Sunday, September 2, 2012

Biking St. Paul's Gateway/Munger State Trail

The 18 mile paved Gateway State Trail is part of the 172 mile Willard Munger Trail System and runs from the city of St. Paul (MN) to Pine Point County Park.  The scenery is drop-dead gorgeous as you pedal through urban and suburban landscapes and then traverse rural countryside. The trail has deservedly been named a USA National Recreation Trail.

I've biked over 170 trails across the country, all of which have pages on my site, and halfway through today's ride I knew this trail would be on my top 10 list!

The Gateway State Trail occupies the former Soo Line Railway right-of-way and provides access to other trails in Phalen-Keller Regional Park. There are plans to create a link, called Browns Creek Segment, from the Lake Masterman area east to Stillwater along the old Zephyer Line.

Sign kiosks with maps and info are liberally sprinkled along the trail, with both maps of the immediate area you are traversing, and also maps of the entire trail as seen below.   (Click to enlarge map.)

Even the first six miles through St. Paul, Maplewood, and North St. Paul are mostly wooded and have few residential street crossings. I like that they have posted the names of the streets that you cross. You get the feel of seclusion here even though you are in a busy urban area. You'll find miles 2 through 6 have slight uphill rise to them, but the remainder of the trail is mostly level.

You'll also pass several parks and two golf courses along this stretch. Around mile 8.5 you'll begin the rural section as you leave North St. Paul.  You'll spot regular rest stop areas should you need a break.

As you hit the rural stretches, you'll quickly see why Minnesota is called "Land of 10,000 lakes" as you see many bodies of water adjacent to the trail, as well as wetlands and prairies. Mileage posts are placed every mile to let you know where you are on the trail.

 Most uses are permitted along the trail, including snowmobiling in winter except on the paved sections which are groomed for cross-country skiing (pass required.)  Equestrians will find nearly 10 miles of adjacent gravel trail between I-694 (near mile 9 on the trail) and Pine Point Park for their use as seen below (note the horse and rider on the left)...

I did see 8 equestrians on my 33 mile ride, but a side benefit is that many dog walkers and runners use the gravel trail, reducing activity on the paved segment.

The trail crosses the Bruce Vento Trail that runs 7 miles north to south.

You can park on city streets wherever they intersect with the trail. The start of the trail in St. Paul is at Cayuga Park at East Cayuga St. and L'Orient St. just west of I-35 and has space along the street for parking.

 Parking lots are available here:

1. Flicek Park in Maplewood and Maplewood Community Center on Frost Ave. between US 61 (Arcade St.) and English St.

2. 55th Street, east of Hadley Avenue (southwest corner of SR 36 and I-694) -- At the junction of State Highways 35 and 36, go south 100 feet and turn left (east) onto 55th St. N.  Go to the end of the road and turn right and there's a trailhead lot.  (Or type 7161 55th Street in your GPS to reach the lot.)

3. Jamaca Avenue (7700 north) at Jeffrey Boulevard (9000 north)

4. Near Lake Masterman on SR 96 in Grant, under the trail bridge

5. Pine Point County Park, five miles north of Stillwater (fee charged)

6.  The trail overpass at White Bear shows several parking lots including a community center you could park in.  Just type 2055 White Bear into your GPS.

I parked at the North St. Paul Public Works facility right below the towering wind turbine.  It is across the expressway (Highway 36) from North High School. The lot has washroom facility and water.

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