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Fall is an exceptional time to visit Minnesota

Gateway State Trail – St. Paul to Stillwater

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 Trail for 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 ride 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 ride 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.

Our starting Point - Red Cow in St. Paul
Our starting Point – Red Cow in St. Paul
Somewhere in St. Paul en route to Stillwater
Somewhere in St. Paul on route to Stillwater
Cycling past old factories - some parts of it have a new life and tenants
Cycling past old factories – some parts of it have a new life and tenants
The Gateway State Trail is dead flat
The Gateway State Trail is dead flat
The Gateway State Trail to Stillwater is very popular
The bike trail to Stillwater is very popular
Cycle past a couple of ponds long the Gateway State Trail
Cycle past a couple of ponds long the Gateway State Trail
The Gateway State Trail is an exceptional bike ride in the fall
Fall is an exceptional time to visit Minnesota
Beautiful old oak trees line sections of the Gateway State Trail
Beautiful old oak trees line sections of the trail
The Gateway State Trail has a few good detailed maps
The Gateway State Trail has a few good detailed maps
Just a few miles outside of Stillwater
Just a few miles outside of Stillwater
Beautiful woods along the trail even without leaves
Beautiful woods along the trail even without leaves

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.

In Stillwater over the dinner hour? Stop in at Reve Bistro and Bar. Or return the same way you came. Allow three to four hours to do and out and back bike ride.

Finishing by the St. Croix River in Stillwater
Finishing by the St. Croix River in Stillwater
These steps in Stillwater have something to say
These steps in Stillwater have something to say
Do these steps 168 times and it'll be like climbing Kilimanjaro - without the altitude
Do these steps 168 times and it’ll be like climbing Kilimanjaro – without the altitude
The view from the top the stairs in Stillwater
The view from the top the stairs in Stillwater
Stillwater, Minnesota's pretty main street
Stillwater, Minnesota’s pretty main street

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.

For more information on the Gateway State Trail visit their website.

More posts related to cycling you might enjoy:

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Biking the Gateway State Trail from St. Pauls to Stillwater, MinnesotaThank you to Explore Minnesota for making this trip possible.

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Looks like you had lovely leaves when you visited! I’m glad you had a guide to help you thread your way through the city streets to the bike trail – it’s sad that there isn’t a better connection.

    So the Red Cow is across from the coffee shop where I had a photo exhibit last spring – I live to the west a bit and used to live by the Cathedral (and work at the Capitol complex), so you were in the heart of my neighborhood. Beautiful, isn’t it! Glad you got to spend some time in Stillwater too – we have friends who live on the hill above downtown, so we get there regularly to hang out. Let me know when you want to come back and have some time to explore a bit more.

    1. @Cindy There were definitely tricky bits where I would have spent a lot of time with the map. I stopped in at the coffee shop too so I know exactly where you had your exhibition. What a great part of town. And thank you for your kind offer.

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