Cannon Valley Trail In Minnesota

Here is everything you need to know about the Cannon Valley Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Minnesota
  • Length: 20 miles.
  • Type: Biking.
  • Surface: paved
  • Managed By: Cannon Valley Trail Joint Powers Board
  • Permit Required?: Yes.
  • Website:

The Cannon Valley Trail is a scenic recreational trail located in southeastern Minnesota, United States. The trail follows the former route of the Chicago Great Western Railway, which was originally constructed in the late 19th century. The railway played a crucial role in the development and transportation of goods and people in the region.

The construction of the railway began in the 1880s, with the aim of connecting the cities of Red Wing and Mankato. The line was completed in 1886, and it quickly became an important transportation route for agricultural products, lumber, and other goods. The railway also facilitated the growth of towns and communities along its route, as it provided a means of transportation for residents and businesses.

However, with the decline of rail transportation in the mid-20th century, the Chicago Great Western Railway ceased operations in 1972. Recognizing the potential for a recreational trail, local communities and organizations came together to convert the abandoned railway into a multi-use trail. The Cannon Valley Trail officially opened in 1986, offering a picturesque route for walkers, joggers, cyclists, and cross-country skiers.

Today, the Cannon Valley Trail spans approximately 20 miles, winding through beautiful landscapes, including forests, prairies, and the scenic Cannon River. Along the trail, visitors can still see remnants of the railway’s history, such as old bridges and trestles. The Cannon Valley Trail stands as a testament to the region’s transportation history and provides a unique opportunity for outdoor recreation and appreciation of the area’s natural beauty.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Cannon Falls Trailhead: Located in Cannon Falls, this is the starting point of the Cannon Valley Trail. It offers parking facilities, restrooms, and picnic areas.

2. Welch Station Access: Situated in Welch, this access point provides parking, restrooms, and a picnic area. It is a popular spot for birdwatching and offers beautiful views of the Cannon River.

3. Red Wing Trailhead: Located in Red Wing, this access point offers parking, restrooms, and picnic areas. It is a great starting point for exploring the trail and enjoying the scenic beauty of the area.

4. Miesville Ravine Park Reserve: Situated in Miesville, this access point offers parking, restrooms, and picnic areas. It is known for its beautiful ravine and is a popular spot for hiking and nature walks.

5. Cannon City Trailhead: Located in Cannon City, this access point provides parking, restrooms, and picnic areas. It is a great spot for fishing and offers access to the Cannon River.

6. Lake Byllesby Regional Park: Situated near Cannon Falls, this access point offers parking, restrooms, and picnic areas. It is a popular spot for boating, fishing, and camping.

7. Cannon Valley Fairgrounds: Located in Cannon Falls, this access point provides parking and restrooms. It is a convenient starting point for those attending events at the fairgrounds.

8. Cannon Valley Trail Visitor Center: Situated in Cannon Falls, this access point offers parking, restrooms, and a visitor center. It provides information about the trail and its surroundings.

9. Cannon Valley Trail Depot: Located in Red Wing, this access point offers parking, restrooms, and a depot building. It is a historic site and serves as a hub for various trail activities.

10. Cannon Valley Trail Bridge: Situated near Welch, this access point provides parking and offers access to the trail via a bridge over the Cannon River. It is a scenic spot and a popular photo opportunity.

Transportation Available

1. Cannon Valley Trail Shuttle – Shuttle service for convenient transportation along the Cannon Valley Trail.
2. Red Wing Taxi – Taxi service offering transportation to and from the Cannon Valley Trail.
3. Northfield Metro Transit – Public transit service with routes connecting to the Cannon Valley Trail.
4. Bike Rental Shop – Rental service providing bicycles for exploring the Cannon Valley Trail.
5. Ride Share Services – Various ride-sharing platforms available for transportation to the Cannon Valley Trail.


The amenities available at the Cannon Valley Trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities located at various points along the trail, including Welch Station, Cannon Falls, and Red Wing.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas available at multiple trailheads, including Cannon Falls, Welch Station, and Red Wing. These parking areas provide convenient access to the trail.

