Is Fall the Best Season in Minnesota?
Fall is a truly stunning season in Minnesota. With the North Shore in one corner of the state, the bluff region in the other corner, and countless lookout points, hiking spots, and winding roads in between, there’s no shortage of places to enjoy this vibrant season.
When visiting these 27 bucket list hikes, remember to check trail conditions, park hours, and any special regulations or permits needed. Be sure to bring a water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray.
Fall foliage timing varies from year to year. If possible, plan your trip to catch the colors at their peak. One of the best ways to track fall colors in real-time is through Explore Minnesota’s fall foliage tracker.
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1. Lutsen Mountains
Lutsen Mountains, known for its winter sports, transforms into a stunning fall destination when the leaves start to change. The Superior Hiking Trail weaves through this picturesque area, offering panoramic views of Lake Superior and the surrounding forests.
2. Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area
Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area and its winding trails along the Minnesota River offer a unique perspective on fall. As leaves change, the river’s reflection enhances the vibrant colors, creating a breathtaking visual experience.
3. Wild River State Park
Wild River State Park comes alive with fall colors along the scenic St. Croix River. The park’s peaceful trails lead hikers through woodlands and prairies, showcasing the stunning transition from summer to autumn.
4. Pincushion Mountain
Pincushion Mountain offers a captivating fall hiking experience in the heart of the North Shore. Whether you’re seeking a leisurely stroll amidst fall foliage or a more challenging hike to the summit, you’ll enjoy a diverse forest landscape of maple and birch trees, which create a vibrant tapestry of red, gold, and orange. Be sure to enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Superior as well!
5. Superior Hiking Trail
Meandering along Lake Superior’s North Shore, the Superior Hiking Trail presents hikers with an uninterrupted view of the lake’s deep blue waters against a backdrop of fiery fall foliage. From ridge line overlooks to hidden waterfalls, the trail offers varied vistas for leaf peeping.
6. Itasca State Park
As autumn arrives, Itasca State Park’s vast expanse of maple and aspen trees burst into a symphony of reds and yellows. The park’s pristine lakes and iconic headwaters of the Mississippi River provide unique settings for fall hikes. Visitors can traverse the peaceful wilderness, enjoying crisp air and the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your feet.
7. Gooseberry Falls State Park
Nestled on Lake Superior’s North Shore, Gooseberry Falls State Park offers more than just epic waterfalls. Amid the dense forest, hikers are treated to a rich palette of red, orange, and gold leaves during fall. The park’s diverse trails lead to overlooks of Lake Superior, where the vibrant colors contrast against the blue waters, making it an ideal fall destination.
8. Bean and Bear Lake Loop
Nestled within the Superior National Forest, the Bean and Bear Lake Loop trail winds through pristine wilderness, revealing stunning vistas of two lakes, Bean Lake and Bear Lake, surrounded by a rich display of fall colors. The rugged terrain, mixed forests, and tranquil lakes create a serene backdrop for your autumn adventure. This hike has become increasingly more popular over the years so I suggest you go early to avoid crowds!
9. Oberg Mountain
Located within the Superior National Forest, Oberg Mountain offers a captivating fall hiking experience on the North Shore. The Oberg Mountain Loop trail guides hikers through a colorful forest of maples and birches, and breathtaking overlooks that offer sweeping vistas of Lake Superior and Oberg Lake.
10. Afton State Park
Afton State Park, conveniently located near the Twin Cities, beckons with stunning bluffs overlooking the St. Croix River. The park’s well-maintained trails and proximity to urban areas make it an accessible choice for a fall hiking getaway.
11. Tettegouche State Park
Tettegouche State Park’s rugged terrain and cliffside views of Lake Superior provide an awe-inspiring backdrop for fall foliage. Aspen and birch trees transform into a golden spectacle, while trails like the Shovel Point route take hikers along coastal vistas.
