There are many options if you want to experience the state of Indiana on the seat of a bike. You can ride along your choice of over 150 trails in this state. Whether you want to see a beautiful park full of foliage, acres of spacious farmland, or lake shores adjacent to rolling sand dunes, you can see it in the Hoosier State.
Although there are many options in terms of biking trails in Indiana, you might wonder, which one is the longest? Read on to learn about the longest biking trail in Indiana!
The Longest Biking Trail in Indiana
The longest biking trail in Indiana is the Cardinal Greenway. The trail itself is 62 miles, in addition to an 11.3-mile gap in the northern portion of the trail between Gaston and Jonesboro.
This trail connects many small towns in rural northeastern Indiana. These include Marion and Richmond at the northern and southern ends. It’s named for the Cardinal, which was a passenger train that used to go along this very route. On this trail, cyclists can see miles and miles of Indiana countryside and nature.
The trail runs through Delaware, Grant, Henry, Randolph, and Wayne counties. It was inducted into the Rails to Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame in 2018!
The Cardinal Greenway Route
The Cardinal Greenway isn’t divided into official sections, but there are a few logical points where we can split up the trail:
- North of Marion to Marion: Until fairly recently, the northern end of the trail was in Marion. However, in 2007, plans were made to expand the Cardinal Greenway so that it would extend 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) west, to the Sweetser Switch Trail. Now, Cardinal Greenway is connected to the Sweetser Switch Trail and the Converse Junction Trail as well.
- Marion to Jonesboro: This section of the trail starts at South Miller Avenue in Marion, going by the 90-acre Eugene “Beaner” Linn Park in Gas City, and along the Mississinewa River into Jonesboro.
- Jonesboro-Gaston Gap: There is an 11.3-mile section of the path that is owned by private land owners. However, there are public roads that connect the two sections of the Greenway.
- Gaston to Richmond: Starting again in Gaston, this section of the trail goes through Muncie, intersecting the White River Greenway, and then goes into Richmond, near the Whitewater River.
Planning for a Tour of Indiana’s Longest Biking Trail
Because this is a fairly easy trail to ride along, it requires relatively little planning. Basically, you just need to be familiar with the course of the trail, particularly the area between Gaston and Jonesboro which breaks the course of the trail.
As with any outdoor excursion, make sure that you have a reasonable idea of what the weather is going to be like while you are riding. The trail is made of asphalt, so inclement weather won’t affect you as much as it would with some other trails. But you likely don’t want to be riding in heavy rain or snow anyway.
Navigating the Route
The Cardinal Greenway is well-maintained throughout its length. It has consistent design elements all along the path. There are arched steel embellishments at bridge crossing locations, and at every half-mile, you will see a stone mile marker.
There is a bit of a challenge between Jonesboro and Gaston, as there is an 11.3-mile gap here. Private landowners have acquired this section of the path. However, there is an on-road route that you can take between the two towns.
In order to help you navigate the route, it would be a good idea to have a map of the trail. You can find both interactive and printer-friendly maps on the official website for the trail.
The Cardinal Greenway Difficulty
Because it is so long, many people wouldn’t consider the Cardinal Greenway to be an easy trail to traverse. It runs from Marion, Indiana in a southeast direction to Richmond, Indiana. The trail is about 62 miles long. Additionally, there is a gap close to the northern end of the trail, between Jonesboro and Gaston.
However, this is really not a difficult trail overall. Cyclists on this trail will only run into rural roads that don’t have that much traffic. This makes it fairly easy to ride along the entire trail without interruptions.
Additionally, most of this trail is on flat terrain, and cyclists can ride on an asphalt surface. This makes for much easier riding than many other trails, where you have to ride on gravel or through the mud.
If you ride the entire length of this trail, you will pass through both rural areas and small towns. However, you likely won’t encounter many vehicles.
If you are a novice cyclist, there is always the option to only ride along part of the trail. You can do this, rather than traversing the entire path. Remember that the trail is not a loop. If you’re going to ride one way, you’ll need to ride back along that same road to return to your starting point.
Wildlife on the Longest Biking Trail in Indiana
There are many animals that call the Cardinal Greenway home. Because there are relatively few motorized vehicles, animals see the trail as a safe place.
There are many birds that have been spotted on this trail, including the northern cardinal, American goldfinch, and American robin. You may even see a bald eagle or barn owl at some point. Many mammals, such as the bobcat, different species of bat, and woodrats have found their homes in these areas as well.
If you stop along one of the bodies of water to go fishing, you will more than likely see one of the many species of gar, surgeons, or lampreys. Reptiles, such as garter snakes, lizards, and skinks are also common residents here. So are various amphibians, such as newts and salamanders.
Not only can you observe wildlife on this trail, but there are many fossils as well. Fossils have been found of many species, including frogs, turtles, rhinoceroses, camels, and one giant land tortoise. Basically, you can not only see the animals who live there now but also look at evidence of their ancestors as well.
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