The Gateway State Trail, a converted rail bed, offers cyclists and other non-motorized users an 18 mile, mostly flat paved trail that starts in St. Paul and finishes at Pine Point Regional Park, about four miles short of the ultra-cute town of Stillwater on the border with Wisconsin.
At the end of the Gateway State Trail you can hop on the Brown’s Creek State Trailfor four miles to finish on the banks of the St. Croix River in Stillwater. If I lived in St. Paul this would definitely be one of my go to bike rides.
On the day of my bike ride on the Gateway State Trail, I was lucky to be in the company of Bill Lindeke and Margot Higgins from the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition. Without their help I’m not sure how I would have navigated the trails through St. Paul without stopping to look at a map at every intersection – especially since some of the trails in St. Paul are still a work in progress.
I was also appreciative of all the insight Bill could provide on the history of the city. (As an aside this is a guy you want to hire as a tour guide for truly off the beaten path tours. For example tour the parking garages in St. Paul and learn their history. Find him on Twitter @BillLindeke.)
Gateway State Trail starting point
We started our ride at the Red Cow Café where one of their memorable burgers should be consumed before heading out. Riding around the State Capital area and then through downtown had me disoriented in no time – so again very happy to be with people who knew the trail.
Shortly after biking through an old industrial section that is in the process of being upgraded we arrived at the intersection of the Bruce Vento Regional Trail. From there the Gateway State Trail takes you into a parkland setting complete with lakes, wetlands and fields.
Partway into this section of the ride I had a couple of others join me – John Oldendorf and Peter Nord – both from the Gateway Trail/Browns Creek Association. As I cycled I learned more about all the hard work that what went into building this trail. Once again I was in awe of the number of volunteer hours required to make the trail a reality. It’s a lesson in perseverance.
My favourite section of trail was just outside of Stillwater on the section of the Brown’s Creek Trail where gnarly old oak trees line the paths. It’s a particularly beautiful area. Linger here.
A stop in Stillwater, Minnesota
The Brown’s Creek Trail via the Gateway State Trail leaves you at the water’s edge of the St. Croix River in Minnesota. Wisconsin is on the other side of the bridge pictured below.
In October the river was incredibly high and blocked off in places, in large part I believe because of a rainy summer. But you can still find a bench by the river where you can watch the world go by. If you had lots of time a boat cruise on a sunny day would be just the thing to do.
Ditch your bike for a few hours and explore Stillwater on foot. The main street is full of delightful shops including a real bookstore (Valley Bookstore) and a onsite café with comfy chairs. And if you still have energy to burn climb the 157 steps of Stillwater’s Main Street Staircase. The view from the top makes it worthwhile.
Allow three to four hours to do and out and back bike ride.
I’m envious of the people who live in both St. Paul and Stillwater. To have such an exceptional trail on their doorstep is truly a treat for the cyclist.