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The Monon Trail: A Guide To Biking Through Hamilton County, Indiana.

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Family-Friendly Stops Along the Monon Trail The Monon Trail in Indiana invites families of all ages to spend time outdoors to create a memorable biking adventure. The  Monon trail has plenty of family-friendly stops as it makes its way through Hamilton County, Indiana.

With endless possibilities to explore it is easy to see why this is a local favorite. Hop on the nearest bike and let’s take a spin to discover great family-friendly stops along the Monon Trail in Hamilton County, Indiana. 

We were hosted by Hamilton County Tourism to bring your family this great weekend getaway idea.  As always all opinions are my own.

What Is The Monon Trail

Family-Friendly Stops Along the Monon Trail Once an abandoned Monon railroad, the Monon Trail is now a paved rail trail in central Indiana that welcomes runners, bikers, and those seeking a le

Once an abandoned Monon railroad, the Monon Trail is now a paved rail trail in central Indiana that welcomes runners, bikers, and those seeking a leisurely stroll.

The Monon Trail runs from downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, to Sheridan, Indiana, connecting to the towns of Carmel and Westfield. Open year-round from dawn to dusk; the Monon Trail is even paved during periods of snow.

The History of The Monon Trail 

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy just named the pathway to the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. This iconic railroad which once provided a central route from Lake Michigan south to the Ohio River, played a significant role in transporting goods, services, and people.

As one of the only north-south corridors in the state, the Monon became a critical supply line for Union troops and volunteers during the Civil War and later for coal and other freight. After World War II, the Monon was refitted for passenger service, shuttling customers twice daily between Indianapolis and Chicago.

The Monon Railroad also serviced five universities in Indiana —Butler, DePauw, Purdue, Indiana University, and Wabash College.


How Long Is The Monon Trail

The trail is roughly 27 miles long with plenty of attractions, trailheads, and amenities along the way.  The trail starts at 10th street in downtown Indianapolis and goes past the Indiana state fairgrounds all the way to the town of Sheridan. Bikers have the option to check out the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which is 8 miles of trails that connect the six cultural districts of downtown Indy. 

Tip: The Monon Trail crosses the White River in Broad Ripple Village — one of the most scenic points of the trail. A bridge spans the water, which is between 67th and 71st Streets.

With a good chunk of the Monon Trail running through Hamilton County, we opted to stay in the city of Carmel and hit the nearest trailhead. The portion of the Monon Trail that runs through Carmel is known as the Monon Greenway.

Bike Rental Options In Carmel, Indiana For The Monon Trail

Family-Friendly Stops Along the Monon Trail There are plenty of ways to rent a bike to hit the Monon Trail.  Many travelers often times opt to leave their bikes at home.  With plenty of great bike shares and rental options available, bringing your own bike is not a necessity. 

We rented our bikes, helmets, and a trailer for our daughter from The Carmel Cyclery.  The Carmel Cyclery has all your biking needs and is located right next to a trailhead. There is a restroom located inside along with a bike repair shop if your own bike ends up needing work.

A cheaper option for those not needing a trailer is renting bikes from the Zagster Bike Share. With trips under an hour being free and then minimal fees afterward it is the perfect way to explore the Monon Trail.

Monon Trail Trailhead Locations and Parking in Hamilton County

Family-Friendly Stops Along the Monon Trail There are quite a few great spots that offer free parking and easy access to the Monon Trail.  

Free parking and access points are available at the 96th Street Trailhead at the Hamilton and Marion County border, Main Street in Carmel, and Rohrer Road south of 146th Street.

We were able to park our car at The Carmel Cyclery parking lot and hop on the trailhead right next to it. 

For utilizing the Bike Share I recommend picking a rideshare station near the Carmel Arts District and finding parking near there.  Throughout the trail, you will also find some great bike workstations in the event your bike needs a little TLC.

Family-Friendly  Stops Along The Monon Trail

The Waterpark at the Monon Community Center

waterpark in Carmel IndianaA great way to beat the heat during your adventure on the Monon Trail is by cooling off at the Waterpark. A path will guide you there from the trail with plenty of bike racks for you to lock your bike up. 

Take a break by lounging in the lazy river while two great kids’ areas are bound to keep little ones entertained. Try your hand at surfing or zip down a waterslide before hitting the concessions stand to fuel up. Admission is affordable but be warned the park does get busy.

Museum of Miniature Houses

Take a peek into the world of miniatures with a visit to the Miniature Museum. Very few museums are devoted solely to the fine art of miniatures and is home to thousands of miniatures. From houses to rooms every detail is accounted for. If your children enjoy making models this might be a perfect family-friendly stop along the Monon Trail!

