MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

10 great trails to ride in fall

Here's where to get your fill of flora, fauna and fall colors.

Bicyclists pedal past slag on the Mesabi Trail.

© Beth Gauper

It was a classic fall weekend when we rode the Willard Munger State Trail in eastern Minnesota.

It's a peaceful corridor through forest that, on the second weekend of October, surrounded us with a warm palette of honey and cinnamon, mixed with evergreens and the white of birch trunks and milkweed pods. From time to time, we went through one of the small towns on Highway 61, immortalized by Bob Dylan.

But we were among the few bicyclists on the trail. Where was everybody? Probably on I-35, rushing to and from the North Shore.

Too bad, because the Munger State Trail is a destination in itself, especially when combined with a hike through nearby Banning State Park, a gorgeous place that also suffers from drive-by syndrome.

In autumn, nearly every bicycle trail is beautiful and lined by fall color. But here are 15 of the best.


Munger in eastern Minnesota: A lovely ride through forest between Hinckley and Duluth. The 14 miles from Jay Cooke State Park to Duluth are downhill and especially exhilarating.

Sunrise Prairie in eastern Minnesota: If you ride the Munger, catch this low-profile trail, too. It's also good for in-line skating.

The 10 miles between Stacy and North Branch, paralleling but out of sight of I-35, include bogs lined with golden rushes, maples turning orange, red pines, brilliant sumac, creek crossings and grazing horses on picturesque farmsteads.

Mesabi in northern Minnesota: A relatively hilly trail that passes lots of gorgeous mine-pit lakes between Grand Rapids and Eveleth.

Root River in southeast Minnesota: Goes through the leafy Root River Valley between Fountain and Houston, passing the adorable village of Lanesboro.

Central Lakes in western Minnesota: Between Fergus Falls and Osakis, with lots of prairie wildflowers and birds. Goes through Alexandria and connects to the Lake Wobegon in Osakis.

Lake Wobegon in central Minnesota: A journey through a mythic landscape, with lots of steepled churches, between St. Joseph and Sauk Centre.

Paul Bunyan in northern Minnesota: Lots of great fall color and lakes along this trail from Brainerd/Baxter to Walker and Bemidji.

Grand Rounds in Minneapolis: An urban dream on parkways along the Mississippi River and Chain of Lakes.


Old Abe in western Wisconsin: A bucolic path along the Chippewa River between Chippewa Falls and Cornell, with heron sightings likely.

Great River in southwest Wisconsin: Along the Mississippi between Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge and Onalaska, over bottomlands and bogs.

Red Cedar in western Wisconsin: A serene stretch along the Red Cedar River from Menomonie to the Chippewa River, through Downsville.