Taking you from north St. Paul’s suburbia to the rural fields of Ramsey and Washington County, the Gateway State Trail is a local favorite for a quick getaway from the city. A well-paved, flat 18-mile route, this trail is great for the St. Paul urbanites that have no car, but need a way to escape the sounds of city life.
What Makes It Great
Once an old railroad corridor, this trail gradually meanders northeast until it reaches Pine Point Regional Park. With a gradual 200-foot incline throughout the whole route, this offers cyclists a relaxing ride through beautiful rural landscapes. Also a popular route for cyclists wanting to work on their technique, the wide multi purpose trail has enough room for both parties. The Gateway also connects with other local and regional trails, making it easy to shorten or extend your ride at any time.
Since this trail runs through the city, there are several road intersections. Still a non-motorized trail, this means that for the first 10 miles one must yield to automotive drivers. It isn’t until you pass I-694 and reach the rural countryside that pedaling full speed is an option.
From the majestic Minnesota State Capitol Building, head north and meander through the small neighborhoods behind the state capital. Find Jackson Street, turn left, and then follow the eastern border of the Oakland Cemetery. Take a right at Cayuga Street and then within a couple blocks, you will see a sign for the Gateway Trail. The first couple of miles follows I-35E and takes you through a less scenic route. If you would prefer seeing some of St. Paul’s oldest homes, instead of exiting Cayuga Street, follow it and merge onto Phalen Boulevard. Providing a wide bike lane, this street veers northeast and intersects with the scenic Lake Phalen. Follow the bike paths around Lake Phalen’s beautiful shores.
Either the Gateway Trail or Phalen Blvd takes you to Lake Phalen, which is a third of the way out of the city. It is a good opportunity for a short water break and to take a moment to appreciate the pretty lake views. Continue on the Gateway trail for another 6 miles until you reach the underpass of I-694. From here the trail immediately opens up and the city streets become a distant memory. For the next 9.5 miles, you will see rural wetlands, farm pastures, hardwood forest complexes, and small lakes. Crank up your gears and pedal hard for the last big change in elevation and then glide until you reach Pine Point Regional Park.
It is good to note that once you cross under interstate-694, an unpaved trail runs parallel to the Gateway Trail. This is solely a horseback riding or carriage driving trail. While passing horseback riders, ride quietly, so to not spook the horses.
Who is Going to Love It
For cyclists wanting a quieter ride, the Gateway State Trail is a great alternative to the bustling Minneapolis Greenway and Chain of Lakes bicycling trails.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The trailhead is only a mile north of the state capital, just north of 7th Avenue, and in between 1st and 2nd Street. If you get lost, look for the wind turbine. The trailhead is adjacent to it. There is street parking available near all the trail entrances in the downtown St. Paul section.
Though this trail has no designated hours of operation, there is a portion that takes you through a dicey neighborhood. In this area, the Gateway Trail follows the interstate, just couple blocks off of that is Rice Street. There tends to be less light on this section of the trail, so plan accordingly if you plan on cycling in the evening.