4 MUST-SEE AUTUMN ADVENTURES TO VISIT THIS SEASON
Get your fall color fix at these enchanting escapes.
Image by Kimberly Vardeman/flickr
Autumn is one of the most beautiful and exciting times in Minnesota, as well as one of the shortest. Before a lot of residents turn in to hibernate for the cold winter ahead, Mother Nature treats us to what is comparable to a bite-size Snickers bar. The air sheds its suffocating, summer humidity jacket in exchange for crisp, comfortable sweatshirt weather, holiday excitement starts to set in, and, most importantly, the trees substitute their summer green for brilliant flashes of gold, orange and red. It is a fitting swan song before we are covered in a blanket of snow, and there is no better time for taking one last road trip to marvel at Mother Nature’s expansive outdoor galleries. No doubt you can find this change in color palette at almost any street corner or neighborhood yard, but if you are really looking for her greatest collages, these getaways will not disappoint.
Nestled on the bluffs lining the St. Croix River about an hour northeast of St. Paul is Taylors Falls. This charming little town sees over one million visitors from all over the world passing through each and every year. But the town’s greatest source of pride is on full display from September to November. The already scenic St. Croix River Valley blossoms into a dazzling display of hues set along craggy cliffs carved by glaciers and lava flows, resulting in a corridor of color. Visitors can traverse the trails or rent a kayak/canoe and paddle their way up and down the river to immerse themselves in a tidal wave of vividness.
For a pampered and educational experience, take a ride on one of the Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours. These narrated excursions offer visitors historical information on the unique rock formations sculpted into the cliffs lining the river, including the beacon stone cross for which the St. Croix River was named, and range from daily to specialty.
A short drive north of Duluth will bring you to one of the meccas of fall travel in the state—Gooseberry Falls. Tucked along the North Shore of Lake Superior and scenic Minnesota Highway 61, Gooseberry Falls is often a destination that comes to mind for many when they think of brilliant displays of fall colors and seasonal travel. And how could it not? Its 1,682 acres of lush deciduous forest including aspen and birch trees showing off their fall fashion is as good as color displays get. While you are there, be sure to take in the beauty and hear the thunderous roar of the park’s iconic upper, middle and lower falls. Coupled with miles of hiking trails and autumn hues, these cascading falls help give Gooseberry Falls State Park a firm grip on the state’s second most-popular state park.
For even more than just a day’s worth of beauty, the Gooseberry Falls State Park Campground is available for those looking to pitch a tent or park an RV. The 70 wooded, non-electrical campsites are the perfect way to get back in touch with nature and wrap up the season.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
If you are looking for brilliant splashes of fall color a little closer to the cities, look no further than the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. This rural and urban habitat for threatened wildlife covers more than 14,000 acres, and stretches along the Minnesota River offering some of the best hiking and fall foliage close to home. If you are lucky, you will even catch glimpses of bald eagles, blue herons, deer and more.
Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge
Much of Southern Minnesota is sprouting with rows of corn and rolling farmland. But dotted along the mighty Mississippi River in the southeastern corner of the state is Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge—a lush forest of an island in an agricultural sea. Located just outside of Winona, this portrait of color sprawls across 6,446 acres and provides residents and visitors of southern Minnesota with an autumn oasis. And getting there is half the fun. Situated on the Great River Road Scenic Byway, the drive follows the twists and bends of the river, and awards drivers with splendid blazes of colors, towering bluffs and some of the most scenic sights our state has to offer.
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