Find a Route to Minnesota's Best Fall Foliage
The Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway runs up Highway 38 and through the Chippewa National Forest for 47 miles, from Grand Rapids to Effie. Originally a route for Indians and voyageurs, it became a logging road in the early 1900s. Today Highway 38 is lauded as one of the best fall colors drives in the nation. It's not a fast highway. Tight curves and frequent logging truck traffic make an average speed of 40 mph, but it's a treat for the eyes, with glowing golden birches. gently flowing waters and dark stands of red pines.
Deep hardwood forests, towering limestone bluffs, rushing trout waters, and placid bottomland pools define the landscape of the Whitewater River valley in southeastern Minnesota. Carving its way through the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest, the valley changes from hour to hour, day to day, season to season. The only constants are the natural rhythms that repeat with a steady cadence. In this place, the pulse of life is as inescapable as the thrum of a swan's wings, the swish of a trout's tail, or the heartbeat of a human observer captivated by nature's splendor.
State Highway 34 between Park Rapids and Osage is flat, straight, and flanked by fields where potatoes grow well in the sandy soil that settled out of glacial meltwater some 12,000 years ago. This horizontal topography is interrupted just west of Osage where glacial deposits of rock, gravel, sand, and clay rise hundreds of feet above the potato fields. From a distance, the hills crowned by old-growth red pines take on a hazy, gray appearance, which is how Smoky Hills State Forest got its name. Unsuitable for farming, the rolling lands of this 25,000-acre state forest are excellent for hunting, hiking, trail riding, or just taking in fall colors.
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