the city and find some peace in nature.

Traveling miles northward into the city of Carmel, the trail becomes the Monon Greenway. Carmel has invested in the area around the trail, surrounding the Monon with new developments. When you walk through the city’s section of the trail, you’ll pass by art galleries, dozens of boutiques, and a booming restaurant and bar scene. And the new apartments springing up along the Monon are proof that the area is coveted waterfront property.

Bicyclists ride passed the Palladium in Carmel on the Monon Trail

Photo courtesy of Visit Indy

Reaching farther north into Hamilton County, the Monon Trail cuts through Westfield and then Sheridan. To truly appreciate the scope of the Monon Trail, just compare the two ends of the trail. Your journey may begin on a busy downtown Indianapolis street, but the Monon ends with a scenic rural landscape!  

The Monon is still the “Lifeline of Indiana.”

The Monon Trail is a vital link to some of the Indy area’s favorite community events. Stepping off the trail on a Saturday morning, you can find farmers markets selling ripe tomatoes or bushels of sweet corn. 

From the downtown trailhead you can walk to the famous IndyFringe Theatre Festival. The Indiana Arts Center next to the Monon hosts thousands of visitors to the annual Broad Ripple Art Fair. In Carmel, you can watch a performance at the renowned Palladium concert hall. And Colts fans can get a pre-season sneak peek at the team’s training camp at Grand Park Sports Complex in Westfield. 

The Monon Trail took an abandoned railroad and paved a path through the heart of Central Indiana. As neighborhoods continue to embrace this community centerpiece, more people can enjoy both the journey and destination!