Favorite Local Fall Color Trails

When asked what their favorite fall color trail is in the Twin Cities metro, several readers put in their vote, along with some photos.

woman on a footbridge looking at bright red trees
Brilliant reds and yellows along Minnehaha Creek in Minneapolis (photo courtesy of Lisa Schalla)

Minnesota is so beautiful in autumn. You can go almost anywhere in the state in mid-late September through mid-late October to find it—including right here in the Cities. While we can travel out of town to find great color, we don’t have to!

What Makes for a Spectacular Fall Color Trail?

It’s the maple trees that provide the most spectacular autumn colors in our part of the country. Bright yellows, brilliant oranges and vivid reds give us eye-popping color for several weeks.

Add in golden aspen and birch, and then, later, the deep rusts and oranges of many of the oaks and our fall color season lasts for several weeks.

Then we have the lower-growing bushes like sumac, vines like Virginia creeper and even the carpet of fallen leaves that cover the ground and trails.

fall leaves cover the ground
A carpet of leaves on the forest floor

It’s a visual feast!

Here are favorite fall color trails sent in by some of our readers that are within the 7-county metro area, in no particular order:

Mississippi Gorge Regional Park

Lisa Schalla’s favorite fall color hike is in Minneapolis in Mississippi Gorge Regional Park. She especially loves the walking path along West River Parkway between 35th and 44th Streets.

golden trees surround a paved hiking trail
Mississippi Gorge trail through the golden wood—taken the first week of October (photo courtesy of Lisa Schalla)
dead fallen trees along the river bank with fall color and a bridge in the background
Fallen trees and lovely color along the Mississippi River bank, with Ford Parkway bridge in the background (photo courtesy of Lisa Schalla)

Mississippi Gorge is 132 acres along the Mississippi River with both biking and hiking trails. Lisa’s photos were taken on the west bank in the first week of October, while she noted the east bank trees were still green—interesting!

The City of Minneapolis lists the park’s address as 3349 W River Pkwy, if you’ve not visited it before. It’s also a nice option to park in the vicinity of Minnehaha Regional Park and head north. The two parks connect for an out-and-back of 3-4 miles.

yellow, orange and red fall color in the woods looking up a hillside
Yellow, orange and red leaves on these trees along a steep hillside in Mississippi Gorge Regional Park (photo courtesy of Lisa Schalla)

Carver Lake Park

Verna Witzany loves the fall color around Carver Lake, in Woodbury’s Carver Lake Park. The park is known for its off-road bike trails and bike park. Hikers are allowed on the off-road cycling trails, too, as long as they’re dry (they’re closed if wet).

Carver Lake Boardwalk Loop Trail (photo courtesy of Verna Witzany)

“This park has extensive trails,” said Verna. “It’s great for the loops inside loops to increase the experience as desired.”

Carver Lake isn’t too far from Saint Paul regional parks like Pig’s Eye, Indian Mounds and Battle Creek, if you’d like to explore more than one park while you’re out.

Spring Lake Regional Park

Spring Lake Park in Prior Lake is the top vote (so far) for Devan Goembel. This 374-acre park has just 3 miles of paved bike trails within the park, but it connects directly with Big Woods Regional Trail for another 12 miles (one way).

paved bike trail with meadow and forest in autumn
Early-October fall color in Spring Lake Regional Park (photo courtesy of Devan Goembel)
Some color in early October along this trail, with plenty to go yet (photo courtesy of Devan Goembel)

4.5 miles of hiking is the slow way to enjoy the fall color. I haven’t visited this park yet personally, but the hiking is described as “spectacular” with some “breathtaking vistas.” Give it a try!

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

“The Arb” is a top fall color choice for Brian Rupe and his family. Brian said, “Not just the trees but the fall flowers are spectacular!”

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is part of the University of Minnesota. Fun Fact: both Honeycrisp and Sweet Tango apples were developed at The Arb (two of our favorites!).

a family next to a pond at MN Arboretum' trees in fall color in the background
Folks enjoying the Arboretum in early October (photo courtesy of Brian Rupe)

The grounds host a 3-mile Walk Loop that takes visitors through woods, prairie and wetlands, and also through their famous gardens.

looking up at a big maple tree with gold leaves
A big maple along the Arb’s Ridge Trail

As a 501c3 non-profit, the Arb is partially funded by memberships of various levels. Membership includes free entrance year-round as well as the privilege of bringing your dog—non-member guests need to leave their dog at home.

Since summer 2020, visits for non-members are by reservation only, and will cost you $15 per adult. Get more info here.

Elm Creek Park Reserve

Jennifer Przybilla loves the area around Eastman Nature Center in Elm Creek Park Reserve. “And this was on a cloudy day!” she said.

leaves cover a trail, fall color in the trees on each side
Fallen leaves carpet the trail near Eastman Nature Center in Elm Creek Park Reserve (photo courtesy of Jennifer Przybilla)

I agree with Jennifer—I think Elm Creek is spectacular park in the fall. This is an Elm Creek trail, too:

bike trail covered with fall leaves, with trees on either side
Gorgeous fall color along one of Elm Creek’s trails

Elm Creek has 50 miles of trails, both paved and natural-surface, throughout its 4,900 acres. You can take more miles in by bike, or take the slow way by foot. Either way, you’ll want to stop often to soak in the beauty and snap a few photos.

What’s Your Favorite Fall Color Trail?

These are just a handful of what’s available for outdoor lovers here in the Twin Cities. There are gorgeous fall color trails around almost every corner.

And don’t overlook your own neighborhood!

I regularly see wonderful autumn color within a mile or two of my front door. I bet you can find it not far from your home, too.

yellow maples, small birch and a small pond in autumn
Neighborhood beauty

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Sharon Brodin
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