3. Camping Sites: The Cannon Valley Trail does not have designated camping sites along the trail. However, there are nearby campgrounds and parks where camping is available, such as Lake Byllesby Regional Park and Frontenac State Park.

4. Picnic Areas: There are several picnic areas along the trail where visitors can stop and enjoy a meal or snack. These areas are equipped with picnic tables and sometimes have scenic views.

5. Water Stations: There are water stations available at various points along the trail, allowing visitors to refill their water bottles and stay hydrated during their journey.

6. Bike Rentals: At Welch Station, there is a bike rental shop where visitors can rent bicycles to explore the trail if they don’t have their own.

7. Information Kiosks: Information kiosks are located at different trailheads and provide maps, brochures, and other useful information about the trail and its surroundings.

8. Benches: There are numerous benches placed along the trail, providing resting spots for visitors to take a break and enjoy the scenery.

9. Wildlife Viewing Areas: The trail passes through beautiful natural areas, and there are designated wildlife viewing areas where visitors can observe and appreciate the local flora and fauna.

10. Interpretive Signs: Throughout the trail, there are interpretive signs that provide information about the history, geology, and ecology of the area, enhancing the educational experience for visitors.

Please note that amenities may vary in availability and quality, so it is always recommended to check the official Cannon Valley Trail website or contact the trail management for the most up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. AmericInn by Wyndham Northfield – Comfortable lodging option near the Cannon Valley Trail.
2. Archer House River Inn – Historic hotel offering a charming stay in downtown Northfield.
3. Contented Cow – Cozy pub serving a variety of food and drink options in Northfield.
4. Hogan Brothers’ Acoustic Cafe – Quaint cafe with a menu featuring sandwiches, soups, and baked goods in Northfield.
5. Northfield Hospital & Clinics – Nearby medical facility providing emergency services.
6. Northfield Police Department – Local law enforcement agency offering emergency services.
7. Quality Inn & Suites – Convenient lodging option with amenities near the Cannon Valley Trail.
8. Quarterback Club – Casual sports bar and grill serving American fare in Northfield.
9. St. Olaf College – Nearby educational institution with emergency services available.
10. Super 8 by Wyndham Northfield – Affordable lodging option close to the Cannon Valley Trail.

Cannon Valley Trail Difficulty Notes

The Cannon Valley Trail offers a moderate difficulty level, making it suitable for a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts. The trail spans approximately 20 miles, winding through picturesque landscapes, including forests, prairies, and river valleys. While there are some gentle inclines and declines along the way, the trail is mostly flat, making it accessible for walkers, hikers, bikers, and even rollerbladers. With well-maintained surfaces and clear signage, navigating the trail is relatively easy, allowing visitors to focus on enjoying the stunning scenery and wildlife that the Cannon Valley Trail has to offer.

Features And Attractions

1. Welch Station Access: This access point offers a scenic view of the Cannon River and is a great starting point for your journey along the trail.

2. Cannon Falls: This charming town along the trail is home to several historical sites, including the Cannon River Historical Museum and the Cannon River Winery. The downtown area also offers beautiful views of the river.

3. Lake Byllesby Regional Park: Located near the trail, this park features a stunning lake surrounded by rolling hills and forests. It’s a perfect spot for picnicking, fishing, or simply enjoying the natural beauty.

4. Cannon River Wilderness Area: This protected area along the trail offers a serene and untouched natural landscape. It’s a great place for hiking, birdwatching, and observing wildlife.

5. Welch Mill Canoeing & Tubing: If you’re looking for some adventure, this spot along the trail offers canoeing and tubing opportunities on the Cannon River. Enjoy the scenic views as you paddle downstream.

6. Red Wing: This historic town is located near the trail and is known for its beautiful architecture, including the famous Red Wing Shoe Company. The town also offers stunning views of the Mississippi River.

7. Frontenac State Park: Although not directly on the trail, this state park is located nearby and offers breathtaking views of the Mississippi River Valley. Hiking trails, camping, and birdwatching are popular activities here.

