A Kaleidoscope of Colors Less Than an Hour Away From the Twin Cities
As the scorching heat of summer gives way to the temperate coolness of autumn, the St. Croix River Valley covers itself in an amazing Technicolor dreamcoat. The forests that envelope Taylors Falls, MN and St. Croix Falls, WI transform from lush greens into a virtual fireworks display of colors guaranteed to delight even the most experienced leaf-peepers. And the area is bursting with exciting ways to enjoy the show.
Fall Foliage on Foot
Sparse crowds, cooler temperatures and fiery hues make fall an idyllic time to take a hike or trail run. Little gear is required and no experience is necessary. The 30+ miles of trails that traverse through Taylors Falls and St. Croix Falls offer stunning beauty at various degrees of difficulty.
One of the most coveted rock climbing destinations in Minnesota and Wisconsin resides here. Interstate Park in Taylors Falls offers traditional, sport and top rope climbing and Trollhaugen’s Aerial Challenge course in Dresser, WI features all types of climbing for all ability levels culminating in six adventurous zip lines. Get out those ropes and experience nature’s splendor from above.
Interstate Park MN/WI
While trees typically hog all the autumn glory, wildflowers that bloom in fall are pretty impressive, too. The bustle of birds as they prepare for journeys south or hunker down for winter present a thrilling view when framed by the seasonal spectacle. Interpretive centers offer something to learn for novices and pros alike, and don’t forget about the phenomenal geology that makes these parks famous year-round.
Bike through Bountiful Beauty
From the trailhead of the Woolly Mountain Bike Trail system in St. Croix Falls spawns paved bike paths and miles of single and double track trails for beginner, intermediate and expert level bikers. Don’t miss the annual “Woolly Day” which takes place each fall during peak peeping time and is open to all abilities. Enjoy the ride, food and friendship of fellow bikers, not to mention the glorious fall colors.
The hard-packed, crushed limestone of the former railroad corridor known as the Gandy Dancer originates in St. Croix Falls and travels 47 miles through woodlands, countryside and quaint towns. The lack of automobiles allows attention to be focused on gawking at some of the area’s most awe-inspiring, photo-worthy autumn landscapes.
Extensive miles of quiet backroads are brimming with arboreal awesomeness this time of year. Whether it’s a leisurely sightseeing pedal down the River Road or crushing up 500 feet from the valley floor, the spectacular views will not disappoint.
Scenic routes course through this area like blood through veins, and the St. Croix River is at the heart. A fall ride through the valley seduces the senses—the cool, soul-infusing air, the familiar earthy aroma that floats on the wind, the mighty roar of the river, the courageous beauty of leaves weakening as they prepare to die in contrast with the stoic strength of rock formations that have weathered for centuries. There are plenty of stops along the way to grab a bite or just stop and take it all in.
The Vivid Valley by Vessel
Cloaked in shades of red, orange, yellow, purple and green, few sights are more breathtaking than the tree-covered cliffs that tower over the St. Croix River as seen from the water. And few rivers dial up as many outlets to take advantage of this bounty. Canoe or paddleboard the flatwater or shoot the rapids in a kayak—the panorama is just as powerful from any choice of watercraft.
As the last golden rays of sunshine settle upon the bluffs along the river, the warm-tinted foliage appears ablaze in autumn. A dinner cruise aboard a vintage paddlewheel riverboat has left tourists spellbound by this phenomenon for over 100 years. Not only can the fall colors be seen in all their glory, but some of the world’s most unique geological formations can only be viewed from this vantage point. See the stone cross from which the St. Croix was named, feast your eyes on the world’s largest glacial kettles, take a gander at Turk’s Head and Lion’s Head, and visit the illustrious Old Man of The Dalles.
Fall Docket Already Full?
Plan a Winter Trip Now!
The sparkling silver-white of winter in the valley closely rivals autumn’s pops of color in beauty and elegance. And the good news is that it can be viewed just as up close and personal as in the fall. Hiking trails are groomed for snowshoeing and skiing, mountain bike trails transform into fat bike trails, and other tracks are earmarked for snowmobile usage. The hilly terrain is ideal for downhill skiing and tubing, while skating and fishing keep the lakes and rivers from being ignored. With so much to see and do, you’re going to need to spend the weekend. But don’t worry—there are plenty of lodging choices to stay at, and with a mere 45-minute drive from the Twin Cities you’ll have much more time to have fun!
This article was produced by Linda Shober Marketing + Design, LLC and written by Karen Lawrence. Linda Shober Marketing and Design is located in the St. Croix Valley and specializes in providing content, strategy, management, design, and creative for digital and traditional marketing projects
Top photo © Felix Ledesma