There’s so much to see and do while attending the MOA Rally in St. Paul. The Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area is large and perhaps challenging if you’re looking for a way to fit in a day ride. I suggest that you take the opportunity to sneak out of town for a relaxing ride that will combine pleasant scenery with the opportunity for great shopping and dining experiences.
For years, I lived just a few blocks from the rally site and during that time, one of my favorite rides was the county roads of northern Washington County and MN 95 along the Minnesota River through the towns of Stillwater, Marine on St. Croix and Taylors Falls. It’s fortunate that this area is readily accessible from the rally site, and apart from weekday evening rush hour traffic, should be easy to navigate. The towns I mentioned are historical places, among the first settled in Minnesota as early settlers pushed westward.
Stillwater, with its proximity to the metro area, has developed into a hub for shopping and dining set on the wild and scenic St. Croix River. It’s a beautiful town, framed by the river and its bluffs and filled with historical buildings. Marine on St. Croix, about 15 miles upriver, is much smaller and slower paced. You’ll want to visit the General Store and maybe sample the ice cream next door at General Scoop Mills Stream Ice Cream Parlor. If you follow the street that winds toward the river next to the General Store, you’ll find yourself at a unique riverside café where you can sit and watch the river go by. Continuing upriver on Hwy 95, you will reach Taylors Falls, located between two state parks, one on each side of the St. Croix. Minnesota and Wisconsin got together and named both parks “Interstate Park,” a name which does little to describe the scenic beauty of the area; but each provides great hiking trails over terrain that is over a billion years old.
To get to this area from the Rally, you could simply go north on Snelling Ave from the Fairgrounds gate (a left turn) and ride 1.9 miles to Hwy 36 East. Take Hwy 36 all the way to Stillwater, 22 miles. You could choose to explore Stillwater at this point or continue north on Hwy 95 along the St. Croix to Marine on St. Croix and farther north on Hwy 95 to Taylors Falls. The return would find you retracing your route to stop for the things you missed on the way out.
If you’re like me, you would choose to take a less traveled and more interesting, though more complicated, path. To do that, you would exit the Fairgrounds and ride to Highway 36, taking the eastbound exit as above. At the 11-mile mark, exit on Geneva Ave. and go north (left). Follow Geneva for 2.2 miles to County Road EE, Wildwood Road. Turn right. After 1.3 miles, Wildwood Road becomes Mahtomedi Ave. and bears left where Stillwater Road bears right. Stay on Mahtomedi Ave. another 1.4 miles to Quail St., where you will turn right and go 1.1 miles to Hwy 96, also called Dellwood Trail. Follow Hwy 96 east 1.5 miles to Jamaca Ave. and turn north (left). Follow Jamaca 3.8 miles to Keystone Ave, turn left and go .25 miles to County Rd 7 (122nd St N). From here, follow County Road 7 to Manning Ave. (1 mile), then turn left and then right at .3 miles, following County Road 7, now also called Square Lake Trail. After 4.8 miles, you will come to a stop sign. Turn left here and continue following County Road 7. There will be one more stop sign, in 1.5 miles. Turn right here (stay on the paved road) and enjoy the descent into Marine on St. Croix. When you get to the stop sign at the bottom of the hill at Hwy 95, continue straight across on Judd St and ride into Marine on St. Croix. From here, you can choose continuing on north to Taylors Falls on Hwy 95 or heading south on Hwy 95 into Stillwater. Heading south on 95, don’t miss a quick stop at Franconia Sculpture Garden http://www.franconia.org/.
To return to the Rally site, just follow Hwy 95 to Highway 36 west and then take the Snelling Ave. south exit to the Fairgrounds.