Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield

The Monon Trail stretches across 18 miles and 2 counties in Central Indiana. Many Hoosiers have been on a section of the trail. Many times, they just visit the same section over and over; but very few Hoosiers have explored the trail from start to finish. The different sections of the trail, on their own, are unique, special, and compliment the individual communities they inhabit. But the Monon Trail in it’s entirety, has an interesting story to tell. Let’s go on a ride up (or down) the Monon starting at 10th street in downtown Indianapolis.

Stop 1: O’Bannon Old Northside Soccer Park

Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield

Just half a mile from the start of the Monon Trail you encounter the O’Bannon Old Northside Soccer Park. A large 17 acre green space that is devoted to soccer. The fields are wide open with multiple nets placed around the park. There are occasional organized games from local community groups, but most of the time, you can grab a group a friends and start an impromptu match of your own. One of the real treats of this part, aside from the dormant but well kept Baltimore and Ohio train car that greets trail users, (beware, it is inhabited by nest of wasps. Be very careful when exploring this train car.) is the amazing view of downtown Indianapolis you get while on the fields. It is a perfect way to view a sunset while playing soccer, or having a late evening picnic, or running from wasps.

Stop 2: Locally Grown Gardens

Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield

Locally Grown Gardens is somewhat of a visual mystery. Located on 54th St, this small market/bistro/cafe is a walking contradiction. The outside of the small building flaunts a faded sign that bares the name of the business and the parking lot is flooded with a mixture of flowers, and fresh produce. A location that many trail users zoom pass, Local Grown Gardens proves that there is more than meets the eye. As you walk to the entrance of the building, you discover that there is a cafe/grill inside that makes fresh to order sandwiches, free range chicken, salmon, and more. There is also a very interesting menagerie of lanterns, kitchen knick knacks, and other small household items inside the shop. What may be the best kept secret in SoBro can easily be a nice pit stop for you on your journey up the Monon Trail. Good food, fresh produce, and colorful flowers are a near perfect treat for this local shop.

Stop 3: Sno Zone: The Lonely Shaved Ice Stand

Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield

Sometimes the most simplest of things are the most popular. This shaved ice stands sits in a parking lot all by itself. Situated on the corners of Winthrop Ave and Rivera Dr, this stand has no false pretenses. At $3.50 a cup, trail users and passers by can choose between over 25 flavors. An old but reliable fixture in Broad Ripple, this stop is a welcome and refreshing sight among a sea of Qudobas, Chipotle’s, and McDonalds.

Stop 4: Broad Ripple White River Bridge

Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield

I know, there are plenty of places and things to see in do in Broad Ripple Village; and chances are you have seen and or done them all. Let’s focus on some of the sights you might encounter on the Monon Trail, and more importantly, the features you may speed past while on the trail. This bridge is located just north of Broad Ripple on the edge of the Indianapolis Arts Center. The bright red bridge is one of the rare spot on the Monon where nature and trail users seem to be one. Below you have the White River raging as kayakers launch their boats and visitors to the nearby park hang on the beach and skip rocks. This is one of the top spots where trail users stop to take pictures and it’s not surprising to see a proposal or two while crossing. Take some time to soak in the surroundings before continuing north.

Stop 5: Carmel Center For Performing Arts Center

Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield

As we leave Broad Ripple Village we enter an almost 2.5 miles stretch of nothing but nature. Trees, impromptu parks, and small houses line both sides of the trail. Trail users are then ripped out of this scenery when they have to cross 86th street and make their way into Carmel. After a couple of miles of riding through Carmel “countryside” and passing the Monon Center, trail users are jolted back to reality when the Carmel Center For Performing Arts comes into view. The center is like the rest of the Carmel area. A large, opulent, pseudo Greek/Roman pillar bound building centered in the middle of what clearly used to be a corn field. While I am not an architect critic, even my untrained eye can tell this building is out of place. Still it is worth the stop. Buildings of this type are rare in Central Indiana and it is worth the 5 or 10 minutes to check out the lobbies of the two buildings and snap a few pictures.

Stop 6: The End

Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield

After miles of winding roads and more out of place, random, misplaced buildings in Carmel, you will enter the small town of Westfield. The Monon Trail comes to a jarring end. While the official “end” of the Monon Trail is a source of debate for some Hoosiers, many trail users who choose to go the full length of the trail stop and turn around at the Midland Trace Trail in Westfield. When you reach this point, stop and revel in your accomplishment. After almost 18 miles, you have conquered the Monon Trail. Take a picture and brace yourself for the long ride back to Indianapolis. Or have a friend drive up to Westfield to pick you up.

Aviary Photo_130751697337456446
Photo: Chris Wakefield

There are more stops along the trail, and as you frequent the Monon, try to explore the different parks, shops, cafes, and restaurants that line this trail. The important part of this journey is to make sure that you enjoy everything the Monon Trail and the communities it inhabits have to offer.

Photo: Chris Wakefield
Photo: Chris Wakefield

Whats your favorite stop on the Monon Trail? Share your thoughts and pictures below. Or, join the conversation on our Facebook page.