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Go Off-Road on Picturesque Paths in East Central Indiana

It’s easy to get out and about in East Central Indiana thanks to numerous trail systems throughout the region.

By Cary Estes on June 16, 2022

The Cardinal Greenway is a rail trail that encompasses 60 miles of abandoned CSX railroad corridor in east central Indiana.
Rebecca & Daniel Jacobson

The outdoors rarely have seemed so great, or so important, as during the past couple of pandemic years. And it is easy to get out and about in East Central Indiana, thanks to numerous trail systems throughout the region, with more on the way.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in trail users since the pandemic started,” says Angie Pool, CEO of the 62-mile-long Cardinal Greenway. “Our trail systems are among our top assets. Having a trail system that’s well cared for is a huge benefit, not only for the economic boost from tourism, but also for our citizens who live and work near these trails.”

The Cardinal Greenway is the longest trail in Indiana, running along a former railroad route between the cities of Marion, Muncie and Richmond.

“We go through rural country, suburbs and urban areas,” Pool says. “We touch it all with our 62 miles.”

But the Cardinal Greenway is merely one of the many trails that offers a step in the right direction toward health and wellness, as counties throughout the region have worked diligently in recent years to develop and improve their systems.

“Trails and parks are back on the map for people,” says Denise Retz, superintendent at Richmond Parks and Recreation in Wayne County. “People want to enjoy nature and experience life outdoors, and we’re trying to capitalize on that.”

Wayne County Parks
Wayne County Parks

Well-Traveled Trails for All

One of the area’s most picturesque paths is the Whitewater Gorge Trail in Wayne County. The gorge runs for 3.5 miles through Richmond – ranging from 200 to 300 feet wide and 50 to 80 feet deep – and there is a paved trail right alongside it. In addition, a short new trail connects the gorge to the Cardinal Greenway, passing by Wayne County Veterans Memorial Park.

“The connector has an overlook into Veterans Park where you can see the many monuments and memorials that are tributes to all our fallen soldiers,” Retz says. “It’s a wonderful, serene place.”

Delaware County has created spurs off the Cardinal Greenway as well, most notably the 5.5-mile White River Greenway that runs through Muncie. The east side of the trail ends at the 27-acre John Craddock Wetland Nature Preserve. The Kitselman Trailhead and Park recently opened at the connection point between the Cardinal and White River greenways, providing a scenic resting spot for trail users.

“It serves as a gateway into the city,” says Traci Lutton, vice president with the Muncie-Delaware County Economic Development Alliance. “It overlooks the river, and there’s a historic bridge there. It’s absolutely stunning to look at.”

In 2021, Muncie opened the 1.5-mile Morrison/McGalliard Trail near Ball State University as well as the South Muncie Industrial Center Trail through an industrial park. Also in Delaware County, in the city of Selma, the 2.5-mile Prairie Creek Horse Trail connects to the Cardinal Greenway and the Prairie Creek Mountain Bike Trail cuts through a landscape filled with forests, wetlands and streams.

Paths for the Future

Retz says Wayne County already is looking into ways to create even more connections off the Whitewater Gorge Trail. And Delaware County is in the process of building the Riverside-Jackson Trail, which will link Ball State and Ball Memorial Hospital with one of Muncie’s main commercial corridors.

“We have plans to do additional trails throughout the city to connect to existing trail infrastructure,” Lutton says. “It’s important to us, because trails provide safe options for transportation, promote livable areas and neighborhoods, and offer recreational, health and environmental benefits. All those things together contribute to an overall enhanced quality of life.”

Trails to Try

You have plenty to choose from in East Central Indiana. Whether you’re an avid cyclist, a dedicated jogger, or an outdoors lover who enjoys a good stroll among the trees on a beautiful day, you have scores of great choices when it comes to pristine paths in East Central Indiana. Be sure to explore these trails in the region:

Sweetser Switch: A 7-mile trail in Grant County that runs alongside an active rail line.

Mississinewa Riverwalk: A 2.3-mile scenic path in Marion that follows the Mississinewa River and passes through several public parks.

Blackford Greenway: This peaceful, forest-covered trail in Hartford City runs for nearly 4 miles.

Wilderness Park: Also in Hartford City, this trail is part of the 4-acre Wilderness Park Restoration Project. A recently built pedestrian bridge provides access over a watershed.

Wilbur Wright: This 2-mile paved trail extends from near downtown to the Wilbur Wright Fish and Wildlife Area.

John Connor Nature Preserve: This 20-acre park in Connersville contains a mile-long trail with views of the Whitewater River.

Nickel Plate: Explore a scale model of the solar system along this 0.75-mile pathway.

Union City Gateway: A short-but-sweet trail (less than a mile) that passes through gardens and parks as it crosses from Indiana into Ohio.

Cardinal Greenway: This 62-mile trail runs through Grant, Delaware and Wayne Counties.

Whitewater Gorge Trail: Catch glimpses of the gorge’s rugged cliffs along this 3.5-mile trail in Richmond.

White River Greenway: This 5.6-mile path in Muncie meanders alongside the river.

Westwood Park Trail: Enjoy great views along this 9-mile loop near New Castle.

Hudson Park Path: This 0.9-mile loop circles a scenic pond in Portland.

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