Minnesota October Bucket List

October is an amazing time to be in Minnesota. The fall colors, crisp mornings, crisp apples, apple crisp…. I’m getting off track. Anyway, October is full autumn bliss and nature’s kiss, get outside and enjoy this season while it’s still beautiful! Here is a compellation of Bucket List ideas to get you started.

North Shore Hikes

Yes, it is worth the drive. No, it’s not overrated. The North Shore really is one of the best places in Minnesota to see the fall colors. The trick is getting the timing right. Check the DNR website to help plan your trip to get the timing right. The last couple of weeks in September and the first couple of weeks in October are the best, but that peak can come and go quick. Here are some of the most scenic spots along the North Shore:

  • Tettegouche
  • Gooseberry Falls
  • Split Rock Light House
  • Temperance River
  • Cascade River
  • Grand Portage (you’ll basically be in Canada)

Northern State Parks

One doesn’t necessarily have to get all the way up to Two Harbors or Silver Bay to enjoy the fall colors. A shorter jaunt to some closer, yet still “north” State Parks can satisfy that autumn color craving. Here are few colorful suggestions:

Campfire S’mores

Stay warm and cozy by the fire, have a gooey snack and maybe some hot chocolate, too. This is the perfect time of year for a bonfire and spooky stories with friends and family around the campfire. Break out the flannels, thermos, and your favorite campfire stories book.

Moonlit Hike

Watch the moon phase calendar for the next full moon and go for a moonlit hike or visit a state park with a night time program. October is prime time for evening events at Minnesota State Parks. The Minnesota State Parks Events calendar is full of adventure.

  • Geocaching The Spooky Edition- Jay Cooke (Oct. 13)
  • Park After Dark- Jay Cooke (Oct 14)
  • A Night Under the Stars-Lake Bemidji State Park (Oct 13)
  • Astronomy & Star Gazing- Glacial Lakes (Oct. 20)
  • “Who Cooks for Who?” Owl Chef- William O’Brien (Oct 20)
  • Spooky Candlelight Hike- Lake Bemidji State Park (Oct. 28)

Colorful River Paddle

An all time favorite, enjoy the leaves from the seat of a canoe or kayak. The reflection the leaves give off from the water is mesmerizing. There is just something about the calm stroke a paddle causing gentle swirls in the water as the watercraft quietly passes. This is one of the most serene autumn experiences.

Tip: Always wear your life vest. Cooler water temperatures increase risk of hypothermia if you flip.

Waterfall Hike

Visit a waterfall for a unique view of autumn leaves and cascading rivers. The North Shore is great for waterfall hikes but you don’t have to go that far north. Parks like Minneopa & Nerstrand Big Woods have waterfalls, the falls may be down to a trickle by fall, but they are still beautiful.

Southern MN Hike

When the leaves of the North Shore have already peaked, it’s time to head south. There are some beautiful parks in southern Minnesota with spectacular hikes! Here are a few suggestions:

Pumpkin Patch

Visit a pumpkin patch, Minnesota is loaded with them. Some have an excessive amount of kid friendly activities, others have a subtle autumn vibe about them. The later is my favorite. Find a sugar pumpkin to turn into a pie or bring home a premade pie. We enjoy the smaller pumpkin patches and avoid the crowds of the big attractions. For wholesome family fun and less chaos look for a simple patch that offers these few things.

  • Hayride
  • Pick Pumpkins
  • Pick Apples
  • Corn Maze

Bake Apple Crisp

Apple crips season, woohoo! Bake a warm apple crisp on a cool, crisp October evening. Go one step further and collect those apples from an orchard. Best fall scent is fresh apple cinnamon.

State Park Program

The Minnesota State Parks put on some pretty amazing programs throughout the year. Autumn is the perfect time to jump into one of these many programs. Many of them involve the night sky and the autumn change. Check out the Events Calendar for up to date events this fall.

Hike with Your Adventure Dog

Adventure dogs love fall colors too. Dogs love the new fall scents, cooler temperatures, and watching the squirrels scurry about preparing for winter. Get your dog out for some autumn hikes, Minnesota State Park trails are dog friendly. Check out Autumn Hiking Tips for Adventure Dogs.

Cabin Stay

Minnesota State Parks offer some pretty cozy accommodation. Many state parks have camper cabins. Some are all season, equipped with heat and perfect for an autumn getaway. Book ahead of time as these fill up fast. Reservations can be make at Minnesota State Parks and Trails website.

We stayed in at a Jay Cooke Camper Cabin last winter, it was so cozy and perfect for a cold weather get away! (Not dog friendly, bummer.)

