Minnesota’s DNR color finder map is up and running, meaning now is the time to head out the door and see Minnesota at its finest in fall before blizzards and freezing temps hit (and before it takes you a solid 10 minutes to bundle up in order to leave your home). Autumn is perhaps the most beautiful time of year in Minnesota.
All around the state, leaves are entering the peak color-changing season. In and around the metro area, leaves start to peak in late September through mid-October. So there’s still time to plan some weekend bike trips to admire the beautiful scenery. And with so many bike paths running through state parks, along the Mississippi River, and traveling right through the cities, you’ll be able to admire the dazzling colors wherever you decide to go.
Drink in Minnesota’s brilliant fall colors with these 7 rides around the state:
Described by the DNR as a “jaunt down a quiet country road” the Luce Line trail offers up a 63 mile bike path that starts in Plymouth and ends in the city of Cosmos. Now, unless you’re feeling especially ambitious, I would suggest just picking a part of the trail to tackle. For the best fall colors along this trail, stick towards Plymouth where the Big Woods once inhabited the area. There are plenty of sugar maples and basswood trees lining the trail along with colorful forest floor ground-cover plants that are perfect for your fall color bike tour.
A little less daunting than the Luce Line trail, the Gateway State Trail runs 18 miles long on an old converted rail-trail. Located right in the heart of the cities with the trail beginning in St. Paul, this path is not only convenient to get to but makes it easy to grab a Nice Ride if you don’t have a bike of your own. Gateway State Trail winds through both the city and several parks including Phalen-Keller Regional Park where you’ll have plenty of opportunity to admire the changing foliage.
If you’re up for a mini weekend road trip to get out of town for a couple days, the Root River Trail is perfect for that quick getaway. Located in southeast Minnesota just past Rochester, the trail is 60 miles of paved biking paths that connect the nine Root River Trail Towns: Fountain, Preston, Harmony, Lanesboro, Whalan, Peterson, Rushford Village, Rushford, and Houston. There are so many beautiful trails to choose from that will engulf you in nature, woods, and wild plants. Not to mention, you can stop and rest in one of the picturesque towns along the way.
One of the best places to see the fall colors is right along the Mississippi River. While it would be utterly amazing if you traveled the entire length of the 620-mile Mississippi River Trail that starts in Itasca State Park and ends well, in the Gulf of Mexico, you may want to start with biking the few miles that pass through the Twin Cities. You can bike on either side of the Mississippi River: the west side on Dayton River Road between Dayton and Champlin or the east side between St. Anthony Parkway and 8th Ave NE in Minneapolis. On either side, you’ll be treated with a colorful display with countless trees and plants lining the riverfront.
One of my favorite parks in the cities, Theodore Wirth Park sprawls over 740 acres that is home to beautiful woods, nature, gardens, and of course, miles of bike paths. The bike trails range from easy paved paths to off-road trails that do require advanced skill like the Brownie Lake Loop. For me, I tend to stick to the paved trails so I can slow down and take in all of the beautiful changing colors.
Built for mountain bikers, Lebanon Hills has 12 miles of singletrack trails where you can try out your skills on some of the paths’ obstacles that include berms, jumps, wide bridges, and tight corners. You can hop on the Beginner Loop or show off your skills on the extremely difficult XX Loop. The best part, however, is that you’ll be flying through the woods completely surrounded by foliage and the colorful leaves.
The Midtown Greenway is a 5.5 mile long walking and bike path right in the heart of Minneapolis. And not only is the Midtown Greenway a great ride on its own, passing through the cities and along colorful tree-lined paths, but this trail also makes it easy to take cross-town trips in Minneapolis as it connects to dozens of other trails and parks for even more fall leaf-peeping. The Midtown Greenway connects to the paths around the Chain of Lakes, the Southwest LRT Trail, and to trails along the Mississippi River so you’ll have endless options to tour all of the fall colors around the city.
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