Nestled in and atop the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River and downtown St. Paul, Battle Creek offers lots of short-but-sweet vertical gain and loss on trails ranging from technical singletrack to wide, grass- and woodchip-lined Nordic ski trails.
The section of the park east of McKnight Road S. offers easier running options, including paved bike paths; the section between S. Winthrop Street and Battle Creek Road offers wider ski trails and winding singletrack of varying difficulty and technicality; the section between Battle Creek Road and Point Douglas Road S. offers both of these as well as technical singletrack climbing and traversing the dual ridges bookending the park and wrapping around to face downtown St. Paul and the Mississippi.
A paved bike path also cuts through the entire valley of the park between E. Upper Afton Road and Point Douglas Road S., allowing for quick access to many of the trail’s singletrack options
What Makes It Great
Good running conditions persist year-round, though summer brings an abundance of stinging nettles and allergens, as well as potentially Lyme-carrying ticks in the tall grass; often unmaintained, the grass to the side of the trail near the park’s S. Winthrop entrance can grow to near-head height and require minor bushwhacking on narrower mountain bike trails, but this does not persist once you climb the hills to the west and enter the woods. Avoid classic ski tracks if you run on the ski trails in the winter, watch your footing under fallen leaves in late autumn, and yield to bikes on the singletrack.
Though the climbs in Battle Creek are not long, they are steep, and the challenging nature of the undulating trails can catch you by surprise before the run is over. On the parks’ southwest side, winding switchbacks descending the ridge toward Douglas Point Road offer great views of the river and downtown and comprise some of the very best stretches of trail in the entire Twin Cities metro.
If there is a downside, it is that the best stretches of trail are far between and hitting all of them requires a concerted effort and a Macgyvered route.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone who doesn’t have the time to trek out to Afton or the Superior Hiking Trail will find a suitable substitute for “real” trails at Battle Creek; runners seeking a solid trail run that doesn’t need to be more than ten miles will have plenty to do at this oasis of singletrack squeezed between such business hubs as downtown St. Paul and Maplewood’s 3M Headquarters.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Trails are open year-round and the park is open from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
The community center parking lot off S. Winthrop Street offers ample parking and access to the park via ski trails on its east side, as well as to the flatter section east of McKnight Road. Run west up the hill on the trails up to and across Battle Creek Road for ample wide and singletrack trail options.
On the park’s southwest side, a small lot at the terminus of Point Douglas Road (traveling from Lower Afton Road) offers quick access to the park’s most technical and challenging singletrack up the side of sandstone ridges on either side. Other singletrack climbs up the side of each ridge start further down the paved path. A gate blocking this lot is often not opened by sunrise, though it often remains open overnight.