Cycling the Pumpkinvine Trail through Northern Indiana Amish Country

A delightful weekend ride through northern Indiana Amish country on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, introducing a new cyclist to overnight adventure.

Bicycle Adventurers: Brian and Lynda

When: Labor Day weekend 2016

Accommodations: Farmstead Inn, Shipshewana, IN

Distance: 20 miles each day

Bonus tip for this adventure: 

  • You will encounter many Amish folks while riding on the trail. Be respectful and do not take close-up photos of them.
  • The Trailside Dairy Queen in Middlebury is a cyclist’s favorite.
  • Most area shops and restaurants close on Sunday.

Day One

On an overnight adventure over Labor Day weekend, we rode northern Indiana’s Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, 20 miles from Goshen to Shipshewana.

Lynda, a new cyclist, would be enjoying her longest ride on a loaded bike, and she was a little nervous. “I thought we were going to start in the park!” she said. I had changed our starting point and didn’t update her. My mistake! I reminded myself that a ride leader must always keep everyone updated on any changes to the itinerary ... 

After closing up our van in a 24-hour parking lot, we rolled through Goshen. Soon, we left the city behind and found ourselves cycling on a tree-lined trail through gently rolling northern Indiana farmland. In several places, the cool, dark-green arboreal canopy shielded us completely from the warm fall sun. Lynda commented that it reminded her of the majestic vaulted ceilings of cathedrals she had visited in Europe. 

The Pumpkinvine Nature Trail was once a rail line, and so the smooth asphalt pavement was level with occasional gentle inclines. After a few miles, we left the trail and covered a mile or so on lightly traveled county roads to join up with the trail again. Here we encountered Lynda’s first real hill of the trip. Like cyclists for more than a century before her, Lynda selected her lowest gear and started up the incline. Glancing up occasionally to catch a glimpse of her goal, she stared down at the front wheel and kept moving. Finally reaching the crest, she yelled “I’m the boss of my legs!” to a gathering of casually curious, but unimpressed cows. Soon we were back on the trail and heading toward our destination. 

After riding through the verdant countryside, dotted with handsome Amish farms, we pulled into Middlebury. The trail passed through residential areas and a garden-like park complete with a windmill, where we paused briefly for a photo op. A few blocks later, we stopped at the Dairy Queen that is literally right on the trail. It was a “must stop” for us.

After refreshing ourselves with guilt-free ice cream, we got back on the trail for the short six-mile leg to Shipshewana. This portion of the trail gives the rider a close up view of Amish homes and farms. After checking into our hotel and relaxing, we headed off to the Blue Gate Restaurant, a short walk from our hotel. There we enjoyed high-calorie and immensely satisfying Amish-style cooking. Helpings of mashed potatoes, turkey, and meatloaf were topped off with homemade peach and custard pies.

The evening air on the walk back to the hotel was clean and crisp and a thin-slivered moon hung low in the indigo sky. 

Day Two

The next morning we started out on our return trip. Lynda began pedaling faster and faster after a brief warm up. She later told me she decided to put her head down and see how fast she could cover the familiar six miles to the DQ. In less than 30 minutes, we were sitting in our favorite booth, enjoying small cold fountain drinks. Then it was back on the road to finish our journey through the autumn countryside. We passed Amish families on their way to Sunday services and caught a glimpse into a slower, ordered way of life in this sometimes too hectic world.

All too soon, we were back in Goshen and loading the bikes in our van. We had a great Labor Day weekend and will remember this trip for a long time.

Your favorite local bike shop? Trailhouse Village Bicycles in Winona Lake, IN

HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your own bike overnight adventure!

2 responses so far ↓

Steve Eger - Oct 29, 2016 at 8:10 PM

The pumpkinvine is a wonderful trail. We've done a similar overnight from Goshen to the Middlebury KOA. Cooked supper over the fire. Return the next day. It's a short trip but lots of fun.

Ben Peterson - Jan 20, 2017 at 1:27 PM

My wife and I have done what they call the Heritage Trail, which was intended to be a car ride through the Amish country but which we did on our bikes. We deviated somewhat but started in Elkhart and went along the 120 to Bristol and then down into Middlebury and over to Shipshewana. That same day we then rode back west to a small bed and breakfast just east of Goshen where we spent the night. The next day we continued on through Goshen and over into Nappanee and then back up north into Elkhart. There were so many wonderful things to see and do along the way. It is so green and beautiful along the way and the slight rolling but generally flat nature of the landscape makes for an easy ride. One of the best rides we have done.

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