8. Cannon Valley Trail Overlook: This overlook provides a panoramic view of the Cannon River Valley. It’s a great spot to take in the natural beauty of the area and capture some memorable photos.

9. Cannon River Winery: Located in Cannon Falls, this winery offers a picturesque setting with vineyards and rolling hills. Take a break from your bike ride and enjoy a wine tasting or a tour of the winery.

10. Cannon River Falls: This waterfall is located near the trail and offers a stunning natural landmark. Take a short hike to reach the falls and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

These are just a few of the many scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks along the Cannon Valley Trail. Exploring the trail will provide you with a diverse range of experiences and opportunities to appreciate the beauty of the area.

Usage Guidelines

– Pets are allowed on the Cannon Valley Trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Pet owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets.
– Bicycles, rollerblades, and skateboards are allowed on the trail.
– Motorized vehicles, including ATVs and motorcycles, are not allowed on the trail.
– The trail is open year-round, but certain sections may be closed during winter months due to snow or maintenance.
– Camping or overnight stays are not permitted on the trail.
– Fires and grilling are not allowed on the trail.
– Littering is strictly prohibited.
– Alcohol consumption is not allowed on the trail.
– Hunting or trapping is not permitted on the trail.
– Fishing is allowed in designated areas, following state fishing regulations.
– Horseback riding is not allowed on the trail.
– Motorized boats are not allowed on the Cannon River within the trail corridor.
– Respect other trail users and yield to pedestrians.
– Use caution and follow posted speed limits.
– Stay on designated trails and do not trespass onto private property.
– Report any trail maintenance issues or concerns to the appropriate authorities.

Seasonal Information

The Cannon Valley Trail, located in southeastern Minnesota, offers a picturesque and scenic experience for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. The best times to visit the trail largely depend on personal preferences and the activities one wishes to engage in. However, the trail is particularly popular during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is mild, and the surrounding landscapes are adorned with vibrant colors.

In the spring, usually from April to June, the Cannon Valley Trail comes alive with blooming wildflowers and lush greenery. This is an ideal time for nature lovers and birdwatchers, as migratory birds return to the area, filling the air with their melodious songs. The trail is also less crowded during this time, allowing visitors to enjoy a peaceful and serene experience.

During the fall, from September to November, the Cannon Valley Trail transforms into a breathtaking display of autumn colors. The surrounding forests and riverbanks are painted in vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold, creating a stunning backdrop for hikers, bikers, and photographers. The cooler temperatures make it an enjoyable time for outdoor activities, and the trail is often bustling with visitors eager to witness the beauty of the changing seasons.

It is important to note that the Cannon Valley Trail has seasonal closures during the winter months. Typically, from December to March, the trail is closed for recreational activities due to snow and ice accumulation. However, during this time, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted, providing a unique and tranquil experience for winter enthusiasts. It is advisable to check the trail’s official website or contact the trail management for the most up-to-date information regarding closures and winter activities.

Overall, the Cannon Valley Trail offers a diverse and captivating experience throughout the year. Whether it’s the vibrant colors of spring and fall or the peacefulness of a winter wonderland, there is something for everyone to enjoy on this scenic trail.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces close to the trailhead with sufficient space for wheelchair users to enter and exit their vehicles.
2. Accessible Trailhead: A level and paved area at the trailhead with accessible restrooms, picnic tables, and information boards.
3. Paved Trail Surface: The entire trail is paved, providing a smooth and accessible surface for wheelchair users.
4. Rest Areas with Benches: Regularly spaced rest areas along the trail with benches for individuals to take a break or enjoy the scenery.
5. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas along the trail equipped with accessible picnic tables and grills.
6. Accessible Restrooms: Wheelchair accessible restrooms available at the trailhead and other designated locations along the trail.
7. Accessible Water Fountains: Wheelchair accessible water fountains located at various points along the trail.
8. Trail Signage: Clear and visible signage along the trail, including braille and tactile signage, to assist individuals with visual impairments.
9. Accessible Trail Maps: Trail maps available in accessible formats, such as large print or digital versions compatible with screen readers.
10. Assistance Animals: The trail allows service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities.
11. Accessible Transportation: Information on accessible transportation options to and from the trail, including public transportation and accessible parking.
12. Trail Accessible for Mobility Devices: The trail is designed to accommodate various mobility devices, including wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers.
13. Accessible Trail Loops: The trail offers accessible loop options for individuals who prefer shorter distances or have limited mobility.
14. Accessible Trailhead Amenities: Accessible amenities at the trailhead, such as accessible parking, restrooms, and picnic areas.
15. Accessible Trail Events: The trail hosts accessible events and activities, ensuring inclusivity for individuals with disabilities.
16. Trail Maintenance: Regular maintenance and repairs are conducted to ensure the trail remains accessible and safe for all users, including those with disabilities.

