Minnesotans often head to the state's southeastern reaches to enjoy fall color, for good reasons. A range of showy trees thrive on the hills and bluffs there, and historic towns such as Red Wing and Lanesboro are geared for tourists. Here are some top spots:
Weaver Dunes: This sand prairie near Kellogg is gorgeous in fall. In June, Blanding's turtles lay eggs; hatchlings emerge in August. There are no maintained trails, but visitors are welcome. Both the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (mndnr.gov/snas/sna00979) and the Nature Conservancy (tinyurl.com/l9zn7rv) maintain sections of this critical habitat.
State parks: Minnesota's state parks dot the southeast. Whitewater has an abundance of overnight options, from group cabins to walk-in camp sites (dnr.state.mn.us/white water). For hikes on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi, check out Frontenac (dnr.state.mn.us/frontenac) and Great River Bluffs (dnr.state.mn.us/greatriverbluffs). Find the location of all state parks at www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/map.
Lanesboro: There are many lodging options in this self-proclaimed bed-and-breakfast capital of Minnesota. I had a lovely stay at the Red Hotel, on a hill overlooking the Root River (1-507-467-2999; brewstersred hotel.com). Good dining options include Intermission (1-507-467-3381), Old Village Hall (1-507-467-2962) and Spud Boy's Diner, a restored 1920s diner on Parkway Avenue, the town's main thoroughfare. The fried potatoes (with eggs) are skin-on fabulous.
Amish tours: At Amish farmsteads with a store, shoppers are welcome, except on Sundays. Roam the back roads of Harmony and Lanesboro, look for signs and prepare for an enticing array of furniture, jams, baskets and other handmade goods. Do not photograph Amish people (they shun graven images), and bring checks or cash (they don't accept credit cards). I toured with Bluffscape Amish Tours, now closed for the season (1-507-467-3070; bluffscape.com). Amish Tours of Harmony will provide a guide who rides in your car year-round, weather permitting (1-507-886-2303; amish-tours.com).
Root River Trail: Bike — or cross-country ski — through the rolling farmland of the region on the Root River and Harmony-Preston Valley state trails (rootrivertrail.org).