Five Great Trails for Fall Biking

By Brian Fanelli

Fall biking on the Gitchi Gami trail
As the leaves start to change, head to one of Minnesota's scenic paved bike trails to enjoy the fall color show / Gitchi-Gami State Trail

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. Each of the trails listed here is a prime example of the incredible fall biking Minnesota has to offer. From tree-lined lakes to towering river bluffs, these trails are sure to make you fall for fall biking.

Gitchi-Gami State Trail

Split Rock Lighthouse in the fall
Take in the view of Split Rock Lighthouse as you ride the Gitchi-Gami State Trail / Scott Syring

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. With the cool breeze at your back and the leaves crunching under your tires, you might want to stay forever.

Root River State Trail

Root River Trail in the fall
The winding Root River State Trail bursts with fall color / Root River Trail Towns

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, 62-mile trail. Along the way, stop and explore the Root River Trail Towns of Lanesboro, Whalan, Peterson and Rushford. Book a room in one of the region’s picturesque bed-and-breakfasts, or camp at one of the rustic state forest campgrounds nearby.

Itasca State Park 

Mississippi Headwaters Bicyclist Itasca
Ride your bike to the source of the Mississippi River at 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, 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.

Lake Wobegon Trail

Woman stops on the Lake Wobegon Trail in the fall
A woman pauses on the Lake Wobegon Trail to enjoy the fall splendor / Micah Kvidt

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. Watching the leaves change while riding the flat, peaceful trail will capture your imagination, summon your Minnesota pride, and be ingrained in your memory for many years to come.

Dakota Rail Trail

Man biking on the Dakota Trail in the fall
Ride the Dakota Trail from Wayzata to Lake Waconia / Three Rivers Park District

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.

Explore all of Minnesota's 4,000 miles of paved bike trails with help from our biking page.