12. White Sky Rock Overlook
This overlook is a short but extremely steep hike. The trail to White Sky Rock leads hikers through a diverse forest. As you approach the overlook, the landscape unfolds to reveal a breathtaking panoramic view of Caribou Lake and a vibrant tapestry of red, gold, and orange foliage.
14. Jay Cooke State Park
Fall paints Jay Cooke State Park’s river gorge and dense forest in warm, inviting colors. The park’s swinging bridges and panoramic vistas of the St. Louis River offer unforgettable fall views. Hikers can immerse themselves in the rustling leaves and sounds of the river as they explore the trails.
15. Whitewater State Park
Whitewater State Park’s limestone bluffs, valleys, and trout streams create an enchanting backdrop for fall hikes. Trails weave through forests that transform into a sea of red, gold, and orange leaves.
16. William O’Brien State Park
Nestled along the St. Croix River, William O’Brien State Park transforms into a picturesque fall destination. Trails lead to captivating river views and overlooks where visitors can admire the colorful tapestry of leaves that extend across the river valley. Try camper vanning for a unique way to immerse yourself in nature!
17. Bear Head Lake State Park
Located in the Arrowhead region, Bear Head Lake State Park showcases the allure of northern Minnesota’s fall. The park’s pristine lakes mirror the fiery hues of the surrounding forests, making it an idyllic setting for canoeing, fishing, and hiking amidst the autumn beauty.
18. Fort Snelling State Park
Located at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, Fort Snelling State Park’s best trail is Pike Island. This captivating route for fall foliage enthusiasts provides hikers with river views and a tapestry of colorful leaves. As you stroll along the trail, you’ll witness the merging of two rivers and the transformation of the surrounding trees into vibrant hues.
19. Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park
This park, located in Preston, Minnesota, encompasses a historic village and a captivating cave. Visitors can hike amidst the changing leaves and explore the intriguing past of this unique park.
20. Sugar Loaf Bluff
Winona, situated along the Mississippi River’s bluff region, offers a unique fall hiking experience through Minnesota’s bluff region. The Sugar Loaf Bluff trail is a steep and difficult hike, but sweeping views of the river valley make it worth it!
21. John A. Latsch State Park
Standing tall with Mount Charity as its centerpiece, John A. Latsch State Park provides panoramic views of the Mississippi River Valley. The hike to the overlook is a journey through a colorful forest that culminates in a breathtaking vista.
22. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum offers a serene space to enjoy fall colors. Stroll through gardens and woodlands adorned with vibrant leaves. While not a traditional fall foliage hiking spot, the arboretum provides a peaceful escape to appreciate nature’s transition.
24. Barn Bluff Trail
The Barn Bluff Trail in Red Wing rewards hikers with stunning views of the Mississippi River Valley. As you ascend, the landscape unfolds, revealing the river and surrounding town’s vibrant foliage. This is a steep hike and not for the faint of heart!
25. Voyageurs National Park
While often associated with waterways, Voyageurs National Park offers hiking opportunities that allow visitors to experience fall colors in a unique way. Trails lead to beautiful vistas that showcase the park’s autumn beauty.
26. Boundary Waters Canoe Area
While not a traditional hiking area, the BWCA offers stunning wilderness opportunities for canoeing and hiking amidst breathtaking fall colors. It’s also a wonderful place to camp in a remote place removed from WiFi, electricity, and pollution.
27. Lake Maria State Park
Lake Maria State Park’s blend of prairies, woodlands, and wetlands offers a diverse setting for fall hikes. Trails wind through a changing landscape, where hikers can witness the transformation of leaves against the backdrop of serene lakes.
Enjoy This Incredible Season
Fall might be the most beautiful season in Minnesota. With cooler temperatures, and colorful leaves, pumpkins, and hot apple cider, the only disappointment is that the season seems to pass by so quickly. Looking for more fall inspiration? Check out my blog posts on 14 awesome fall activities in Minnesota, 10 best fall day trips, Fall day trip to Montgomery, 10 best things to do in Red Wing, and Awesome fall things to do in Winona.