Great River Bluffs State Park, Winona
Fall often arrives brilliantly at this state park, perched high above the Mississippi River. Many of the park’s 7 miles of hiking trails meander across the tops of the bluffs—and in some cases go to platforms that serve as overlooks, providing spectacular vantages of the river valley and the Wisconsin side. In the prairie portions, the yellows and browns of prairie grasses mingle with the bright red of sumac. In many forested sections, hardwoods including oak, maple, and hickory burst out in warm tones. If you make the short hike to the goat prairie atop King’s Bluff, keep an eye out for the peregrine falcons that nest on the bluff.
Crow Wing State Park, Brainerd
Set along the Mississippi River, this central Minnesota park has 18 miles of trails that beckon to fall hikers. Some of them traverse wooded areas or follow the river; others visit historic sites that include a long-gone town, a former oxcart byway, and a battle site. Bicyclists: Crow Wing can now be reached by bike on the more than 100-mile-long Paul Bunyan State Trail.
Lake Maria State Park, Monticello
Soak up autumn in the Big Woods, the now-uncommon type of oak, maple, and basswood forest that still stands at this park. Here 14 miles of hiking trails wind through undulating, forested hills that put on a show every fall. Lakes and marshes, remnants of the glacial forces that shaped this landscape, dot the woods and add visual interest.
Sibley State Park, New London
Crowned by Mount Tom with its panoramic views, Sibley has a mix of grasslands and woods, crisscrossed by 18 miles of hiking trails. Grasslands are again gaining the upper hand as park managers work to restore the native landscape, which was historically more open.
Wild River State Park, Center City
The St. Croix is the wild (and scenic) river that flows alongside this park and gives it its name. With 35 miles of hiking trails and 18 miles of horseback trails, Wild River has plenty of room for hikers and riders to stretch out and enjoy the landscape. Underlain by a smooth, sandy plain, the park has pine forest, hardwood forest, and oak savanna.
Cascade River State Park, Lutsen
The boreal hardwood-conifer forest and a Great Lake bring a broader range of hues to the fall palette at Cascade River State Park on the North Shore. Hikers have 18 miles of trails to explore, including connections to the rugged and beautiful Superior Hiking Trail. Seven picnic sites, five along the Lake Superior shore and two among cedar trees, invite visitors to snack amid splendor.