Hiking the Stillwater Historic Stairs Route

Main street stairs, stillwater historic stairs route
At the bottom of the Main Street Stairs in downtown Stillwater

The Stillwater Historic Stairs Route can be so much more than just a workout. It’s a great way to slow down and enjoy this iconic town.

There are a number of Stillwater Historic Stairs routes posted online. Here’s my favorite route that includes, not only the well-known historic stairs of Stillwater, but other historical sites. It includes a variety of hills, scenic views, the riverfront and a short stroll through a ravine alongside a hidden stream.

My route is just shy of 3-1/2 miles and takes 75-90 minutes to complete at a moderate pace. I start in downtown Stillwater near the Daily Grind Coffee shop (in the back of the Valley Bookseller Bookstore) at Pedestrian Plaza.  

pedestrian plaza, stillwater
Pedestrian Plaza along the beautiful St. Croix River

Segment 1: River Walk

Head towards the river on the Pedestrian Plaza. Turn left and go north towards the Union Depot and Brown’s Creek Trailhead. There are a few art pieces along the way.

artwork pedestrian plaza
There’s lots of fun artwork along the riverfront

Take a left on Laurel St..  Cross over Main St. towards the Warden House/Pioneer Park Stairs.

These stairs were used by the Mill workers in the Staples Mill to get from downtown to the bluff. They were also used for exercise and sight seeing. There are about 16 steps up to the Warden house and then an additional 126 or so to Pioneer Park. (I lost count as a friendly stair walker greeted me!)

pioneer park stairs, stillwater
Pioneer Park Stairs

Pioneer Park provides a beautiful view of Stillwater and the St. Croix River valley.

pioneer park overlooking st croix river valley, stillwater
The gorgeous view from Pioneer Park, overlooking the St. Croix River valley

Segment 2: North Hill

Continue down 2nd St. to Mulberry St. and take a right. Mulberry is the steepest climb, up to the Library. Climb the 38 stairs and continue over the cobblestone. Cross over 4th St., and continue on Mulberry. Take a right on Harriet St. for one block. At the bend in the road is a tar path on the right. Take the path down to the T intersection and turn right. The path continues alongside a stream (which happened to be dry, since we’ve hardly had any rain).

mulberry stairs, stillwater
The Mulberry Stairs

The Mulberry Stairs (47) will lead you back up to Mulberry. Take a left and head back towards the Library. Then turn right on 4th St. towards Myrtle. Head left to 3rd St. Take a right on 3rd and continue up to Olive St. Turn left on Olive and head back down to 2nd St. Take a right on 2nd and head towards Teddy Bear Park.

Segment 3: South Hill

At the Park, take a left on Nelson St. and head down to Main St. Go right on Main and head towards the Main St. Stairs (formerly known as the South Hill Stairs). I believe there are 159 stairs, but once again I lost count exchanging friendly greetings with other stair walkers. 🙂

main street stairs, historic stillwater
Main Street Stairs

The original stairs were constructed of wood and built to get to the bluff from downtown because, unlike the North Hill, there were no roads connecting downtown.  The stairs led up to the home of the brewmaster of the Brewery of Wolf, Tanner & Co. which was located at the bottom of the stairs. The view is spectacular of downtown and the river.

view from main street stairs, stillwater
The spectacular view from the top of Main Street Stairs

At the top of the stairs, continue on Broadway to Triangle Park. At Triangle Park, veer to the right. There are 45 stairs up to Willard St. Continue on Willard to 3rd St. and take a right to continue to the Stillwater Veterans Memorial. There are 21 steps up to the Memorial, which was completed and dedicated on Memorial Day 2004. 

Take a moment to stop under the metal structure, look up and just breathe. The sidewalks are lined with fragrant flowers and you’ll see stone memorials of former students of Stillwater Area Schools and other Stillwater veterans killed in service in the time of war.

Cross over Pine St. and climb the 41 stairs up to the Historic Courthouse. It’s the oldest standing courthouse in Minnesota, built in 1867. It contained the old jail and courtroom.  

stillwater historic courthouse
Stillwater’s historic courthouse
stillwater veterans memorial spire
Underneath the Veterans Memorial Spire

Turn and go back down the top steps and continue around the west side of the courthouse and walk under a canopy of trees.

Cross over the parking lot to 4th St and take a right. Cross over Pine St. and head towards Oak St. Take a left on Oak and continue past the “do not enter” signs. This is a state road and is open to pedestrians but not cars. Take a right on 5th St. which turns into Chestnut St. You’ll find yourself at the top of Chestnut St. Stairs.

chestnut street stairs, stillwater stairs route
The view from the top of the Chestnut Street Stairs

These stairs split the north and south hills of Stillwater. Walk down the 119 steps and head towards the Historic Lift Bridge (built in 1831). Take a left on the pedestrian path near the bridge and head back to the coffee shop.  

stillwater historic stairs route map
My map of the entire route

In the fast pace of life, take time to absorb the simple beauty around you and have fun!

How to Get There & Where to Park

If you look up 126 Water Street N in Stillwater, your phone’s GPS will take you right to the parking area by Pedestrian Plaza. There’s plenty of free parking there, although after 10:00 am it can get pretty busy. You can start anywhere on the map if parking is a problem. There’s free parking at the Veterans Memorial, too.

You’ll find public restrooms at Pedestrian Plaza, Pioneer Park and Teddy Bear Park. They’re open from 6:00 or 8:00 am to 8:00 or 10:00 pm, depending on the location. There’s also a satellite at the Veterans Memorial.

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Rochelle Brodin
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