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At one time, flour and grist mills dotted the Cannon River Valley. These mills formed the backbone industry for a number of towns. The Mill Towns State Trail seeks to honor this legacy with a planned 25 mile trail that will pass through these historic milling communities: Faribault, Dundas, Northfield, Waterford, Randolph, and Cannon Falls.
Currently there are 3 segments open: One runs for 2 miles from Cannon Falls to Lake Byllesby Park, a reservoir on the Cannon River. The trail begins at Hannahs Bend Park in Cannon Falls, and its smooth asphalt winds through tranquil prairie and farmland on its way west. The river first comes into view as you approach the US Highway 52 underpass, then is screened again by vegetation right up to the end, where a bridge offers wonderful views of the Cannon River on one side, and the Lake Byllesby dam on the other. It’s only about 1/8 mile from Hannahs Bend Park to Riverside Park, where the Cannon Falls City Trails begins its brief journey alongside the Little Cannon River.
A second segment sits at 3 miles between Dundas and Northfield. You can start at Mill Park or a little further at the designated Mill Towns State Trail trailhead. The trail heads northeast sitting between Dundas Boulevard on the left and active train tracks in the west. The trail crosses the railroad into Sechler Park and ends a little bit past that along Sechler Park Road.
The shortest open portion is just 1 mile long, between 17th Street and Park Avenue in the city of Faribault.
Cannon Falls to Lake Byllesby Dam
In Cannon Falls
At Lake Byllesby:
Dundas to Northfield Segment
I rode this trail as it branched off of the Cannon Valley Trail going into Cannon Falls. The first segment looks like an ancient city trail that is very narrow with rough pavement. After a mile or so it sends you into a little park on dirt, down a hill then back up on gravel. I bypass this by going through the parking lot and then the road where the new segment starts which has smooth pavement and a few hills with an underpass under Hwy 52 and a view of the Cannon River.
This leads to a nice park/campground--Lake Byllesby. It has recently been re-modeled. There are a few old sites along the lake that have shade & grass. The rest of the new sites (over 60 of them) have no shade or grass, just an asphalt pad, some gravel, electricity and a grill or fire pit. It has very nice bathroom facilities. The swimming beach was closed when I was here in late July, although you can swim on the Goodhue side of the park.
As far as the rest of the trail goes there are some huge gaps once you're done with Northfield and Cannon Falls. Some day when it's all connected it will be worth the extra effort.
Biked the Cannon Valley Trail and before going to the Cannon Falls trailhead, took the Mill Towns Trail to see what it was like. First part of trail is old and rough, and then you have to go on a dirt trail through a park and up a hill in class 5 rock before you get to the smooth, great trail by the fairgrounds. Wonderful ride that takes you past the beautiful waterfalls and dam at Lake Byllesby. Before the dam, if you go left, it's the Goodhue County park section of Lake Byllesby and the trail ends there. If you keep to the right, you cross the bridge and the dam and waterfalls from Lake Byllsbye are beautiful. Past the bridge you enter the Dakota County park section of the lake, and if you follow the path past the RV camping section, you get to the beach. Terrific beach with really nice bathrooms. Great trail - so glad we ventured off to bike it.
This trail is not smooth... there are rocks, sticks, grass growing and the sticky black tar all in/on the trail! And you have to cross the railway which is not easy with skates! If you want to ride a bike I’m sure it would be no problem or if you really want a challenge while skating go for it, but I won’t be skating this trail again.. oh and it’s poorly marked so I had to turn around a couple times before I found the right direction
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