Fall in the Midwest is a great time to go biking! Cooler days and brighter colors make for some fantastic trail riding. Here are our top picks for where to ride to see the best the Midwest has to offer this fall.
Fall colors are highly dependent on the temperature, amount of sunlight, and other factors. To check what’s changing or at peak color in Minnesota, we suggest you check out the DNR’s “When and Why Leaves Change Color” page or their “Fall Color Finder” for the most up-to-date information. For Wisconsin color, take a look at Wisconsin’s Fall Color Map. For a general national foliage map, check out the Fall Foliage Prediction Map.
Willard Munger Trail – Passing through forest, field, and marsh and banked by granite outcroppings towards the north end, the 70 miles from Hinkley to Duluth are peaceful and picturesque. Passing through several small towns, the trail is a converted rail line and mostly flat. Be advised that part of the trail near Duluth is currently closed for construction, though it is expected to reopen late September.
Lake Wobegon Trail – Fifty miles of paved trail connect St. Joseph and Osakis. Passing through towns every 5 or 10 miles, this trail is ridiculously flat and great for kids and casual riders. From Osakis, the Central Lakes Trail continues another 50 miles to Fergus Falls if you really want to get some miles in.
Gateway State Trail – Eighteen miles of mixed urban and wooded trail takes you from St. Paul to Stillwater. Hillier than many of the converted rail lines on this list, this route gives you plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery on your way to a picturesque lunch or some antiquing in Stillwater.
Cannon Valley Trail – Stretching roughly 20 miles from Cannon Falls to Red Wing and passing close to Welch, this converted rail line is a fairly flat, easy ride and mostly shaded. The trail follows the gorgeous Cannon River and is mostly forested with some agriculture and pasture land thrown in.
Old Abe State Trail – From The Burnet Island State Park just north of Cornell to the Lake Wissota State Park, this trail runs 20 miles along the Chippewa River through both forest and farm field. The area is full of history and wildlife.
Red Cedar Trail – This crushed gravel trail runs 14.5 miles along the winding Chippewa River from Menomonie through the Dunnville State Wildlife area to the Chippewa River State Trail. This trail meanders through a mix of marsh, prairie, forest and farm field and is bordered at times by sandstone bluffs.
Three Eagle Trail – A crushed gravel trail running north 8.5 miles from Three Lakes to Eagle River, the Three Eagle Trail passes through the heavily forested land once owned and managed by the Wausau Paper Company. Though mostly surrounded by soaring pine, the trail also passes over a large marsh and birch copses add splashes of color.
Elroy-Sparta Trail – The oldest rails to trails project in the country, the Elroy-Sparta Trail runs 32 miles through fields, forest and three tunnels bored through at least 1,680 feet of rock. This is the trail that gave Sparta the title “Bicycling Capital of America.”
Kansas City Area Trails
Watkins Mill Trail – A 3.75-mile paved trail around Williams Creek Lake, the Watkins Mill Trail is perfect for beginners or anyone who likes doing laps. About 40 minutes northeast of Kansas City, this trail is mostly forested and deer, turkeys, and songbirds are common.
Katy Trail – Running 240 miles from Clinton an hour and a half southeast of Kansas City to just outside of St. Louis, the Katy trail claims to be “the longest developed rail-trail in the country”. With 26 trailheads and some of the most gorgeous scenery in the state, you can go as far as you want to or farther.
Have a favorite trail for seeing fall colors? Let us know below.