8 Minnesota Hiking Trails to Enjoy the Best Fall Foliage

The Chain of Lakes are an excellent spot for fall hiking.
The Chain of Lakes are an excellent spot for fall hiking. Mackenzie Havey
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Minnesota is among the best places in the entire nation to view fall foliage. One of the benefits of having four distinct seasons, autumn is something many of us northlanders look forward to each year. Depending on where you are in the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers a great fall color map. They also provide information about specific parks in the area, including the best trails to hike and the types of trees you’ll see while you’re out and about. You can also get details on required permits and parking.

From aspens, to ash, to silver maples, birch, and everything in between, the yellow, orange, pink, and red hues are in full force here in the Twin Cities. To insure that you get out see the most beautiful fall foliage in the metro area before the mercury drops, we’ve rounded up some of the top spots.

1. Chain of Lakes

The Chain of Lakes offer convenient hikes with stunning views.
The Chain of Lakes offer convenient hikes with stunning views. Mackenzie Havey

For an urban look at the Twin Cities leaf scene , check out four of the largest lakes in area: Harriet, Calhoun, Isles, and Nokomis. Not only do these Chain of Lakes   make for a convenient afternoon outing for locals, they also offer a gorgeous view with the backdrop of the city. For some great photos of the downtown skyline, visit Lake Calhoun. For the best family-friendly outing, hit up Lake Harriet and follow it up with a visit to a coffee shop or restaurant in the Linden Hills neighborhood. Both Isles and Nokomis offer a slightly more laid back, but equally pretty experience.

2. Fort Snelling State Park

The extensive trail system that snakes its way through Fort Snelling State Park makes it a perfect place to check out fall colors right in the city. The park is home to cottonwood, silver maple, ash, and willow trees, as well as a wide variety of wildlife. Situated at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, the natural landscapes at Fort Snelling are particularly striking this time of year.

3. Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Located in Bloomington just south of Minneapolis, the 2,565-acre Hyland Lake Park Reserve touts 18 miles of woodchip, singletrack, and grass hiking trails. For an easy two-mile adventure that is mostly wooded, start at the chalet and do a loop around Hyland Lake. It’s a great place to enjoy the crisp autumn air with the crunch of the leaves beneath your feet.

4. Afton State Park

Afton State Park offers some of the best colors in Minnesota.
Afton State Park offers some of the best colors in Minnesota. Mackenzie Havey

Showcasing some of the most beautiful real estate in Minnesota, Afton’s glowing array of red and yellow aspen and maple trees brings in a large number of park visitors each fall. Along with restored prairies and scenic bluffs, a trip to this park offers great ecological variety. If you’re a birdwatcher, be sure to bring your binoculars and watch for hawks, waterfowl, bluebirds, and meadowlarks.

5. Lebanon Hills Regional Park

A 2,000-acre park, Lebanon Hills is a favorite among hikers and mountain bikers. With 4.3 miles of shrouded hiking trails and 10.96 miles of off-road mountain bike trails, there is no shortage of places to explore. This park also offers more than 10 miles of equestrian trails if you’d like to check out the park via horseback.

6. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Marked by bright red sugar maples, vibrant sumacs, and gorgeous dogwoods, you can’t help but marvel at the view at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum . A beautiful place to visit much of the year, it is particularly spectacular in the fall. Also be sure to check out their AppleHouse where they have a changing inventory of 50 varieties of apples, including Honeycrisp, Minnesota’s new state fruit.

7. Theodore Wirth Regional Park

This 740-acre park offers beautiful fall colors right in the city.
This 740-acre park offers beautiful fall colors right in the city. Mackenzie Havey

Nearly the size of Central Park, Theodore Wirth is a hub for outdoor activities, especially in the fall. The on- and off-pavement trails in this 740-acre park offer a great place to check out the fall colors right in the city. If you’re a mountain bike buff, consider hopping in the saddle and riding some of the great singletrack and if hiking is more your thing, be sure to wander through the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary.

8. Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington is an 11,012-acre wildlife refuge situated on the Minnesota River. Comprised of floodplain forest, tallgrass prairie, and wetlands, there are plenty of opportunities to check out the changing fall colors. Whether you’re looking for a day-long adventure or a quick hike, there’s something for everyone on the trails of this refuge.

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