Ultimate Guide to Biking the Monon Trail (Plus Interactive Map)

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Biking the Monon Trail takes you 27 miles through tree-lined bike 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 biking route from Sheridan to Indianapolis, highlighting points of interest, trail condition, and access points along the way. Read on to discover the highlights of this Rails to Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame greenway trail including breathtaking scenery, delicious food, meandering bike paths, and all of the trailheads, rest stops, and parking on the trail system.

Map of Monon Trail

Below 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 or 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.

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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). Riding this section of trail does let  you explore downtown Indianapolis and have an urban cycling adventure, so it’s not all bad.

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).

The Monon Trail technically ends at 10th, you immediately pick up the Cultural Trail, which connects all the highlights of downtown Indianapolis.

Pro tip: Download AllTrails+ for a one-stop shop app for planning all of your hiking, biking, and camping adventures.

Cultural Tail in Indianapolis
Indiana World War Memorial

Monon Trail Carmel to Sheridan (12 miles)

The next section of our Monon Trail guide picks up north of Carmel at Meadowlark Park 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.

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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.

Best Monon Trail Cycling Routes

Now that you know the lay of the land, the next question is what are the best cycling routes along the Monon Trail for every type of rider. The hard-core road riders will want to ride the entire 27 miles of trail for a 54 mile round trip, but that isn’t for everyone. If you love a good, flowy bike ride, then try the 25-mi;e ride from Meadowlark Park to Sheridan. However, keep your head up and pay attention to the signage at the road crossings and yield to cross-traffic

Recreational cyclists will love to pedal the paved trails and paths connecting Broad Ripple to Carmel. This is the most scenic corridor on the trail with a wide variety of scenery from prairie to wooded river trail winding along the White River. However, mind your pedestrian etiquette in Carmel because everybody loves to get out on the multi-use trail. Check our interactive map for parking, trail access, and Carmel Bike Share locations for an easy bike rental.

Biking Monon Trail 2

Art Along the Monon Trail

It’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 CarmelBroad 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 cycling map in purple and included pictures of each piece. We’re sure there’s a lot more to discover, but this should get you started.

Vonnegut wall mural

Monon Trail FAQs

Where is the best place to start the Monon Trail?

Meadowlark Park is a great place to start your Monon Trail adventure. Head north for a long, smooth ride to Sheridan or south for a scenic tour of Carmel. Another great place to start your ride is at Monon South Trailhead because of its proximity to Broad Ripple and Carmel and easy access from I-465.

Where do you park for the Monon Trail in Carmel?

Monon South Trailhead, Monon North Trailhead, Central Park, or Meadowlark Park provide easy access to the Monon Trail and a great place to start bicycle rides.

Why is it called Monon Trail?

The Monon Trail gets its name from the Monon Railroad, also known as the Chicago, Indianapolis, and Louisville Railway which provided much of the right-of-way for the trail.

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Where does the Monon Trail end?

The Monon Trail runs from Indianapolis in the south to Sheridan in the north.

What are the best rest stops on the Monon Trail?

The best rest stops on the Monon Trail are Carmel, Broad Ripple, and Downtown Indianapolis. They all have great food and amazing street art adjacent to the bicycle trail.

Wrapping up Our Monon Trail Guide

We 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.

Where to Stay near Monon Trail

Ready to Book Your Trip? These Links Will Make It Easy:

Lodging:

Our Packing Favs:

  • Travel in style with a suitcase, carry-on, backpack, or handbag from Knack Bags
  • Packing cubes make organized packing a breeze! We love these from Eagle Creek

Attractions/Activities:

  • Save on tickets to attractions, sightseeing tours, and more with Tiqets
  • Get Your Guide and Viator for guided tours/excursions, day trips, and activities
  • Want to learn a city from the ground up? Take a small group walking tour with Walks – 5-star rated with a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence
  • Want to book an epic adventure experience with top-notch companies like Intrepid Travel, G-Adventures, or Backroads? Check out Travelstride
  • Find information on local trails with the All Trails App.
  • Need something else to plan your perfect trip? Visit our Resources Page for more trusted partners

Disclosure: A big thank you to Hamilton County for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more Hamilton County inspiration check out their InstagramFacebook, and Twitter accounts.

As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.

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Monon Trail through Carmel Indiana

Bike sculpture on Monon Trail in Carmel Indiana

Biking on the Monon Trail

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