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Fall Color Favorites: Mary Nordeen – Chippewa National Forest

It’s surprising to turn the calendar over to October and realize that there is still so much of the autumn season ahead. I have a few favorite sites in the Walker area that I love to visit to take in the leaf color but also relax in the calm after a busy summer.

Stony Point on Leech Lake: While Stony Point campground is now closed for the season, visitors are still able to park at the Forest Service boat landing and walk around to take in the blaze orange, yellow and red of the sugar maples, red maples and box elder on the Point. Hike the 1 mile trail to explore the October forest or enjoy time on the point to take in the big lake and color along the shore. Just the ride in to Stony Point on is worth the time—the trees form a canopy over the road, providing a very scenic autumn drive.

Shingobee Hills Recreation Area: Known more for sledding hills and winter ski trails, Shingobee Hills is a wonderful area for panoramic autumn views and fall hikes with family. Stand at the top of the sledding hill to take in the scene, and follow the trail down past the historic chalet and out to Recreation Lake or down to the Shingobee River Bridge. It’s a good idea to wear orange as this is a popular area for grouse hunting. Join Forest Service staff on October 25 for a pumpkin-lantern lit night hike and scavenger hunt on the short section of trail near the old chalet. You’ll fall in love with the Shingobee Trail at night as you roast marshmallows around a campfire at the chalet after your hike. There are picnic tables near the chalet, or you can also picnic in the Shingobee picnic area just west of the sledding area off Highway 34.

Woodtick Trail: Looking for a great evening drive? The Woodtick Trail is a 12-mile long gravel road located between Longville and Hackensack, Minnesota. This scenic road meanders around small lakes and wetlands and through the colorful autumn forest. Bring along a map to take advantage of some of the smaller road spurs taking you to boat landings on the lakes. The North Country National Scenic Trail parallels the Woodtick Trail and offers an opportunity to hike a portion of the national trail. The Goose Lake Trail System is popular with grouse hunters.

Lake Erin Trail: Often overlooked, the Lake Erin trail is another nice short hike in the Walker area. This is a short ½ mile loop located 6 miles south of Walker off Highway 371. Great for families, the trail leads you over small creeks, past beaver lodges and around Lake Erin.

County 50 Hiking and Biking: Whether you like to bike, hike or hunt, the County 50 area offers a variety of recreation experiences. The County 50 Hunter Walking Trail includes 6 miles of trails through aspen and pine forest. The Paul Bunyan Bike Trail bisects this trail system, and is part of a 65-mile paved route that connects with the Heartland Trail.

And finally—Leech Lake: Just want to relax and take in the big lake? A few perfect spots to enjoy the cool breezes and watch the leaves float on the water include Erickson’s Landing just north of Walker (picnic tables, bike trail connection) Whipholt Beach (just a big amazing view looking across from the south shore) and the fishing pier near Shingobee Island.

So much to explore this fall….enjoy!