Fall Color Tour: Scenic Weekend Trips in Minnesota

Fall colors in central Minnesota typically peak around late September to early October. Just in time for the season, we’ve rounded up 5 of our favorite fall drives. Ranging in distance from our own backyard here in Minneapolis to the Canadian border, there is a perfect drive for every distance. So load up your sedan or SUV and get on your way!

Minnehaha Parkway and the River Road

See gorgeous fall colors without leaving the Twin Cities. Perfect for a shorter afternoon drive, Minnehaha Parkway follows Minnehaha Creek as it makes its way through South Minneapolis. Start out at Lake Harriet, loop Lake Nokomis, and head east to Minnehaha Park.

At Minnehaha Park, the Parkway joins up with the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, which follows the Mississippi for 3000 miles. Head east to St. Paul to experience the Mississippi River Visitor’s Center, or head north to the Charles Lindbergh Historic Site in Little Falls, or, if you’re feeling ambitious, the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park. According to the Mississippi River Parkway Commission, it takes about 36 hours to drive the entire road from north to south.

Distance from Minneapolis: 0 miles
Total length: 8.3 miles (Minnehaha Parkway), 3000 miles (Great River Road)

St. Croix Scenic Byway

Start at the St. Croix Scenic Byway’s southern terminus at Point Douglas. Ramble a few miles upriver to Stillwater for a sidewalk tour of the historic downtown, or head further north to explore the glacial potholes at Interstate State Park. Along the way, enjoy panoramas of the meandering St. Croix River as it winds its way down the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.

Distance from Minneapolis: 31 miles
Total length: 124 miles

Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway

Head down to Southeastern Minnesota for a jaunt along Highway 16. This route crosses over both the Root and Mississippi rivers. Start at Dexter and head east towards La Crescent for gorgeous views of the area’s limestone bluffs. Along the way, stop by Forestville/ Mystery Cave State Park for a Mystery Cave Tour, or fish for trout in the streams of Beaver Creek Valley State Park. Or, take in one of the many art galleries and historic sites along your way.

Distance from Minneapolis: 113 miles
Total length: 88 miles

North Shore Scenic Drive

Head up to Duluth to experience the largest Great Lake in its fall glory. Stretching from Duluth to Grand Portage, the North Shore Scenic Drive covers 142 miles of Lake Superior’s shoreline. Take in the water, the forests, and the rolling Sawtooth mountains. Stretch your legs with a jaunt along the trails in the Superior National Forest, or explore one of the many lighthouses along the route.

Distance from Minneapolis: 154 miles
Total length: 142 miles

Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway

This byway is about as far north as you can get without leaving Minnesota. Start at Grand Marais and head west for 57 miles of beautiful forests and lakes along the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Watch for moose and birds that frequent the area. Or hike up nearby Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota at 2300 feet.

Distance from Minneapolis: 264 miles
Total length: 57 miles

Is Your Vehicle Up for the Drive?

Before you go, make sure your car is up for the drive with these Fall Car Care Tips. If you have any concerns about your vehicle, don’t hesitate to contact us. Having your vehicle thoroughly inspected before your road trip is a great way to avoid damage to your car. Schedule your appointment at our Golden Valley location by calling (763) 522-2000 or our Lakeville location at (952) 469-1500.