Visit

Let's explore!
Sue Steinwall

A variety of landscapes and experiences await you at Belwin.

Each area of Belwin showcases a different aspect of the Valley Creek Watershed, and is managed for different uses. Some are always free and open, while others are used for educational purposes or special event programming. Read on to learn more about each of them.


Stagecoach Prairie

Overview

Hit the trails

Featuring gently rolling hills dominated by native tallgrass prairie, this 280-acre area contains 5 miles of family-friendly trails of easy to moderate difficulty. Always free and open from dawn to dusk 365 days per year, the trails can be accessed from two different trailheads. During the winter, Stagecoach Prairie’s trails are not groomed, but are a prime spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Dogs are welcome on these trails too, as long as they’re on a leash!


For more public hiking, see also Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields and the Education Center.

Always free and open.

825 Stagecoach Trail S., Afton, MN
Directions & Trail Maps

Stagecoach Prairie’s trails may be accessed via two free parking areas:

Stagecoach Trail parking

825 Stagecoach Trail S., Afton, MN
This is the main parking area, located directly east of Stagecoach Trail one mile south of I-94. This trailhead leads directly into a large expanse of tallgrass prairie. A portable toilet is available here from May to September.

11th Street parking

11th Street South, Afton, MN
This lot is located .3 miles south of the Stagecoach Trail lot. This trailhead takes you down a brief stretch of wooded trails before joining a loop around Sauer’s Prairie.

Trail Maps

Hours & Guidelines

Stagecoach Prairie Hours & Guidelines

  • Open daily from dawn to dusk
  • Dogs allowed; help protect the health of your pet and native wildlife by staying on trails and keeping your dog on leash
  • Portable restroom available May through September
  • See General Guidelines for more information

Bison Observation Platform

Overview

Make a bison sighting

Every year, between mid-May and early October, a herd of bison lives on our restored bison prairie. Park at our viewing area and climb the platform to get a glimpse at these beautiful creatures. Bring your binoculars — they roam on 130 acres and are masters at blending into the prairie flora. Better yet, support Belwin with a donation in any amount and you can take a ride on the Bison Buggy right into the field.

Free and open; seasonal hours.

15551 Division Street, Afton, MN
Directions

Bison Observation Platform & Parking

15551 Division St., Afton, MN
This free parking area is located east of Stagecoach Trail just south of I-94. A portable, ADA-accessible restroom is available from mid-May through September.

The Bison Observation Tower parking lot is also the start of the trail system at Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields.

*Please note: Road construction on Division Street may temporarily affect access to the Bison Platform parking area. Construction is expected to be complete by July 1, 2021.

Hours & Guidelines

Bison Observation Platform Hours & Guidelines

  • The 2021 bison herd have arrived and will be at Belwin until early October
  • Open daily from dawn to dusk (seasonal)
  • Portable, ADA-accessible restroom available May through September
  • The first low bison platform is fully accessible
  • Please stay in the designated viewing areas to observe the bison. While the fence around the parking area is not electric, the rest of the prairie is surrounded by wildlife-friendly electric fencing. Please do not touch the fence.
  • Follow Minnesota Department of Health guidelines on distancing
  • See Belwin’s General Guidelines for more information

2021 Herd

2021 Bison Herd

The 2021 NorthStar Bison herd arrived at Belwin Conservancy on May 17. The herd of males will spend their summer grazing Belwin’s Bison Prairie and will return to NorthStar sometime in the fall.

Why Bison?

Bison bring the prairie to life

At Belwin Conservancy, American bison (Bison bison) play an important role in the health of the prairie. Since 2008, a herd of juvenile males from Northstar Bison has taken up summer residence at one of our tallgrass prairie restorations. Their presence has been transformative.

Today, the balance and abundance of wildlife, grasses, and flowers on Belwin’s bison prairie is second to none, thanks to this majestic creature. Belwin Restoration Specialist Lynette Anderson explains: “their grazing patterns promote the growth of different flowers, which brings in different insects, which bring in different birds, and so on and so forth. And that’s the importance of disturbance on a prairie: to keep this vital, dynamic, beautiful habitat going.”