River Hike

Minnesota has 6564 rivers within it’s borders. If you don’t have a chance to paddle a river, hiking alongside one works too. The colors in this habitat cannot be beaten. The river gives trees clearance to show off their autumn schemes and the tranquility of flowing water adds magic to an ordinary hike.

Scenic Bike Ride

Cover more ground on a bike rather than on foot. There are several scenic bike paths that are former railroads. This makes the paths flat, paved and easy. The colors along these trails will be gorgeous in early October.

  • Root River State Trail
  • Cannon Valley Trail
  • Willard Munger State Trail
  • Heartland State Trail
  • Paul Bunyan State Trail

However you enjoy the autumn season, make the most of October. Before you know it, November will be at out feet and our feet risk stepping in snow.

November Hiking Tips in Minnesota

Stay safe on trail with these November hiking tips for Minnesota. The rut is on!

The leaves have changed and dropped, leaf peepers have gone home causing crowds to dwindle. It’s the perfect time to get on trail and watch the animals prepare for the winter months. November is hunting season here in Minnesota. Deer hunters have done their work creating game trails, working food plots, setting up stands and blinds. They’ve been waiting all year to get out in the stand, they are ready! And you should be too. Check out these November hiking tips to keep your hiking season going strong in a safe and considerate manner.

Know Before You Go

Deer hunting is all about conservation… and filling the freezer. With the conservation aspect in mind, there will be hunting permitted in some state parks around MN. Check out your destination prior to hitting the trail. Some parks have scheduled closures or limitations in the coming weeks for hunters to harvest the excess deer population.

MN State Park Hunting Seasons

Blaze Orange

Blaze orange is a hikers (and hunters) best friend in November. At a minimum, wear an orange hat, hot pink works too. Even better would be an orange vest. Obviously you don’t look like a deer walking in the woods, but safety first! Wearing orange will keep you visible to hunters and others in the park. If you’re trying to watch wildlife and are concerned about missing out by being too visible; don’t worry, deer can’t see this color. They can, however, see blue. Don’t wear blue if you’re trying to catch a glimpse of deer activity.

Dog Safety

I am very pro “Never Hike Alone” and try to take my dog along whenever and wherever I hike. Dog’s have been mistaken for small deer in the past. It is obvious in the picture below that my Xena looks like a deer, especially when she frolics through the woods. Her color is accurately named “fawn.” Whether your dog resembles a deer or not, be sure your furry hiking companion is wearing a vest or jacket of orange or pink.

Follow Signs

With the hunting seasons going on at the state parks, some parks are not closed but limiting areas to the public. Be sure to watch for signs and follow them to ensure the safety of both hunters and hikers. Check in at the park office before hitting the trails, they may have additional/updated information to make your hike a success.


This time of year we can have some pretty drastic temperature swings. It can be 65 degrees and sunny at the beginning of a hike and drop down to 30 degrees by sundown. Bring layers along and make sure to keep that orange hat on, even if it’s hot.


Autumn is the time of year when our sunlight hours diminish and eventually lead to the darkest day of the year, the first day of winter. Check the sunset time on the day you plan to hike. On a clear night, expect visibility for about half an hour after the sun sets. Ensure you’ve planned ample time to complete your hike before sundown. Shooting time also ends 30 minutes after sunset, with the limited visibility exit the woods before dark.

Be Considerate of Hunters

Even if you’re not a hunter, keep in mind that the whole point of hunting in the parks is to promote a healthy population. When deer become overpopulated it can have a devastating effect on the overall health of the deer population, native plant life, and other animals in the area.

Bucks in Rut

If a deer spots you in the woods, it will likely take off. That being said, if a buck does not leave in your presence, Do Not approach it. It could be injured, nevertheless, the velvet is off the antlers and they are in rut. A buck, even a young buck, can be quite dangerous. Give them space and let them go about their natural business. Nobody needs to be gored in the name of curiosity.

Wounded or Down Deer

Spotted a wounded or down deer? If you come across hunters looking for their deer, point them in the direction that you saw the deer. The goal of a hunter is to harvest their animal as quickly and painlessly as they can. Being unable to find a wounded deer and end it’s suffering is a real blow to a hunter. Likewise, being unable to find a deer that is down is a waste. Be helpful and point them in the right direction.

Reporting a wounded animal to the DNR is another option. Keep in mind that this is a very busy time of year for the DNR as well and they do not have the manpower to respond to every wounded animal during hunting season.

Reporting to DNR

See hunters in a No Hunting Zone or outside of the hunting season?

  • Check the dates of the Zone you are in.
  • Some parks in MN have different dates for their designated hunting season; those parks will be closed or limited to the public on those dates.
  • Check with land owners to ensure they didn’t have hunters with permission.
  • Remember that bow hunters can hunt until the end of the year and muzzle loader season starts after shotgun season.
  • Do not approach poachers, this can be dangerous. Leave it to authorities.

