Here these cyclists are enjoying Minnesota's peak riding time on the Red Jacket Trail, near Mankato.

Minnesota’s Peak Riding Time Is Fall: Part Three

Autumn Is Minnesota’s Peak Riding Time: Southern Minnesota

With the summer season officially off the calendar, fall is a great time to extend your bike riding adventures here in Minnesota. As the trees change colors along the miles of paved and mountain bike trails, cyclists will find a kaleidoscope of colors along the way. With the abundant rainfall this year, colors are predicted to be spectacular. If the weather remains mostly sunny during the day and cool at night, conditions will favor a stunning ride while exploring Minnesota. So, it’s no surprise that Minnesota’s peak riding time is fall.

Each year the fall color peak normally arrives in the northern one-third of the state in mid-September to early October.  For the southern-third of Minnesota, colors peak early to mid-October. This year the peak cycle, statewide, is running a week or so later than normal due to ideal summer conditions – so enjoy!

To get a more accurate gauge to the change in colors in areas of Minnesota that you would like to visit, a color report is available online or through a weekly e-newsletter from Explore Minnesota Tourism each Thursday afternoon during the fall season.

This section is the final section, part three of a three part series about Minnesota’s peak riding times. Click here on Part Two for Central Minnesota and Part One for Northern Minnesota Trails and Fall Colors.

Enjoy Southern Minnesota’s Peak Riding Times 

Southeast Minnesota

Cannon Valley: This 19.7 mile trail between Cannon Falls and Red Wing is a popular Rail-to-Trails attraction here in Minnesota. It’s a beautiful, shady ride above the Cannon River with a picnic area in Welch, its midpoint. It is maintained by a trail association and there is a daily fee of $3. See more at Cannon Falls Tourism at the west trailhead and Red Wing Tourism at the east trailhead, near the Mississippi River.

Douglas: This is a 12.5 mile rolling trail ride through rolling farmland between Pine Island’s city park and the north outskirts of Rochester. For more information see Rochester Tourism.

Great River Ridge: This 13 mile paved trail connects the southeast Minnesota towns of Plainview, Elgin, and Eyota and is near Whitewater and Carley state parks. The first half follows a winding creek. Also, the five miles from Elgin to Plainview are slightly uphill and follow the highway. See more at: Plainview/Elgin/Milleville Tourism.

And Still More Trails

Shooting Star: This 22 mile trail follows the Shooting Star Scenic Byway from LeRoy to Austin. LeRoy is on the Upper Iowa River near the Iowa border and continues towards Austin, just south of I-90. Then, at the eastern half, the trail goes through Lake Louise State Park. After passing through Adams and Rose Creek, the trail rolls in to Austin’s bike-friendly atmosphere. See more at: Austin Tourism.

Winona’s Trails: The terrain around Winona is looped by spectacularly beautiful bicycle trails aimed at a variety of riders. Whether you are out for a scenic ride with the family on the 5 mile paved trail around the lake or the bike-friendly street routes in town, there are great backgrounds. The Mississippi River Trail leading in and out of Winona will have colors that can add excitement to your adventures and memories, and this is even true if you decide to sample the mountain bike trails here. For more, see: Winona Tourism.

South and Southwest Minnesota

Root River/Harmony-Preston Valley: Between Fountain and Houston, the 42 mile Root River Trail, in the lovely bluff country, is one of Minnesota’s pride and joys. Add the 18 mile Harmony-Preston trail, from Isinours Junction, just west of Lanesboro on the Root River State Trail, riders on this section will enjoy rolling terrain up to the farm town of Harmony. For more, see Root River Trail Towns Tourism.

Blazing Star: This paved trail currently runs from Albert Lea Lake, in Albert Lea, to Myre-Big Island State Park. The total trail distance is approximately 20 miles. Along the route you can enjoy the natural environment that includes wetlands, oak savanna, big woods, and prairie. Also, the park is a great birding spot, especially during fall migration. See more at: Albert Lea Tourism.

And Still More Trails

Red Jacket: This 19 mile trail system connects Mankato’s South Riverfront Drive to Rapidan. Then, it goes to the South Route Trail and to Minneopa State Park. Interested in connecting from the Red Jacket to the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail? It is about four miles on the Minnesota River Trail. For more, see: Mankato Tourism.

Sakatah Singing Hills: This low-profile, 39 mile trail between Faribault and Mankato has a mixture of scenery. It periodically plunges into cool woods, passing Sakatah Lake State Park (Sakatah is Ojibwe for “singing hills”. This is pronounced Sah-KAH-tah) and Elysian. Then, if you’re lucky, you will get to see flocks of pelicans that hang out on Lake Elysian. For more see: Faribault Tourism at the east trailhead and Mankato Tourism on the west side.

Staying safe:

Even on off-road trails, bicyclists need to wear helmets. It’s important! Why? You are much more likely to fall on your head by locking wheels with another bike or by stopping suddenly than you are to be hit by a vehicle.

Also, don’t forget to stop at stop signs on the trail, even if it’s just a driveway or gravel road.

Have Fun and check back this Thursday for part three of Minnesota’s Peak Riding Time!

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