Fall fun for you and your family
10/14/2021 by Brian A. Lynch, M.D., and Cassandra Greenwood, M.P.H.
Fall is a wonderful time of the year. The crisp, cool air and colorful, canopied trees provide the perfect opportunity to get outdoors and explore. As a bonus, spending time in nature positively affects your health and well-being. For more information on nature and how it affects your health, visit Southeast Minnesota Park Rx. Whether you prefer fall color hikes, camping or attending a fall nature event, Southeast Minnesota has something for you.
Minnesota has over 1,300 miles of state trails plus more than 4,500 miles of state water trails. From hiking, biking, in-line skating, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, Minnesota state trails provide a variety of outdoor opportunities. Find your perfect trail with the trail startup guide.
Olmsted County Parks offers programs and events for people of all ages. For example, at the "All Day BOO at the ZOO and Pumpkin Party" on Oct. 30, kids can trick or treat and zoo animals will be given pumpkins. Check out Olmsted County's Park Programs website for a full list of events this fall.
Olmsted County Parks also has great trails for year-round activities. Chester Woods Park has 15 miles of trail looping through nature, plus a mile-long hard-surfaced trail. Oxbow Park has 8 miles of trails to explore, while Root River Park has a 2-mile looping trail through meadows. Horseback riding is also allowed with a permit on some dual-use trails at Chester Woods Park and Root River Park. You can find trail maps on the Olmsted County Parks website.
If fall colors are what you're after, visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Fall Color Finder website, which shows up-to-date peak fall color information. To enjoy the fall colors for a longer period of time, consider camping — it's still an option in most of Southeast Minnesota. Olmsted County Parks' camping season ends Oct. 24, and you can make a reservation through that date. You also can make a reservation for camping in Minnesota State Parks.
Adventure awaits on the 85 miles of paved trails that the city of Rochester offers. Quarry Hill Nature Center has 8 miles of trails to explore plus regular programs and events to check out — like fossil hunting hikes and cave tours. Quarry Hill also offers pre-K programming, called Good Natured Kids.
To learn about different tree species in Rochester, head to Silver Lake Park to try the Tree ID app. When you visit Silver Lake Park, you will notice several signs posted near trees. These signs contain the species information about the nearby tree and a QR code that will bring you to the Tree ID app. The app contains over 35 specially selected trees to learn about.
Whitewater State Park has regular programming to choose from, including a Ghost Town Cemetery Field Trip on Oct. 30 and a Tundra Swan Field Trip on Nov. 6. This park has incredible bluff views of fall colors, campsites and miles of trails for parkgoers.
Southeast Minnesota has many state trails, including:
- Douglas State Trail
This 12.5-mile, multiuse trail was developed on an abandoned railroad grade. The trail begins in Northwest Rochester, passes through the small town of Douglas, and ends in Pine Island. One treadway is paved for bicyclists and hikers. A second treadway has a natural surface for horseback riders and snowmobilers. Learn more.
- Great River Ridge State Trail
This trail follows a former railroad grade, and it is generally level and accessible. It is popular for bicycling, hiking, in-line skating, horseback riding and snowmobiling. The 13 miles of paved trail begins in Plainview. The trail travels south through the town of Elgin and ends at County Road 9 near Eyota. The trail offers a dual natural surface treadway from Elgin to County Road 9 that is used for horseback riding in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter. Learn more.
- Root River State Trail
This paved trail is constructed on an abandoned railroad that meanders 42 miles alongside the Root River from Fountain to Houston. Hiking, biking and in-line skating are popular on this trail. Learn more.
- Shooting Star State Trail
This paved trail runs about 29 miles between LeRoy and Austin. It begins in the city of LeRoy, travels north through Lake Louise State Park and then continues westward. The trail runs along the Shooting Star Wildflower and Historic Route Scenic Byway. The native wildflowers and grasses are a highlight of this byway and trail. Like the Root River State Trail, hiking, biking and in-line skating are popular here. Learn more.
Enjoy your time in the outdoors and take in the fall beauty of Southeast Minnesota.
Brian Lynch, M.D., is a primary care pediatrician at Mayo Family Clinic Northwest in Rochester. He co-chairs the Primary Care Work Group of the Mayo Clinic Obesity Council and chairs the Primary Care Obesity Task Force. Dr. Lynch works closely with the Southeast Minnesota Park Rx Team to promote the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature to his patients and colleagues.
Cassandra Greenwood, M.P.H., is a community health specialist with Olmsted County Public Health. She works on chronic disease prevention initiatives, including Southeast Minnesota Park Rx.