Four Places To Chase Fall Colors In Southern Minnesota (Or Simply Be Outside)

This Minne-RoadTrip series of posts is sponsored by Visit Owatonna, Visit Faribault and Visiting Northfield. All of these parks are free to visit. Rental fees for bikes, skis, classes, and other equipment may apply. 

I spent more time outside than I have of for a while, thanks to the Minne-RoadTrip coordinators. During my three-day/three city tour in Southern Minnesota, I visited four parks. The rain held off during the entire trip and the weather warmed. At the time the leaves were just starting to turn vibrant colors, but, by now, they should be in full bloom. Here are four places in Southern Minnesota to soak in the fall colors. Run, walk or bike the trails, it’s up to you.

Sometimes it’s nice to simply be outside.

Mineral Springs Park, Owatonna

Mineral Springs Park has a fascinating history. The springs have supposedly held healing properties. This is where Chief Wabana is said to have taken his daughter Pricess Owatonna who drank the waters until she was well again.

In 1875 the Owatonna Mineral Springs Company hired a chemist to analyze the spring’s waters. The chemist declared the water to be similar to the famous Vichy Springs water in France. Train cars then served water from this spring in passenger dining cars.

At some point in history, this park also included a car wash where part of the stream bed was covered with a hard surface.

There’s also a park shelter, playground and restroom facility here.

Kaplan Woods Parkway, Owatonna

I took a short stroll along one of the trails in Kaplan Woods. Joggers and people with dogs strolled by. You can cross-country ski here in the winter. The southern part of the trail is hilly and wooded while the northern part runs along the river.

River Bend Nature Center

River Bend Nature Center is an incredible resource. There’s even a naturalist on staff. In addition to all of the community programming, River Bend Nature Center offers forest and prairie trails for hiking and biking. There’s a children’s play area in the woods, + snowshoes and mountain bikes for rent in the summer and cross-country ski equipment in the winter.

On special occasions, River Bend brings in the Goat Dispatch to graze on invasive plant species like buckthorn in warm weather and munch on leftover Christmas trees and wreathes in the winter.

Wander the forest and prairie trails.


Cowling Arboretum, Carleton College

Located on the Carleton College campus is 800 acres of prairie and woodland that everyone is welcome to enjoy via the biking, hiking, and skiing trails. The president of Carleton purchased all of this land in the 1920’s.

The arboretum includes seven different habitats. You can learn more about each one on their website here.

Other unique programming the Arboretum offers to the community is a Master Naturalists volunteer training, workshops, YMCA day camps, and public field trips on topics like birding and guided hikes.

Feel free to share below any experiences you’ve had visiting these parks or your favorite places to enjoy the fall. 

The Places:

Mineral Springs Park
1025 Mineral Springs Parkway
Owatonna, MN 55060

Kaplan Woods Parkway
18th Street SW/Mosher Avenue
Owatonna, MN

River Bend Nature Center
1000 Rustad Road
Faribault, MN 55021

Interpretive Center Hours:
Monday-Friday: 8am to 4:30pm
Saturday: 9am to 4pm
Sunday: Closed

Cowling Arboretum
Arboretum map (I parked at the Carleton College Recreation Center)
Northfield, MN 55057

3 Comments

  1. These all look wonderful and I agree that there is just something about being outside that makes my heart happy. Which explains why I sit on my decks so much, right? Thanks for sharing more of your wonderful trip. I love seeing all that pictures.

  2. I’ve explored all of these except the trails in the arboretum.

    Falls colors are peaking in the Faribault area. Here’s a link to photos I took on Saturday morning around area lakes: https://mnprairieroots.com/2017/10/14/tour-rice-county-for-fabulous-fall-colors/

    With sunshine this week, trees blaze even more brilliant in this part of southern Minnesota.

  3. I love being outside, especially in the fall. All of these places look so nice. How cool that the water in Mineral Springs Park is similar to the water in Vichy!

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