Bison Buggy

Private Buggy Rides

Donors who make a $500 or greater gift to Belwin will be invited to schedule a private Bison Buggy tour with a group of 8-10 people. Guests are encouraged to make the outing even more festive by bringing their own snacks and drinks to enjoy on the ride. These private buggy tours last 1-3 hours and must be arranged in advance. Weekday, evening, and weekend hours are available.


Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields & Trails

Overview

Fun & games (a labyrinth too)

Belwin’s Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields see 150,000 visits from athletes and spectators each year. The site is also home to a solar array that generates enough annual electricity to power three homes for a year! The fields are surrounded by 2.5 miles of easy prairie trails that connect to our bison observation tower and also contain a labyrinth. Dogs are welcome on these trails too, as long as they’re on a leash!

Trails always free and open.

15601 Hudson Road N., Lakeland, MN
Directions & Trail Maps

Athletic Fields

15601 Hudson Road N., Lakeland, MN
The entrance to the athletic fields is located just south of I-94 on the frontage road between Stagecoach Trail and St. Croix Trail.

Public Trails & Labyrinth

15551 Division Street, Afton, MN
Belwin’s trails are open from dawn to dusk. The Athletic Field hours are generally more limited. To avoid being locked in the athletic field parking lots, we recommend hikers park at the Bison Observation Platform on Division Street and enter the trails via the trailhead directly across from the parking lot.

To access the labyrinth:
Park at the Bison Observation Platform parking lot and head to the northern edge of the trails. Two blue reflective markers herald the entrance.

Trail Maps

Hours & Guidelines

Athletic Fields: Hours & Guidelines

  • Seasonal hours
  • Dogs are not allowed on the fields

Public Trails: Hours & Guidelines

  • Open daily from dawn to dusk
  • Dogs allowed; help protect the health of your pet and native wildlife by staying on trails and keeping your dog on leash
  • See General Guidelines for more information
Our partners

Our partners

St. Croix Soccer Club

Founded in 1984, St. Croix Soccer Club (SCSC) is a regional power and destination club for elite players across Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. SCSC manages the Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields at Belwin Conservancy, including the scheduling. All questions regarding the fields should be directed to:

Donna Luttinen, SCSC Administrator
651-300-2114 | admin@stcroixsoccer.org


St. Croix Valley Athletic Association (SCVAA)

The SCVAA, founded in 1967, is a volunteer organization that provides youth athletic programs for children grades K-12. If you are interested in participating in one of their programs, please review the information on the SCVAA website.


Education Center

Overview

Take lessons from the land

The Education Center property hosts educational programs through Belwin Outdoor Science, our longstanding educational partnership with Saint Paul Public Schools and other area districts. This land is closed to the public except for special events and open hiking select Saturdays.

The land is comprised of 300 acres of rolling woodlands, prairie and wetlands, and features 4 miles of hiking trails, two educational facilities, and Belwin Conservancy’s main office. It is also home to the Joseph J. Casby Observatory. Dogs are not allowed at the Education Center.

Open for special events; hiking on select Saturdays.
1553 Stagecoach Trail S., Afton, MN

Directions & Trail Maps

1553 Stagecoach Trail S., Afton, MN
Belwin’s Education Center, Wetlands Special Education Classroom, and Main Office all share the same address. The Joseph J. Casby Observatory is also located here. Refer to the map below for details on each location.

Trail Maps

Hours & Guidelines

Education Center hours & guidelines

  • Education Center trails and building are open every third Saturday 9 am to 3 pm September through May. (Summer Hours: open every Saturday Memorial Day through Labor Day.) Otherwise closed to the public.
  • Dogs are not allowed on Education Center trails.
  • Restrooms available.
  • See General Guidelines for more information


Creative Center

Overview

Walk back in time

Since 2003, Belwin has been working to clear invasive plants and restore biodiversity to this 246-acre property. Today, the land looks much like it would have in the mid 1800s. Home to a sprawling oak savanna, one of our region’s most threatened native ecosystems, the parcel contains rolling hills, expansive vistas, and wetlands.

In the coming years, we hope to share this area with more visitors through our growing Arts, Culture, and Ecology program, simultaneously showcasing and protecting the health of the restored ecosystems here.