Safety Information

When visiting the Cannon Valley Trail, it is important to keep the following safety information in mind:

1. Stay on designated trails: Stick to the marked paths and avoid venturing off into unauthorized areas. This helps prevent accidents and protects the natural environment.

2. Be aware of your surroundings: Pay attention to your surroundings at all times. Keep an eye out for other trail users, wildlife, and any potential hazards such as fallen branches or uneven terrain.

3. Share the trail: The Cannon Valley Trail is open to various users, including walkers, runners, cyclists, and skaters. Be respectful and share the trail with others. Cyclists should yield to pedestrians and give them ample space.

4. Use proper safety gear: If you are cycling, skating, or skateboarding, wear a helmet and any other appropriate safety gear. This can help protect you in case of a fall or collision.

5. Follow traffic rules: If you are cycling or skating, obey traffic rules and signals. Ride in the same direction as traffic, signal your intentions, and yield to pedestrians and vehicles when necessary.

6. Stay hydrated and carry essentials: Bring enough water to stay hydrated during your visit. Additionally, carry essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and a first aid kit to ensure your comfort and safety.

7. Be cautious at road crossings: The Cannon Valley Trail intersects with several roads. Approach road crossings with caution, obey traffic signals, and yield to vehicles when necessary. Look both ways before crossing.

8. Keep pets on a leash: If you bring your pet along, keep them on a leash and under control at all times. This ensures the safety of your pet, other trail users, and wildlife.

9. Respect nature and wildlife: Do not disturb or harm the natural environment or wildlife along the trail. Avoid littering and dispose of trash properly. Observe wildlife from a distance and do not feed or approach them.

10. Be prepared for emergencies: Familiarize yourself with the trail’s emergency procedures and contact information. Carry a cell phone and let someone know about your plans and estimated return time.

Remember, safety is everyone’s responsibility. By following these guidelines, you can have an enjoyable and safe visit to the Cannon Valley Trail.

Conservation Notes

The Cannon Valley Trail, located in southeastern Minnesota, is a significant conservation area that plays a crucial role in preserving the region’s natural resources and biodiversity. The trail traverses through diverse ecosystems, including woodlands, wetlands, and prairies, providing habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species. As a result, the conservation status of the Cannon Valley Trail is of utmost importance to maintain the ecological balance and protect the area’s unique natural heritage.

Efforts to conserve the Cannon Valley Trail are focused on preserving the native flora and fauna, as well as maintaining the overall health of the ecosystems it passes through. The trail management actively works to control invasive species that can disrupt the natural balance and threaten the survival of native plants and animals. Regular monitoring and restoration activities are conducted to ensure the conservation of the trail’s biodiversity.

Additionally, the Cannon Valley Trail is managed with a strong emphasis on sustainable practices. Measures are taken to minimize the impact of human activities on the environment, such as proper waste management and the promotion of responsible trail use. By implementing sustainable practices, the conservation status of the trail is enhanced, allowing visitors to enjoy the natural beauty while minimizing their ecological footprint.

Overall, the conservation status of the Cannon Valley Trail is a priority for the management team. Through ongoing efforts to protect and restore the area’s ecosystems, the trail serves as a valuable conservation area, preserving the region’s natural resources and promoting the long-term sustainability of the surrounding environment.

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