The completed trail will feature several scenic and historic resting points.
The Mill Towns State Trail will begin at the White Sands trailhead facility, located at the eastern terminus of the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail. It is an 8.5 acre lot owned by the city of Faribault. The facility will have heated restrooms, picnic tables, shelters, a paved parking lot, and information kiosk, water and bike racks. This four-season facility will be owned and maintained by the city of Faribault. From the trailhead, it is a goal to connect to Faribault's Alexander Park and the city trail system.
Faribault lies at the confluence of the Cannon and Straight Rivers. Named in honor of Alexander Faribault, who came to the area in 1826 as a trader, the city now boasts a population over 20,000. Faribault’s size and opportunities for recreation support numerous amenities for trail users. A plethora of restaurants, lodging, and commercial services exist as well as potential connections to Faribault’s park and recreation system.
Little Prairie Church & School House
This cute little church and schoolhouse has an interesting history, and is a good stopping point on the way to Dundas.
Dundas, a growing community on the southern edge of Northfield, is the site of the old Archibald mill. Dundas will have a multi-use trailhead facility at the southeastern corner of Hester Street and Railway Street North. This facility will also serve as a canoe launch.
Snowmobilers can use this trailhead as an access point to the grant-in-aid snowmobile trail that runs parallel to Hester Street. The facility will have a paved parking lot, three wooden benches, a drinking fountain, a bike rack, a wooden toilet shelter and an informational kiosk. To meet ADA guidelines, two of the parking stalls will be accessible. One of the portable toilets will be ADA accessible as well. An interpretive display explaining the history of milling in the area is recommended at this site.
In Northfield, a community famous for "colleges, cows, and contentment," the trail will be a gateway into the downtown so travelers have the option to experience the arts, cuisine and shops before they pass on through. Dundas currently connects to Northfield with a city trail that runs along Armstrong Road/County Road 78 and ends at Laurel Court.
From Laurel Court, the route is proposed to pass under State Highway 3 along the Cannon River, and continue along the west bank around the safety center to the Fifth Street bridge. The city of Northfield will develop a trailhead, complete with a parking lot and shelter, portable toilets, drinking fountain and informational kiosk, located at the intersection of Highway 19 and Highway 3.
To assist trail users through town, “Share the Road” street signage will mark three blocks along Fifth between Water and Union Streets and along Union for one block between Fifth and Fourth Streets. Bike lanes have been painted on Fourth Street between Union and Prairie Streets.
For the second part of the Northfield segment, Carleton College has expressed a commitment to work with the Mill Towns Trail to establish the trail on College property. Motorized traffic will not be allowed on this segment. Several routing options have been proposed with the one being favored by the College as one that would utilize the existing corridor established by the railroad right-of -way on the west side of the Cannon River. While there are a number of issues to be resolved regarding this route, the College is willing to work with the Mill Towns Trail to overcome these obstacles. Other routes across College land may also be considered.
Carleton College's Cowling Arboretum consists of approximately 880 acres of land. The Arb is divided into upper and lower portions by Highway 19. The Upper Arb has some trails designated for bike use while the Lower Arb showcases rare plants, animals, and large contiguous areas of natural habitat.
Lake Byllesby Regional Park
Exact alignment has not been determined for the segment between Waterford Bridge and Lake Byllesby; however, Dakota County is in the process of planning for the future development of Lake Byllesby Regional Park. They have introduced preliminary concepts that include a vision of trail connections outside the park boundary as well as a trail circling Lake Byllesby. DNR Trails and Waterways and Dakota County will work cooperatively to site a potential alignment through the park.
The park itself will serve as a trailhead. It is situated on the north shore of Lake Byllesby Reservoir, the largest lake in Dakota County. The lake provides many opportunities for water recreation including boating, sailing, wind surfing, fishing and swimming. Land activities include picnicking, hiking, camping and a children's playground. Winter activities include ice fishing, dogsledding and skijoring. Motorized use is not allowed on the park's trails.
The trail will continue on from Lake Byllesby to Cannon Falls by a combination and/or portions of the following:
- Go south out of Lake Byllesby Regional Park by way of a proposed bridge, east of the dam, to connect with Lake Byllesby Goodhue County Park
- Continue east along the Cannon River, passing under the US Route 52 bridge, to Hannah’s Bend City Park in Cannon Falls
The city of Cannon Falls is located at the junction of the Big and Little Cannon Rivers, and offers many possible activities for those passing through on the trail. Stroll downtown to visit small shops and cafes, or head down to the river for some canoeing or tubing. Parking will be available at Hannah's Bend City Park. Using the paved city trail system, trail users can access the Cannon Valley Trail on to Red Wing from Hannah's Bend.