Tag Archives: Willard Munger Trail

Here this cyclist is enjoying Minnesota's peak riding time on the Paul Bunyan Trail.

Minnesota’s Peak Riding Time Is Fall: Part One

Autumn Is Minnesota’s Peak Riding Time: Northern 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. 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. Granted, there is an exception to that rule if you are looking at biking in the Arrowhead region along Lake Superior. If you are, then the peak fall colors normally arrive about a week later than inland areas due to the warming effect of the lake. In the central one-third of the state, wooded areas become colorful between late September and 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 part one of a three part series.

Northern Minnesota Trails To Enjoy Peak Colors 

Northeastern Minnesota

Gitchi-Gami: This trail along the North Shore now has a 29 mile segment. This segment goes from Gooseberry Falls State Park through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park to Beaver Bay. For more information on visiting the area see Heart of the Northshore Tourism Association.

Mesabi: This is one the most interesting trails in the state with 120 miles completed so far between Grand Rapids and Virginia/Biwabik. Built only partly on old rail lines, it dips and climbs around bogs and mine-pit lakes. Then, it continues around slag heaps and natural lakes highlighted by aspen and pines. See more at Grand Rapids Tourism on the west end and the IronTrail Tourism for the east end of the trail.

Willard Munger: This 75 mile trail between Hinckley and Duluth is one of the oldest and longest paved trails in the nation. The trail starts in Hinckley, Minnesota 61 and then goes to Carlton. For more information on the south end of the trail see: Hinckley Tourism and at the northern end. For near Jay Cook State Park, see Carlton Tourism.

Sunrise Prairie/Hardwood Creek: These county trails, just north of the Twin Cities and parallel of Interstate 35W, starts from Washington County’s Hardwood Creek Regional Trail at Forest Lake. Then, the trail changes to Sunrise Prairie Trail at Stacy for another 16 miles up to North Branch. See more information at Sunrise Trail Prairie Trail or Hardwood Creek Trail.

Northwestern Minnesota

Paul Bunyan: This 120 mile trail winds through lake country from Brainerd/Baxter to Bemidji. The southern trailhead is in Baxter, off Minnesota 371 at Excelsior Road (parking is near Northland Arboretum). The trail takes you up through the Chippewa National Forest then to Akeley (7¾ miles to Walker on the Heartland Trail). Afterwards, the trails continues onto Bemidji. Then, it goes to Bemidji State Park. See more information on the south end of the trail at Brainerd/Baxter/Nisswa Tourism and Bemidji Tourism at the north trailhead.

Heartland: There are lots of towns to explore on this 49 mile ride. The trail takes you between Park Rapids to Cass Lake, through Walker and connects to the Paul Bunyan Trail. For At-a-Glance Tips see: Leech Lake Tourism on the east end and Park Rapids Tourism at the west end of this trail.

Migizi: This scenic U.S. Forest Service loop ride around Pike Bay is 17 miles if you count the spur to-and-from Norway Beach Recreation Area on Cass Lake, streets in the town of Cass Lake, and the three miles that run south of Cass Lake along Minnesota 371. See Cass Lake Tourism for more information.


Trip Tips: To Enjoy Minnesota’s Peak Riding Times by Bike

Before you go:

  • Always check the MnDNR website for a trail map or to see if road construction or flooding has closed a portion of that area.
  • Also, each Thursday afternoon during the fall season a color report is available online. You can also receive it through a weekly e-newsletter at Explore Minnesota Tourism.

Staying safe:

Even on off-road trails, bicyclists need to wear helmets. Since 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, make sure to wear helmet.

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

Also, ride with a buddy, especially on isolated stretches.

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