Scenic Fall Color Routes in State Forests

Car driving along a forest road in Grand Portage State Forest.

Looking for an easy way to soak up fall color? Take a drive in through Minnesota's state forests!

Driving through our state forests in fall is like driving through a kaleidoscope—the range of color really is amazing. Hilly or rugged areas dominated by deciduous trees tend to have the best mix of color, with the dark green needles of conifers accenting the yellow, orange and red leaves of deciduous trees.

Fall color forest drives are perfect for families, and also a great time to snap some photos for holiday cards.

Here are some of our favorite fall color drives through a few of Minnesota's 59 state forests.

Late September

Early October

  •  Hill River State Forest: This loop begins and ends in Hill City. Head east on State Highway 200. You can take a side trip to hike around Taylor Lake by turning south on Taylor Lake Road. Return to 200 and take another side trip to Washburn Lake by turning south on Washburn Lake Road. Return to 200 and head back to Hill City or head east to County Road 10 (Great River Road). Head south on 10 to State Highway 169. Head north on 169 to County Road 68 (540th St). Head west on 68 to County Road 29. Head north on 29 to 200. Head east on 200 to return to Hill City.
  • Fond du Lac State Forest: This loop begins and ends in Cromwell. Take State Highway 73 north to County Road 122. Head east on 122 to County Road 120/Ditchlake Road. Head north on 120 to County Road 223. Here you have two options: you can drive east on 223 to the dead end, then park on the east side of the road and hike through the forest; or, you can turn right on 223 to County Road 421, then head east on 421 to County Road 1023. Go south on 1023 to State Highway 210, then west on 210 to return to Cromwell.
  • Solona State Forest: This loop begins and ends in McGarth. Go north on State Highway 65 to County Road 2/220th St. Head east on County Road 2 to County Road 34/Kestrel Ave. Head north on 34, which turns into County Road 75. Continue on County Road 75 to State Highway 27, then go west on State Highway 27 to State Highway 65. Head south on State Highway 65 to return to McGarth. Before returning to McGrarth, you might want to take a detour to Porcupine Lake by heading west on West White Pine Forest Road.
  • Wealthwood State Forest: This loop begins and ends in Malmo. Head west on State Highway 18, driving along the north shore of Mille Lacs Lake, to State Highway 169. Head north on 169 toward Aitkin to State Highway 47. Drive east on State Highway 47 to return to Malmo.

Mid-October

  • Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest: This loop begins and ends in Red Wing. From downtown Red Wing, head south on Highway 61 for 10.5 miles. At Frontenac take a right onto County 2 Boulevard and go east for 9 miles. Take a right onto County 3 Boulevard to head east for 4 miles. Take a right onto State Highway 58 to head north for 1.5 miles. Take a left onto Hay Creek Trail to head north for about 4.5 miles. Hay Creek Trail turns into Twin Bluff Road at Pioneer Road. Continue on Twin Bluff Road until it turns into West Avenue. Follow West Avenue to West 7th Street and turn right.  Go one block and turn left onto East Avenue to return to downtown Red Wing.

For more great rides, check out Fall Color Finder »