Favorite Trails for Fall Color Rides-Part 2

Fall is my favorite time of the year to get out in the woods and when it involves a bike that's even better.  With cooler weather fast approaching, now is the time to plan where you would like to ride to see the fall colors in their full glory.  Minnesota is filled with a lot of great trails to see the changing of the leaves and listed below are a few of my favorites.  For you mountain bikers, I will include some of my favorite MTB trails I enjoy heading to in the fall.

Image Credit:  MN DNR

The Minnesota DNR has on its website a Fall Color Report page to update you on current conditions around the state.  The site also contains a Fall Color Mobile page you can access anytime while you are out and about from your smartphone.  Use these reports to head to the areas with the best fall colors for your next ride.

In the Twin Cities west metro, the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail is one of my favorites.  Starting at the Depot Coffee House in Hopkins, this 13 mile long aggregate trail was built on a former railroad grade and travels from the busy city past lakes, ponds and is wooded for most of the way.  As you approach the end of the trail near Chaska, you will have great views of the Minnesota River Valley.

Another southern Minnesota favorite of mine is the Red Jacket Trail in Mankato.  This trail provides spectacular scenery from its start near the Minnesota River as it runs mostly through a natural ravine, crosses the Le Sueur River on a century old railroad trestle and follows near the Blue Earth River.  Each October, the Red Jacket Trail is featured as part of the Mankato River Ramble to benefit the Greater Mankato Bike & Walk Advocates and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.

 In east central Minnesota there is the Willard Munger State Trail.  This is a very scenic 63 mile trail built on an old railroad grade that runs between Hinckley and Duluth.  I particularly enjoy riding through the woods and fields from Hinckley to Willow River, which is about 44 miles round trip.  There is a mix of hardwoods and pines along this section that provide a colorful fall ride.  Some of the most scenic length of the trail, about 14 miles, is closed from Thomson to West Duluth because of extensive damage to the trail from heavy rains in June of 2012.

If mountain biking is more your style, Afton Alps in Hastings can't be beat for the fall scenery.  The ski area provides spectacular views of the St. Croix River Valley with many vantage points along its series of trails.  There are over seven miles of intermediate to advanced trails that meander through the woods and along the grassy ski slopes.  A $9 trail fee and helmet are required and the trails remain open through October.  For more information and trail updates, call 651-436-1320 or visit their website.  *Since this post was published, mountain biking at Afton Alps has been terminated except for a Minnesota Mountain Bike Series race each year.

In part 3 of this segment, I will bring you several more trails to put on your "to do" list for the fall riding season.

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