Father and son fall biking at Afton State Park

5 Great Trails for Fall Biking

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Father and son fall biking at Afton State Park / Paul Vincent

5 Great Trails for Fall Biking

By Brian Fanelli

From the sound of leaves crunching under bike tires to the fireworks of fall colors bursting from branches as you pedal, it’s easy to see (and hear) why fall biking in Minnesota is so popular. With gorgeous features like tree-lined lakes and towering river bluffs, these trails are sure to make you fall for fall biking.

  1. Gitchi-Gami State Trail
    Gitchi Gami Trail Biking

    Blue water, red cliffs and yellow leaves welcome bicyclists on the lakeside Gitchi-Gami State Trail

    Gitchi-Gami State Trail

    The Gitchi-Gami State Trail includes several paved segments along the North Shore of Lake Superior, the longest of which is 17 miles, running from Gooseberry Falls State Park to Silver Bay. Head out for a loop of the trail’s Gooseberry segment for a stunningly beautiful ride featuring multiple waterfalls, dense coniferous forest, leaves of every color imaginable and, of course, the famous Split Rock Lighthouse overlooking Lake Superior’s rocky shore. Rolling hills stretch as far as the eye can see, punctuated at the top of each climb with a panoramic view of the lake to reward your tired legs. When you experience the cool breeze at your back and the leaves crunching under your tires, you might want to stay forever.

  2. Root River State Trail
    Bicyclist rides on a bridge above the Root River

    Ride the scenic, 42-mile Root River State Trail through the heart of Minnesota's Bluff Country

    Root River State Trail

    Located in the “driftless” region of southeastern Minnesota, the Root River State Trail runs from Fountain to Houston, winding its way through forests of deciduous trees, idyllic countryside and beautiful bluffs. Southeastern Minnesota’s lush hillside forests are absolutely stunning in the fall, providing the perfect backdrop for your ride on this mostly flat, 65-mile trail. Along the way, stop and explore the Root River Trail Towns of Lanesboro, Whalan, Peterson, Rushford, Harmony and Preston. Book a room in one of the region’s picturesque bed-and-breakfasts, or camp at one of the rustic state forest campgrounds nearby.

  3. Itasca State Park
    Mississippi Headwaters Itasca State Park

    Mississippi Headwaters, Itasca State Park / @lexi4o6

    Itasca State Park

    Spend a weekend or more at Itasca State Park and try out the 17-mile bike loop that travels through beautiful stands of old-growth pines and past many of the park’s attractions. The first 6 miles of the trail wind through the forest past Preacher’s Grove, the Pioneer Cemetery and the historic Wegman Store. The bike trail ends at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, where you can walk across the source of the mighty river and visit the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center. Continue biking along Wilderness Drive to complete the loop and visit other park attractions, such as the tallest white pine in Minnesota and the historic bison kill site. Bring your own bike or rent one at the park.

  4. Lake Wobegon Trail
    Couple biking Wobegon bike trail

    Two bicyclists take a fall ride on the Lake Wobegon Trail near Holdingford

    Lake Wobegon Trail

    In today’s bustling world, where everyone is busy and even small cities seem to have traffic jams, the towns along the Lake Wobegon Trail are welcome reminders of a simpler era. Named for Garrison Keillor’s fictional Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon, the 62-mile paved trail holds a special place in the hearts of many. The charms of Minnesota’s rural heartland are perfectly captured in the changing scenery, small towns and friendly locals you’ll encounter on the trail where everyone is above average. The views of the changing leaves you'll get while riding the flat, peaceful trail will capture your imagination, summon your Minnesota pride and imprint your memory for many years to come.

  5. Dakota Rail Regional Trail
    Lake Minnetonka boat tour Excelsior

    Boats on Lake Minnetonka in Excelsior / Lucy Hawthorne

    Dakota Rail Regional Trail

    There’s nothing quite like a ride on the Dakota Rail Trail on a brisk fall day. Weaving its way along the bays and inlets of the Lake Minnetonka shoreline, the shaded 25-mile trail offers incredible views of the lake, along with some of Minnesota’s best vantage points for enjoying the fall colors. Pick your starting point—free parking is available in Wayzata, Mound, St. Bonifacius, Mayer, New Germany and at Gale Woods Farm and Sovereign Estate Winery — and get ready to ride.

Brian Fanelli

Brian Fanelli is a Minneapolis-based writer. You can reliably find him browsing the sci-fi shelves in a local bookstore or biking one of Minnesota's spectacular trails.