Visiting the Belwin Conservancy

The Belwin Conservancy's 1,300 acres of protected land comprise one of the largest remaining intact natural areas in the Twin Cities. Our preserve is neither a park nor a nature center and much of our preserve is reserved for the plants and animals that make their home here.

There are also places on our preserve set aside for you to visit and we hope you take advantage of them. Our mission is to inspire our connection to the natural world and there is simply no better way to do that than getting out and experiencing it for yourself.

Rules and Guidelines

For the enjoyment of everyone, there are a few common-sense rules to follow during your visit to the Belwin Conservancy. Please keep them in mind during your time at this special place.

Rules and guidelines for visiting the Belwin Conservancy

Places to Visit

Stagecoach Prairies Natural Area

Flowers at Stagecoach Prairies Stagecoach Prairies is a 280 acre Natural Area dominated by native tallgrass prairie. These prairies are some of our largest and most successful restorations. The prairie are home to a wide variety of plant and animal life and are particularly important for several species of threatened grassland birds.

Stagecoach Prairies also contains the Belwin Conservancy's largest network of public trails. The 4.5 miles of trails are open any time during daylight hours, all year long. This is a great area for birding, or just to enjoy nature. During the winter, Stagecoach Prairies is a prime spot to go cross-country skiing, although the trails are not groomed.

There is a small parking area for hikers located off of 11th Street, just east of Stagecoach Trail South. Please do not park on the street. The entrance is located just to the left of the gate. There are maps at this location as well as an informational sign.

Ongoing Restoration

One of the legacies of farming in this area are the red pine plantations that dot our preserve. Red pine is not native in this part of Minnesota and these trees provide almost no benefit to the plants and animals that do live here. At our Stagecoach Prairies Natural Area, we are working on expanding the native prairie and removing some of these trees. This is an ongoing restoration project, and it's a great opportunity to see how one of our prairie restorations progresses over time.

Due to this ongoing work, there are occasional trail closures at Stagecoach Prairies. Please consult the map at the entrance and observe all posted closures. Thank you for your understanding while we complete this important work!

Rules: When hiking in this area, keep in mind that there are no facilities on the property. In addition, cell phones get spotty reception, so please use appropriate caution when utilizing the Stagecoach Prairies Natural Area. Dogs are allowed on Belwin's Stagecoach Prairies site, but they must be kept on a leash at all times. The Stagecoach Prairies Natural Area is principally managed for grassland bird habitat. These are threatened animals and off-leash dogs are disruptive to them. In addition, all dog waste must be cleaned up and removed from the site (not simply discarded off of the trail).


Bison

Bison seen from the observation platform During the summer months, the Belwin Conservancy hosts bison on our preserve. The bison are first and foremost a prairie restoration tool: their presence on the prairie adds to its diversity and richness. They also are magestic creatures in their own right and visiting them throughout the summer is both fun and rewarding.

Getting the feel for a bison herd freely roaming a large tallgrass prairie is difficult from ground level. To make your visit more fun, we have a few ways to make your visit to the Belwin Conservancy's bison herd unique and memorable.

Bison Observation Platform

Bison Observation Platform Located on Division Street is a 20-foot tall observation platform that is freely open every day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. so long as the bison are present (usually from June to October). From this vantage point, visitors are afforded a panoramic view of the prairie and the bison wherever they may be at the time. In addition to viewing the bison, the observation platform is a great spot for birdwatching and admiring the seasonal prairie wildflowers below.

The bison move about the prairie throughout the day and sometime are quite distant from the observation platform. Don't forget to bring binoculars!

Rules: The bison are gentle creatures but they are wild animals. Please do not disturb them. Dogs are not allowed anywhere in the observation area.

Bison Buggy

Bison Buggy Members of the Belwin Conservancy are invited to take a ride on the Bison Buggy—a custom built vehicle designed for taking visitors up close to the bison. The Bison Buggy seats eight adults and is a safe and very fun way to visit the bison.

During the months the bison graze at Belwin, members are invited to enjoy a 20-minute ride on Open Third Saturdays. Rides are available from 1 pm – 3 pm and go out on the hour and the half hour.

Members who make a $500 donation may arrange for a private bison buggy tour with 7 of their friends, colleagues, family members. We encourage those choosing this option to bring a picnic – Belwin will supply water. These private buggy tours must be arranged in advance. Some evening and weekend hours are available.

Bison Releases

Every year—typically in June—the Belwin Conservancy hosts a bison release. This event is open to the public. It is when our partners at NorthStar Bison bring the bison herd to the Belwin Conservancy and release them for the summer.

It's a lot of fun to see the bison burst out from their trailer and go running full-speed off into the prairie. Look for this event in our upcoming events and we hope to see you there!


Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields

Child Running on Trail at LWBAF The Belwin Conservancy owns this youth athletics complex located on Hudson Road in West Lakeland. Although the fields themselves are not open to public use—they are only used by the regional youth athletic leagues—adjacent to them are hiking trails open to anyone.

These hiking trails wind their way through tallgrass prairie and into the adjacent woodlands. They provide are some of our least strenuous and most accessible walks. The facilities in the adjacent ball fields include restrooms.

Parking is available in the athletic complex any time it is open (most daylight hours during the summer) or at the bison observation platform when that facility is open (see the bison section).

Rules: No dogs are allowed anywhere in the athletic complex or on the walking trails. Do not enter the athletic complex if that facility is otherwise closed.


Education Center

The Education Center and the trails near it, are probably the Belwin Conservancy’s most iconic spot. This area is what most people know of when they think of the Belwin Conservancy. It is also where the Saint Paul Public School System’s Belwin Outdoor Science is located. This facility hosts 10,000 students (grades three and up) throughout the year.

Due to the many activities that occur at the education center, this section of the Belwin Conservancy's preserve is not open to the public. The only time it is open is during events. The Belwin Conservancy regularly holds member events at the education center during the year so that members can come and enjoy this unique spot and walk the miles of trails found here.

Rules: No dogs are allowed at this location.


Belwin Conservancy Members

Touched upon above, the Belwin Conservancy's members are invited to come out several times a year for events that are just for them. This gives our members the chance to enjoy our preserve and see first hand what they support with their contributions. Generally these events are held in the education center. We will sometimes arrange for a speaker and other times just open the area to hiking or skiing. For our members who join at the Supporting, Sustaining or Benefactor level, we have several programs that go into greater depth and explore other areas of the Belwin Conservancy's preserve.


Research

At any given time, there are a number of research projects happening at the Belwin Conservancy. In cooperation with the Belwin Conservancy, researchers may use our property for a variety of different projects. For more information on research opportunities please consult the research page.