When complete, the Mill Towns State Trail will connect the cities of Faribault, Dundas, Northfield, Waterford, Randolph, and Cannon Falls, for a distance of approximately 25 miles. The trail will be an important link in the developing southeast Minnesota trail system, connecting the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail in Faribault with the western end of the Cannon Valley Trail in Cannon Falls.
There are currently three sections of trail that are available for use. A 2-mile paved section between Cannon Falls and Lake Byllesby, connects with Hannah’s Bend Park and the city of Cannon Falls trails which in turn, connect to the nearly 20 mile Cannon Valley Trail to the east. The western end connects with two county parks, Dakota County’s Lake Byllesby Regional Park and Goodhue County’s Lake Byllesby Park.
A second 3-mile paved section connects the cities of Northfield and Dundas. This trail was built as a local trail but has been considered a part of the Mill Towns State Trail since the Master Plan was completed in 2005. The trail connects with the city of Northfield trails near Babcock and Riverside Parks on the north end and with the city of Dundas trailhead and local trails on the south end. A third 1-mile section exists in Faribault between 17th Street NW and Park Avenue. This segment also provides connectivity to locally built trails and city parks.
Historic Points of Interest
At one time, flour and grist mills dotted the Cannon River Valley between Faribault and Cannon Falls, harnessing the river’s power to process wheat into fine flours. The communities that emerged as mill towns provided the namesake for the state trail and the route is proposed to follow the valley along its path. Adjacent to the Dundas trailhead lies the former Archibald Mill. Members of the Archibald family, alongside 30 other milling operations in the valley active in the late 19th century, perfected the milling of Minnesota’s hard spring wheat and produced industry leading flours. This ruins site in Dundas is all that remains of a facility that once employed 100 men and produced 500 barrels of flour per day. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At the far eastern end of Lake Byllesby Reservoir in Dakota County sits the Lake Byllesby Dam. Built in 1910, this 60-foot high hydroelectric dam generates enough electricity to power 2,400 homes for a year. Watch Cannon River videos about Lake Byllesby and Lake Byllesby Dam.
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- Trail uses
During spring through fall, the trail is primarily for pedestrian use (hiking, walking, running, jogging) biking and in-line skating. Winter trail uses include snowmobiling.
Accessible Outdoors (electric wheelchairs allowed)
A separate treadway for snowmobiles is groomed during the winter months between Cannon Falls and Lake Byllesby. There is also a short shared-use segment open for snowmobile use between Dundas and Northfield. Both of these segments link to state snowmobile trails. A snowmobile must be registered or have a snowmobile state trail sticker. Learn more about snowmobiling in Minnesota and don't miss the interactive snowmobile trails map
- Trail segments
Faribault Segment - 1 mile
This one-mile portion travels from 17th St. NW to Park Ave.
Parking: at the White Sands Park trailhead on the west side of MN Hwy 21, 1/8 mile north of 7th St. NW.
Dundas to Northfield Segment - 3 miles
The trail segment starts at Mill Towns State trailhead in Dundas and continues along the Cannon River to Riverside Park in Northfield. The state trailhead offers visitors an informational kiosk.
Parking: at Dundas, in Mill Park and the Mill Towns State Trail trailhead on Railway Street. In Northfield, parking lots are located at Sechler and Riverside Parks.
Lake Byllesby Regional Park to Cannon Falls Segment - 2 miles
This segment spans from Lake Byllesby Dam, ending at the trailhead at 9th St. in Cannon Falls.
Parking: at either of the county parks surrounding the east side of Lake Byllesby, at the trailhead parking lot adjacent to the Cannon Valley Fairgrounds and at Hannah’s Bend Park.
Do not leave valuables in your vehicle!
Parking will be available at the following trail accesses:
- Faribault: at the White Sands Park trailhead on the west side of MN Hwy. 21, 1/8 mile north of 7th St. NW.
- Dundas: at Mill Park and the Mill Towns State Trail trailhead on Railway Street.
- Northfield: at Sechler and Riverside Parks.
- Lake Byllesby: at either of the county parks surrounding the east side of Lake Byllesby.
- Cannon Falls: at Mill Towns State Trail trailhead lot adjacent to the Cannon Valley Fairgrounds and at Hannah’s Bend Park.
Seasonal restroom facilities will be provided along the trail at these points:
- White Sands Park trailhead in Faribault (seasonally available)
- Mill Park in Dundas (seasonal portable restroom)
- Sechler and Riverside Parks in Northfield (seasonally available)
- Lake Byllesby Park on south side of Lake Byllesby, at Lake Byllesby Regional Park on the north side of Lake Byllesby and at Hannah’s Bend Park in Cannon Falls (seasonally available)
- In the area
Nearby park and recreation areas include:
- Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail
- Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
- Sakatah Lake State Park
- Cannon River State Water Trail
- Straight River State Water Trail
- Cannon Lake Public Water Access
- Roberds Lake Public Water Access
- Fox Lake Public Water Access
- Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest
Hay Creek Day-Use Area
- Whitney Island SNA
- Cannon River Trout Lily SNA
- Prairie Creek Woods SNA
- River Terrace Prairie SNA
- Cannon River Turtle Preserve SNA
- Faribault WMA
- Cannon River WMA
- Prairie Creek WMA
- Warsaw WMA
- Mud Creek WMA
- Tangential WMA
Attractions and points of interest
Dakota County Parks, Lake Byllesby Regional Park
City of Faribault Parks and Trails
City of Northfield maps
City of Cannon Falls parks map
Rice County Maps, Parks and Recreation
All users must yield to pedestrians.
- Stay on the trail.
- Keep to the right and warn other trail users when passing.
- All pets must be on a leash.
- Clean up all pet waste.
- Obey traffic signs and rules.
- Respect private property adjacent to the trail.
- Camping and campfires are not permitted on the trail.
- Enjoy the beauty of wild plants and animals, but leave them undisturbed for all to enjoy.
- Minnesota Rules, 6100.3000 apply on the Mill Towns State Trail.
The trail is open in the winter but is not groomed for any winter use. Snowshoers and walkers or skiers who don't mind not having a groomed trail will enjoy the trail in winter.
The trail also provides connections to many miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the area through the Grant-in-Aid trail system. A snowmobile must be registered or have a snowmobile state trail sticker. Learn more about snowmobiling in Minnesota and don't miss the interactive snowmobile trails map.