Monday, May 3, 2021
Urban Trails in Bloomington
Monroe County offers an abundance of paved trails for walking, running, biking, and rollerblading. Many of the trails connect with one another, creating a miles-long interconnected system of pathways for exercise, fresh air, and exploration — all stroller- and dog-friendly.
Several of the non-motorized transportation avenues wind by major landmarks and business districts, making it easy to spend the day wandering in & out of local shops, restaurants, and venues as you stroll down each trail. Although many of Bloomington's trails run through developed urban areas, there's still plenty of greenery and wildlife to enjoy along each route, a testament to the community’s emphasis on environmental balance. For fun or for function, you'll enjoy the nine urban trails that wind through the community.
Running through downtown Bloomington, the 3.1-mile B-Line Trail has become a major transportation, social, and development tool for the community. It's a great place to meet & walk with friends, an easy way to cut through the downtown bustle sans vehicular traffic, and a home to some of downtown's hidden gems for dining & shopping. Those on bikes & skates, as well as those walking with strollers, will find the paved surface very comfortable. The trail features crosswalks across a few major streets, and traffic is not required to stop, but being a friendly community, drivers usually do. At its south end, the B-Line connects with the Bloomington Rail Trail, providing two additional miles of trail to traverse.
Bloomington Rail Trail
Where the B-Line Trail ends, the Bloomington Rail Trail begins, creating a major corridor from downtown to the southern part of the city. The two-mile trail starts at Country Club Road (where the trail parking lot is located) and winds south through mostly residential areas — it’s still in the city, but it's definitely quieter than the B-Line. Do note that the Rail Trail is the only urban trail in Monroe County that is not paved — it's a well-worn gravel-surface trail, so be prepared for the transition. At its southern-most point, the Rail Trail connects to the Limestone Greenway to continue on south, which is great for long-distance runners and bikers.
The Limestone Greenway is Monroe County's newest urban trail, stretching 1.7 miles south from the end of the Clear Creek and Rail Trails. The trail passes by rural farmlands and wooded lots, making it incredibly peaceful and a great path for bird-watching. Bikers and long-distance runners will especially enjoy the combined 6.8 miles of trail from the B-Line to the Rail Trail to the end of the Limestone Greenway — double the distance by turning around at the end of the greenway to head back to the beginning of the B-Line for the ultimate paved B-Town bike route. If you just want to walk the greenway, parking is available in the lot below the Clear Creek Bridge.
Clear Creek Trail
The Clear Creek Trail is a 2.4-mile paved trail to the southwest of downtown that runs through residential areas and open, grassy fields. It’s peaceful, but well-used, and offers two unique sights: a 150-foot historic wrought-iron bridge from 1887 and a small farm with an abundance of extremely friendly chickens, goats, and sheep. The Clear Creek Trail offers parking lots at its north & south ends, and it also runs mostly parallel to the Rail Trail — the two trails meet at their southern-most points near Church Lane, and both connect to the Limestone Greenway.
The Indiana University campus is one of the most beautiful in the country, and it’s also quite massive. Students and faculty often walk or bike the near 2,000 acres of campus, which is made easy by the numerous paths cutting across the university with very little automobile traffic. While there's a vast expanse of sidewalks and paths carving routes through & around campus, there are four dedicated walking trails: the Woodlawn Loop Trail, the Cox Arboretum Art Trail, the Shaded Wilderness Trail, and the Red Brick Trail. Each trail is approximately one mile in length, and all four trails connect with one another, so it's easy to extend your route to include more mileage. For visitors, walking the campus is both a great form of exercise and a breathtaking architectural & educational tour.
Cascades Park Trail
The 2.7-mile Cascades Park Trail runs the length of the Lower & Upper Cascades Parks, ending at the Griffy Lake dam. The trail is just north of downtown, but the setting is quite serene with huge trees, a lovely creek, and very little traffic. Two short nature trails off the paved trail also lead to a small waterfall, which is a sight that motivates many visitors to do the easy trek.
Elm Heights Neighborhood Greenway
Located just six blocks from Indiana University, the Elm Heights Neighborhood Greenway is comprised of three greenway trails in the historic Elm Heights district: the Allen-Covenanter Greenway, the Highland-Hawthorne Greenway, and the Cliffton-Union Greenway. Winding through charming streets lined with the greatest concentration of architect-designed homes in the city, the Neighborhood Greenway is perfect for those who admire architecture and landscaping. Make the short trek over to campus to continue walking, or to grab a seat & a bite at a local restaurant on Kirkwood Avenue.
Ellettsville, home to the Heritage Trail, is Bloomington's neighboring Monroe County community to the west. The half-mile trail is located in the heart of downtown, featuring a limestone gateway and a beautiful limestone sculpture as a nod to the storied limestone industry of the area. The Heritage Trail will eventually connect to the Karst Farm Greenway on the west side of Bloomington — until then, it’s a short but lovely avenue for exercise and reflection.
Karst Farm Greenway
Much less urban, but not quite in the wilderness, the Karst Farm Greenway is a fantastic paved trail on the western borders of Bloomington. The 4.5-mile trail starts at Karst Farm Park and runs north, almost to Ellettsville, where it will eventually connect to the Heritage Trail. The Karst Farm Greenway is typically peaceful and allows for focused exercise or meditation — it's also a great trail for dog-walking if your pup tends to get over-excited around lots of people. The trail crosses a handful of busier streets & neighborhoods, but it mostly winds through vast fields and wooded lots.