State parks and trails planning

Other resources

Research & Studies

Brown's Creek State Trail Planning

In 2007, the Minnesota Legislature authorized the Brown's Creek State Trail as part of the Willard Munger Trail System in east central Minnesota. The trail will connect the Gateway State Trail in Grant to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in Stillwater via a 5.9 mile trail. Since the trail will be constructed on the former Minnesota Zephyr railroad grade, it will be generally level and accessible to users of all abilities. Like the Gateway State Trail, state statute dictates that the Brown's Creek State Trail will be developed primarily for hiking and nonmotorized riding.

Slide show of photos taken on the Brown's Creek State Trail corridor. This slideshow requires the latest version of
Adobe Flash Player


Photos of the Brown's Creek State Trail Corridor


Once complete, trail users will have the opportunity to travel to and from St. Paul, Stillwater, and northern Washington County via the Gateway and Brown's Creek state trails. The Brown's Creek trail corridor will travel through stretches of scenic woods, along a designated trout stream, past historic sites, and along the St. Croix River. The state trail will also connect to local and regional park and trail systems.

Eventually, the Brown's Creek State Trail may connect to a future trail system linking Minnesota and Wisconsin as part of the proposed St. Croix River Crossing.


For 23 years, the Zephyr dinner train followed this 5.9 mile route until its owner closed the business in late 2008. Negotiations for the sale of the railroad corridor were started by its owner two years prior, and included the support and advocacy of the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota, Washington County, and the City of Stillwater. The purchase represents a unique opportunity to secure the entire corridor of a legislatively authorized state trail from a single landowner.

After obtaining the exclusive right to purchase the property in September 2010, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials signed the purchase agreement on Feb. 16, 2012.

Trail development timeline

Updated 8/23/12: The first step in development of Minnesota’s newest state trail will begin in early September as contractors remove railroad tracks from the Brown’s Creek Trail between Stillwater and the City of Grant in Washington County. The railroad rails and ties from the former Minnesota Zephyr dinner train will be recycled. In a different approach to the competitive bid process, the contractor will perform the track removal work and pay the DNR for the value of the salvage. These proceeds will help offset future trail development costs.

Motorists may experience a few short-term road closures or detours as the work proceeds. Track removal is anticipated to be completed by November 30. The public is asked to remain off the trail corridor during the track removal and salvage process and to exercise extreme caution at all intersections and crossings.

The next phase of trail development, slated for 2013, will entail paving the portion of the trail from downtown Stillwater to the Brown’s Creek Park and Nature Preserve at Neal Avenue, as well as construction of a new bridge over Brown’s Creek at the Oak Glen Golf Course and rehabilitation of an existing bridge over state Highway 95. Further development of the trail, including a proposed bridge over Manning Avenue, will depend on funding availability. The public is asked to remain off the trail corridor during all phases of trail development to ensure safety. The DNR will not be maintaining the trail for use during this construction period.

Updates to the construction schedule and other trail development information will be posted here when it becomes available.

Maps of the trail corridor

Public input opportunities

Two public open houses were held at the Stillwater Public Library in late fall 2011 and comments on the draft master plan were accepted until January 6, 2012. All comments received were carefully considered and a summary of the input will be provided in the appendix of the master plan.

The master plan has been reviewed and approved by the DNR Commissioner. Read the final version of the planThis is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it..

More information

Colin Kelly, Parks and Trails Planner
Email, phone 651-259-5606

Kent Skaar, Acquisition and Development Section Leader
Email, phone 651-259-5636