15 great trails to ride in fall
Here's where to get your fill of flora, fauna and fall colors.
© Beth Gauper
In eastern Minnesota, the Munger State Trail is surrounded by forest.
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.
eastern Minnesota: A lovely ride through forest between Hinckley and Duluth. The flood-damaged 14½ miles from Thomson to
Duluth are closed in fall 2012, but the southern 60 miles are open.
Sunrise Prairie in eastern
Minnesota: If you ride the Munger, catch this low-profile trail, too. 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, creek
crossings and grazing horses on picturesque farmsteads.
Root River in southeast Minnesota: This favorite 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 waterfowl in bogs. It 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.
© Beth Gauper
Sculptures line the Trout Run Trail in Decorah.
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 almost guaranteed.
Great River in
southwest Wisconsin: Along the Mississippi between Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge and Onalaska, over bottomlands
and bogs. You'll see plenty of migrating waterfowl.
Red Cedar in western
Wisconsin: A serene stretch along the Red Cedar River from Menomonie to the Chippewa River, through Downsville. Watch for
Badger in southern Wisconsin: Slices through cheese country from the far edge of Madison to the Illinois border. Try to catch one of the many festivals.
Lake: A paved path that parallels the highway from Boulder Junction to Northern Highland-American Legion
State Forest, where it winds around the lakes and through the popular campgrounds.
Trout Run Trail in northeast Iowa: A lovely, 11-mile paved loop around Decorah, mostly along the Upper Iowa River and Trout Run Creek but rising to switchbacks (!) in the south. Lined with wildflowers and artworks.
High Trestle in central Iowa: On this
popular new trail near Des Moines, the color comes from the blue LED lights on the spectacular bridge for which it's named.
Some cyclists have been riding
it at night, especially during full moons.
More trails and festivals
For a list of fall festivals you can hit along the way, see Bash on a bike trail.
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