Now that we’re heading straight into sweater weather, we figure it’s a good time to post a list of the best places to view the fall foliage in Minnesota. As the leaves begin to change throughout our great Northern state, don’t miss out on the opportunity for some of the best leaf peeping in the country. Here are eight of the best places to do so. And remember – when you become a certified private pilot, these and other destinations are well within your reach whenever you are looking to get away. Just pack your bags, set your coordinates and take off! (Plus, there’s no view more spectacular than seeing the autumn colors from the cockpit of an airplane.)
1) Headwaters Of The Mississippi
Nearest Airport: Grand Rapids / Itasca County Airport (GPZ)
The Mississippi River is the second longest river in North America, and it starts right here in Lake Itasca, Minnesota. As one of the world’s major river systems in size, habitat diversity and biological productivity, you can rest assured knowing that the fall foliage will be a beautiful sight. Get some peace and quiet walking along the many great backpacking trails, and camp under a color-changing tree at one of the remote campsites in Itasca State Park, the oldest state park in the state.
2) Canon Falls
Nearest Airport: Stanton Airport (SYN)
While Cannon Falls may not have the prized designation of a “state” park, it’s still one of the better places to view the fall colors, particularly in the southern Minnesota region. Walking or riding a bike along the 20-mile Cannon Valley Trail lets you take in some of the most stunning rural scenery in the state, filled with picturesque rivers, bridges, open fields and dense forests.
3) Crystal, MN
Nearest Airport: Crystal Airport (MIC)
With the many parks, lakes and wildlife areas scattered throughout the city, Crystal is one of the top suburbs in the greater Twin Cities area for leaf peeping. The expansive Three Rivers Park District on the shore of Medicine Lake, pristine MAC Wildlife Area and stunning lookouts over the Mississippi River Valley are all within minutes from the center of town. Plus, Lake Minnetonka is just one town over, and offers some of the most spectacular lake-side views in the greater Twin Cities area.
4) Zippel Bay State Park in Lake of the Woods
Nearest Airport: Warroad International Memorial Airport (RRT)
If you’re looking to get away on a crisp fall day, Zippel Bay State Park in Lake of the Woods provides visitors with a ton of hiking trails to let you take advantage of autumn’s beauty. Experience the changing yellows, crimsons, oranges and other spectacular colors that tower over the wilderness. Or, take the view in by boat, by renting a canoe.
5) The North Shore Drive
Nearest Airport: Southern, Duluth International Airport (DLH)
Northern, Grand Marais/Cook County Airport (CKC)
The North Shore drive is a classic getaway for Minnesotans, and perhaps the best time to take the trip is during the fall, when the fall colors contrast Lake Superior’s many striking blues, greens and purples. The route, from Duluth up to the border of Canada is peppered with state parks, rivers, waterfalls, hiking trails, bike trails, campsites and scenic overlooks. You won’t want to miss out on this experience, which is designated as an “All-American Road,” one of only 15 routes given the distinction for its breathtaking scenery.
6) Otter County Trail
Nearest Airport: Fergus Falls Municipal Airport (FFM)
Otter County Trail, located between Fergus Falls and Detroit Lakes, provides the perfect setting for taking in the colors of autumn. Driving from one town to the next, you’ll be exposed to a blend of wooded rolling hills, lakes, and farmland. Plus, no fall trip is complete without a trip to a corn maze — head to Otter Berry Farm in Rush Lake to do just that!
7) Brainerd Lakes Area
Nearest Airport: Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport (BRD)
Every fall, Brainerd Lakes gets an influx of leaf peepers, because the area becomes so scenic. There are a number of different trails, drives and tours to pick from, where you can see everything from sumac and maple trees to golden oak and yellow birch. You can essentially head in any direction and you’ll experience beautiful scenery. Peak colors here happen from late September to early October, so don’t miss out on this ideal fall destination.
8) Kabetogama State Park
Nearest Airport: Elbow Lake Municipal Airport (Y63)
The lush forest that makes up Kabetogama State Park is a sight to see throughout September, October and November. This dense area transforms into a blend of colorful crimson, burnt orange, golds and greens that leave visitors in awe and provide some of the most vibrant colors in Northern Minnesota. Those that want an authentic backcountry experience can canoe or kayak out and explore Elbow Lake’s many islands nearby, or go to Lookout Mountain to take it all in from above.
Are you ready to get away this fall?
With a private pilot license, you can travel to any of these luxurious resort destinations in Minnesota at your leisure. All it takes is a call to Inflight Pilot Training to get started. With a reputable team of highly qualified certified flight instructors, and proven programs designed to your learning style, we can help you gain the skills needed to fly an airplane. Contact our team of flight instructors to find out more.
For additional information on Inflight training programs, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.