Walking the Historic Stairs of Stillwater

Editor’s note: This article is a reprint from author Steve Gjerdingen’s blog, where it originally was posted on July 16, 2023. All photos are by the author.

I was off the bike for almost a month this past summer and realized that I had gotten out of the habit of bike-blogging. During that time I did more walking and a little bit of blogging about some of those walks. One of those walks was a mission to find all of the historic staircases in downtown Stillwater.

I had previously learned that there were five historic staircases in Stillwater and had traversed only a couple of them. I was already in town for the annual Lumberjack Days in July and had been recovering from a food-induced coma of sorbet from Nelson’s, so I figured what harm was there in going for a little evening walk to see if I could visit them all in one fell swoop?

Below are pictures of a three-mile route I did on a Sunday evening in mid-July. The route hits up all five historic staircases. I parked near the intersection of Nelson and 5th and worked my way east making a clockwise circuit. The route was one that I had found on the “Discover Stillwater” website:

The first staircase I encountered was at 3rd and Mulberry Street.

I started my journey around 3rd and Olive. The first staircase I visited at 3rd and Chestnut was pretty cool due to the number of steps and the nice view of the river on the way down.

I forgot to take a picture, so this one is courtesy of Google Street View!

After reaching the bottom, I went east on 3rd and north on Myrtle toward the post office. I then started heading east toward the police station. Before turning east to walk past the library, I notice a staircase going farther up the hill west that was not on my map!

Mysterious staircase going uphill by police station

After walking past a cop car in a barricaded parking lot, I made my way to the wooden staircase that looked like it had been installed recently. Upon reaching the top I was greeted by a large dumpster and what looked like a storage facility. I’m guessing this is probably a Public Works building.

Anti-climactic view from top of wooden staircase

I headed back down to the parking lot and was awarded a nice view looking southeast:

Notice there are not one but two steeples in this picture!

After that, I thought I had found the right staircase…

Looks promising? Well maybe not.

But I was wrong! Said staircase was only about 20 steps and goes onto some kind of private property. I realized I hadn’t passed the library yet so I continued eastward.

Historic library: This is where the real Mulberry stairs are.
Looking east toward the staircase entrance. Is this supposed to be Mulberry Street or a parking lot?
A sprinkler drenches exotic plants along a retaining wall near the library parking lot.
Another neat staircase that leads down to Mulberry Street, err Mulberry Parking Lot…

And then finally….

The real Mulberry stairs! A small flight. Also notice the dog water dish. These are very common in Stillwater (or were during the hottest month on record).
Old section of Mulberry Street beyond the stairs. No sidewalks!
Steep driveway
Historic building turned to condos?

After finishing the Mulberry descent, I headed north on 2nd Street. I eventually cut through Pioneer Park and made it to the Laurel stairs:

Laurel stairs

The Laurel stairs are also a lot of steps. At some point near the bottom you are dumped onto a private driveway from which you descend toward Main Street. On the way there, you pass the Warden’s house.

Main Street was starting to get pretty quiet at 8 p.m. By this point, Lumberjack Days had officially ended two hours prior.

And finally I made it to the most famous stairway in Stillwater. The staircase next to the historic caves. There is a hotel next to this staircase and a very small coffee shop.

Staircase next to the historic caves

And you can probably see why this staircase is one of the more popular ones:

Looking north at the St. Croix River Valley from the top of the stairs.

From there, I continued the journey south on Broadway toward the last set of stairs

Broadway Street on a quiet Sunday night

Broadway finally dead ends at a park and creates a small road loop around the park. The sidewalk ends before the last staircase.

Looking north at the Triangle Park stairs.

And finally the Triangle Park stairs!

Triangle Park stairs
Top of Triangle Park stairs, looking west

I headed north on 2nd Street back toward my car but the sidewalk quickly ended:

2nd Street foliage
2nd Street gauntlet
At 2nd and Pine I caught a stately overlook with a glimpse of the river.

And then after one more sidewalk-less gauntlet, I was back at Olive Street, which was only two blocks from the end of the circuit (where I had parked).

Note: For readers who want to try the staircases for themselves, the Rivertown Art Festival will be running October 7 and 8, and the annual Stillwater Harvest Festival, billed as “one of the premier events in downtown Stillwater,” will be October 14 and 15.