If you are sure that you have a poacher on you hands: Report poachers to the DNR.

Enjoy the late autumn hiking season. The animals feel the change and pressure of the incoming cold. It’s the best time to catch wildlife preparing for winter. The deer are on the move, the squirrels are collecting nuts and seeds, some of the birds are heading south. It’s a much more active time of year in the woods than one would think. Simply sitting in the woods this time of year is great entertainment.

Minnesota State Park Leaf Peeping (Not on the North Shore)

Miss the peak colors of the North Shore? Don’t worry, Lake Superior isn’t the only place to go ‘Leaf Peeping.’ Take a look down South! These parks can still scratch that autumn itch without the long drive north.

Miss the peak colors of the North Shore? Don’t worry, Lake Superior isn’t the only place to go ‘Leaf Peeping.’ Take a look down South! These parks can still scratch that autumn itch without the long drive north.

Within 1 Hour of the Twin Cities

1. Wild River State Park: Stunning trails along the St. Croix river, through prairie grasses and forests of mixed tree species. Keep the camaras ready, while visiting this park. We happened to cross paths with deer, hawks, and eagles. For great river views, check out the Old Military Road Trail and Walter F. Mondale River Trail. While hiking along the rivers edge, keep an eye out for beavers and otters.

2. Interstate State Park: Dramatic cliffs, pot-holes, unique landscape, stunning leaves, and a plethora of activities. Can’t really miss with this park. While there is a lack of mileage for hiking (just 4 miles in the park) the trails make up for distance with rugged terrain. Rock climbing, boat tours, canoeing/kayaking, and overlooks are other ways to enjoying the leaves in this park.

**Pro-tip: Arrive early at this park. Due to it’s awesome features this park fills up fast, get an early start to avoid the crowds and land a parking space.

3. William O’Brian State Park: William O’Brian State Park is home to a variety of views. The 12 miles of hiking trails will take you to prairie overlooks, oak covered hills and to riverside scenery. Majority of the trails are not by the rivers edge. If hiking doesn’t quite sate that autumn wanderlust, hop in a canoe and paddle your way to satisfying autumn bliss. Watch for waterfowl and beavers along your way.

4. Afton State Park: 20 miles of hiking trails cover prairie restoration, creeks, rivers edge, wooded hills and ravines. This park also has 5 miles of horse trails and 4 miles of paved biked trails. Along the waters edge, birdwatcher can glimpse the waterfowl and raptors.

5. Lake Maria State Park: The previous 4 parks mentioned lie east of the Twin Cities. Lake Maria rests an hour to the west. This park has a different feel to it. More “off the beaten path”. The old growth forest changes the hue of the forest floor and adds a mystical edge to the air. The hiking trails lead to numerous small lakes and tranquil ponds giving chance to come across the rare Blanding’s Turtle. If you prefer birds to reptiles, then keep your sights on the 200+ birds species that live in or pass through the park.

Within 2 Hours of Twin Cities

1. Minneopa State Park: Minneopa is one of the few parks in Minnesota to host a bison herd. Catch these beauties in the autumn colors. Not only does Minneopa have majestic beasts, it is also home to a double waterfall. Be warned, the waterfall is more of a water trickle at this time of the year, but it is still beautiful! The parks only holds about 4.5 miles of hiking, but there is also the Bison Drive. This Bison Drive is a road that goes through the bison enclosure. Stay in your vehicle!!

2. Whitewater State Park: For majestic views that compare to the North Shore, head to Whitewater. With drastic elevation changes on trail, you’ll catch some incredible overlooks. With this park’s 10 miles of hiking trials, you’ll pass along rivers edge, bluffs, and deep ravines. This is a park you don’t want to miss this fall and it doesn’t take a trip to the North Shore to see it.

3. Charles A. Lindbergh State Park: If you are looking to miss the crowds of the busier parks, check out this little park. The 7 miles of well maintained trails will lead you through a variety of colors, over streams, and the open space of a meadow. Up the road from the main park lies a little sections called Little Elk, this area holds a short trail along the Mississippi River.

4. Banning State Park: The beauty of this park is astonishing. Taking the Quarry loop to Hell’s Gate Trail passes along the Kettle River, passed the old ruins, and to a section of falls. The burnt orange and yellow leaves falling over the ruins and falls make for a picturesque scene. With 17 miles of trails and adventure, this has become one of my favorites.

It’s not too late to get your leaf peeping in. The North Shore isn’t the only gorgeous place in the state to see autumn’s glory. Get your hiking shoes and hit the trails before the autumns leaves decorate the forest floor.