Central Park

Central Park in Carmel Indiana Take a path less traveled by venturing off to explore Carmel’s, Central Park. Bike past scenic marshes and fields until you arrive at the most amazing playground and splash pad.

This is a great stop if you are looking to cool off without the commitment of a waterpark. Entry is free, water is available and restrooms are on-site, sounds like the ideal stop to me! 

The playground is geared at all children, from a toddler area to tunnels there is plenty of entertainment to be had.

Carmel Arts and Design District

We can’t get enough of this eccentric and lively district of Carmel. Ever-growing and expanding, new restaurants, boutiques, and attractions are finding their way to this charming part of town. A small splash pad tempts little ones, while a scavenger hunt to find  17-life-sized sculptures will keep everyone entertained.  Check to see if any local events are going on such as Porchfest.

The Center of Performing Arts

Hamilton County IndianaWe always love a great show, however, if you are biking through on a Saturday be sure to stop by the Farmer’s Market which is located right next to the Center of Performing Arts. Live music, local wares, and plenty of delicious food vendors will keep tummies full and families happy.

The Japanese Gardens near City Hall

Japanese Gardens in CarmelThis peaceful and tranquil spot is ideal for meditation or simply pausing to enjoy a beautiful day. The pond does have a few resident ducks who seem to be fed quite regularly which my daughter adored. 

The park is small but does have benches and picnic tables available.

Playground at Terrace Clay

Playgrounds are a great way to break up your ride. If you have a little one in a trailer you want to make sure they get the opportunity to burn off some of that pent-up energy. This is the perfect spot to do that. This outdoor shopping mall is not only home to great stores and restaurants but a fun playground. There is a dog park nearby as well.

Grand Park

This is the only park you will need for all your sports needs. With soccer and ball fields as far as the eye can see it is no wonder this is where the Colts have their training camp.

Family-Friendly Spots to Eat Along the Monon Trail

Bub’s Cafe

Bubs Cafe in Carmel Hitting the trail early means a good breakfast is in store and Bub’s Cafe is just the place. Serving up classics that are bound to give you the energy needed for a day of adventure. From omelets to pancakes you can’t go wrong with anything from Bub’s. This brings me to my next stop.

Bub’s Burgers

Home of the famous Big Ugly Challenge, Bubs Burgers is a great spot to feed your hungry clan. Burgers and ice cream are the favorites at this hangout, but there are other classic options as well. Located right in the heart of the Arts and Design District this is a popular spot among locals and tourists alike.

Sun King

Sun King Brewery Right off the Monon Trail is a great spot to grab a local brew, a bite to eat, and is family-friendly.  Think food court meets brewery as you choose which of the many vendors you would like to grab a bite to eat from, while servers bring your drinks. Highchairs and kid menu options are available. A rooftop area overlooks the Monon Trail which will often call to you as your pedal by.

Clay Terrace

With great shopping comes great restaurants. Favorites such as Cafe Patachou, Pies & Pints, and Cold Stone Creamery are always crowd-pleasers. Check out the complete list of dining and shopping options here.


Where To Stay In Hamilton County, Indiana

There are plenty of great lodging options in Hamilton County. On this trip, we stayed at the Renaissance Inn, which was strategically located near everything in Carmel including the Monon Trail.  The hotel has a variety of room layouts from a king with a pull-out sofa to the standard double queen.  A restaurant and bar are located inside, however, our favorite feature is always the indoor swimming pool! With friendly staff, sparkling clean rooms, and a modern feel we would recommend this hotel to all travelers!

A Few Tips For Hitting The Monon Trail

  • Family-Friendly Stops Along the Monon Trail Bring water bottles. There are plenty of water fountains to be able to fill up along the way.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen.
  • Plan out your route with little ones in tow. Make a game plan of what you want to do and what you would like to do.  We ended up spending more time at a few stops than anticipated because we were having fun!
  • Be aware of other trail users and use proper etiquette such as letting others know when which side you will be passing.
  • Fall is one of the best times to enjoy the Monon Trail. The crisp air and fall foliage makes any ride picture perfect.
  • Stay safe on the trail by ensuring all personal possessions are in a secure spot, resist the urge to look at your phone, and be observant of your surroundings.
  • There are a variety of trail segments that can be added to your biking adventure such as the Midland Trace Trail. 
  • The Monon Trail is a popular trail with Saturday mornings being one of its busiest times. 
  • There are tons of new developments happening throughout the city of Carmel. It is ever-growing and changing with new boutiques, restaurants, and tourist attractions popping up. 

Did you enjoy this post? Be sure to check out these related articles. 

11 Magical Things To Do In Carmel Over The Holidays 

The Perfect Indianapolis Weekend Itinerary With Kids 

17 Great Things To Do In Carmel, Indiana 

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