Who doesn't love biking in the fall?
"You have such a beautiful canopy of colors behind you," said Russ Lowthian, author of "Road Biking Minnesota" and editor at Havefunbiking.com. "I have my camera with the whole time. The colors are one thing, but the fresh clean air ... It's invigorating. It's a great time to be out and enjoying Minnesota's nature."
And Dakota County residents don't have to go far to embark on their own two-wheeled scenic tour.
"There's just so many good places to ride here, especially south of the river," said Tom Wichelmann, manager of Boehms Cycling and Fitness Center in Mendota Heights.
He recommends riding near Lilydale, on the trail that connects north into St. Paul and south with the Big Rivers Regional Trail that goes into Mendota. "It's a gentle climb out of the river," he said. "And then you have the river views. It's kind of like you're up in the top of the trees."
Many biking enthusiasts recommend that route and the South St. Paul Regional Trail, which starts in Mendota Heights and travels along the Mississippi River and parallels Concord Street. "Both trails are really flat, which is nice," said Nick Grimes of the Bike King in Inver Grove Heights. "They're nice, smooth. It's fairly scenic and flat and pretty quick and easy."
Lowthian sometimes takes Black Dog Road in Burnsville into the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. "It's a beautiful ride along the river, especially this time of year," he said. "It's getting a little rough from the flooding, but it's still a beautiful ride."
Hastings has a trail that circles the town and crosses the Vermillion River gorge. "That's a nice little loop," said Lowthian. "It's a very scenic loop for somebody that wants to get a lot of nature and scenery in the mix."
Lowthian also likes to explore the city trails in places such as Burnsville, Apple Valley and Eagan, where most major roads have bike trails running alongside.
For those willing to travel a little, Goldberg said some of the best riding on paved trails is just outside of Dakota County, with one of the most beautiful options being the Cannon Valley Trail, which follows the Cannon River from Cannon Falls to Red Wing.
"Cannon Valley is absolutely the best paved rail-to-trail section we have" in the southern part of the state, said Rob Stepaniak, manager of Erik's in Burnsville. He said the popular 20-mile stretch that winds through little towns has picnic tables and rest stops along the way. "It's very well maintained. It's very smooth."
For those who want to go off road, "Lebanon Hills is the mountain biking spot in the Twin Cities," said Andy Quirk of Erik's in Burnsville. Quirk said the Eagan park has an incredible number of features -- jumps, teeter totters, log piles, rock gardens and other obstacles.
"You can do some real challenging riding," Wichelmann said.
However, Lowthian said, "It's got a lot of courses for different capabilities. It's not for just experts."
Quirk also recommends the Murphy-Hanrehan Mountain Bike Trail in nearby Savage. "It's a little more intermediate place," he said. "It's a little more rolly and flowy. It's just a really fun trail through the woods.
Harmon Park/Salem Hills in Inver Grove Heights also has a mountain biking trail. "It's a little more wide open," Wichelmann said. There are also trails for off-road biking at Terrace Oaks East Park in Burnsville and in the hilly terrain of Thompson Park in West St. Paul.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Minneapolis freelance writer.