Hot On The Trails: The Monon, Updated

In many ways, the granddaddy of Central Indiana’s greenways feels like its most youthful. Here’s why.
Monon Trail
Length: 24 miles / Surface: paved / Location (north to south): Sheridan, Westfield, Carmel, Indianapolis / Connects to: Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Central Canal Towpath, Fall Creek Greenway, Midland Trace Trail

In northwest Hamilton County, Sheridan completed its 2.2-mile stretch of trail last summer, connecting Biddle Park and a new trail head at Six Points Road with restrooms, water, and parking.

Later this year, the greenway will extend past the Grand Park Sports Complex to Westfield’s northern boundary at 216th Street, where it will connect to Sheridan’s just-completed section. A $4.1 million pedestrian bridge is slated to cross State Road 32 next year.
Grand Junction Brewing just opened a sprawling production facility and taproom near the connection of Hamilton County’s Grand Junction and Midland Trace trails—sidewalks connecting to the Monon are underway—with live music, free water for cyclists outside, and some of Central Indiana’s best craft beer inside (plus $5 “bullet fill” specials).

The Monon Marketplace opened last year at the intersection of U.S. 31 and State Road 32 in Westfield, anchored by an outpost of local chain Stacked Pickle and Titus Bakery.

“We live in Carmel but ride north [toward Westfield] far more often, because there’s less traffic,” says cyclist William Sherman. “You really feel like you’re getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city.”

How popular is the Monon Greenway in Hamilton County (and Carmel in particular)? Some 450,000 people biked or walked it last year, so it’s no surprise that about $500 million in new development projects have broken ground—or will shortly—adjacent to the trail. Carmel’s downtown Arts & Design District has about as much bike parking now as car parking, in close proximity to the trail’s intersection with Main Street. A big red rack/art installation shaped like the outline of a car and imported from London caused quite a stir when it went in a few years ago.

The recently opened high-end apartments Mezz 42 are just steps from the trail, a massive draw to residents, and the building has a dedicated storage room for bikes. Zagster bike-share stations are sprinkled around the Monon in Carmel, allowing visitors to rent a bicycle for about $3 an hour. It’s been so successful, Carmel quadrupled its fleet of bikes in less than a year, and the bike-share migrated north into Westfield. Two new e-bike shops, Pedego Electric Bikes Carmel and Accent Bicycles, opened this spring near the Monon.

Popular Mass Ave boutique Silver in the City now has a Carmel location close to the Monon. Meanwhile, Sun King Spirits, a new distillery and taproom at the Midtown Carmel development, will come to fruition in the fall or winter, with a rooftop deck overlooking the Monon. Opening next spring in the downtown Monon and Main development: Anthony’s Chophouse (201 W. Main St.), a high-end steak restaurant with an outdoor bar called 3Up next to the trail.

A half-mile stretch between City Center Drive and 1st Street SW will expand into Monon Boulevard in coming years, widening the 12-foot trail to 140 feet, with separate pedestrian and cycling lanes for easier passage. Construction should begin later this year and finish in 2018.

Noted restaurant-family scion Eddie Sahm and brewer Scott Ellis opened Nora’s first craft brewery, Big Lug Canteen, in 2015 on the Monon, in the former Snooty Fox location. Try the floral Kristofferson American oatmeal pale ale on a hot day.

In Broad Ripple, at least four multimillion-dollar apartment complexes have opened or will open along the Monon, bringing hundreds of new rentals within walking distance of the trail. Some have street-level retail, like The Coil building and its Fresh Thyme Farmers Market—following Carmel’s lead on multi-use development around the greenway.

On Sunday mornings, expect to see a line of bikes outside The Gallery Pastry Shop in SoBro, as people queue up for brunch or almond croissants to go. If the line is too long, consider nearby Tiny House Treats, because you’re old enough to have ice cream for brunch if you want to.

Look for Indy’s Monon, nearing 20 years of age in some portions, to get a facelift in 2020. The trail will be repaved and widened by four feet to accommodate the traffic. And a long-awaited bridge over 38th Street is, finally, slated for construction in 2019.

In the revitalized Kennedy-King neighborhood north of downtown, Cannon Ball Brewing Company opened just months ago, driving trail users a couple blocks west to try the delicious 2-Speed IPA. A block south and to the east, colorful Festiva serves Mexican-style Sunday brunch.

At the southern end of the Monon at East 10th Street, newcomers to the under-renovation Circle City Industrial Complex include bustling makerspace Ruckus, 8th Day Distillery, The Convivial Community Bar, and Centerpoint Brewing.

“People were apprehensive about the Monon at first, but now we have a million users every year,” says Indy park planner André Denman. “Some areas had development earlier than others, but now it’s everywhere.”

This article is part of “Hot on the Trails,” IM’s road-free guide to exploring Central Indiana. Brush up on Monon Trail etiquette here.