Open by invite only.
795 Indian Trail S., Afton, MN

Directions & Trail Maps

795 Indian Trail S., Afton, MN
The Creative Center buildings and trailhead are located in a residential area on Indian Trail between Hudson Road and Stagecoach Trail, just south of I-94.

Trail Maps

Hiking at the Creative Center is currently by invite only.

Hours & Guidelines

Creative Center Hours & Guidelines

  • Open for select events only. Otherwise closed to the public.
  • Dogs are not allowed.
  • Restrooms and facilities available.
  • See General Guidelines for more information.
History

In future years, we hope to share this area with more visitors through our growing Arts, Culture, and Ecology program, simultaneously showcasing and protecting the health of the restored ecosystems here. With potential to be a retreat for artists, the area offers ample inspiration from the surrounding environment – a vision in keeping with the land’s history.

Many Afton residents know this property for its previous owner, Father George Metcalf, an Episcopal priest, and his wife Mary. Metcalf served as General Patton’s personal chaplain during WWII, and with Mary, built a residence with two small guest cottages here in 1959.

For years, the buildings and the land here served as a spiritual retreat, and Metcalf’s radio ministry was broadcast around the world from towers on the sloping hillside. If you’re curious to know more, read Belwin’s Creative Center: A Labor of Love.


Joseph J. Casby Observatory

Overview

Go stargazing

Have you ever looked through a telescope, seen the shadow of a crater on the surface of the moon with your own eyes, or watched a nebula thousands of light years away? Guided by members of the Minnesota Astronomical Society, you can at Belwin!

The Joseph J. Casby Observatory offers a southern view of Belwin’s dark skies and permanently houses an eight foot long 10″ TMB Apochromatic Refracting Telescope, one of the finest in the state.

Open for special events only.

1553 Stagecoach Trail S., Afton, MN
Directions

1553 Stagecoach Trail S., Afton, MN
Belwin’s Education Center, Wetlands Special Education Classroom, and Main Office all share the same address. The Joseph J. Casby Observatory is also located here, on the southwest side of the Education Center building.

Hours & Guidelines

Casby Observatory Hours & Guidelines

Several times per year, Belwin holds events in partnership with the Minnesota Astronomical Society for moon viewing, galaxy sightings, and planetary observations. Watch our events page or sign up for our email list to learn more.

Our partners

Minnesota Astronomical Society

In 2010, the Minnesota Astronomical Society (MAS) opened the doors—and the dome—to the Joseph J. Casby Observatory at Belwin Conservancy’s Education Center. Since its opening, MAS members have guided thousands of people in observing our universe and deepening their connection with our natural world through astronomy.

Once a month, MAS also hosts Beginner Astronomy Observing Sessions at Belwin’s Metcalf Field. Visit their website to learn more.


General guidelines for visiting Belwin

As you enjoy your time here, please remember that we are sharing this special place with other creatures who call it home. We encourage everyone to tread lightly and subscribe to the principles of Leave No Trace.

Restrooms and usage vary for each site. Refer to each specific area for more information.

Do not leave valuables in your vehicle.

Rules

  • Follow posted signs. 
  • Access and rules may change due to ongoing restoration activities. 
  • Access is only allowed from designated entrances. 
  • Stay on designated trails and respect private property. 
  • Pack out whatever you pack in.
  • Dogs on leash are only permitted at Stagecoach Prairie Natural Area and the trails at the Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields (not on the fields themselves). Belwin has no off-leash areas for dogs.

Belwin Conservancy celebrates diversity. We value an inclusive and equitable workplace for our staff, volunteers and visitors, and partner with those who share these values. Belwin is proud to be an equal opportunity workplace. We do not and will not tolerate harassment and racial profiling at Belwin Conservancy.

The following are not allowed at Belwin:

Bikes, Camping, Drones, Fires, Fireworks, Hammocks, Horses, Hunting, Littering, Motorized Vehicles, Picking Flowers, Removal of Vegetation, Weapons

Questions?

info@belwin.org or (651) 436-5189

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Why Belwin Matters

We spark passion for wild places through conservation, education, and immersive experiences on more than 1,500 acres in Minnesota’s Saint Croix Valley.

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Main Office

1553 Stagecoach Trail South
Afton, MN 55001
651-436-5189
info@belwin.org

Copyright © 2019 - 2021 Belwin Conservancy