Enjoy the last moments of fall with one of these day trips

Before Minnesotans go into hibernation for the dark winter, it’s a necessity to catch the best views of our stunning fall season. The first sprinkles of snow are appearing on our windshields, so the time to get outside is now.

While life seems to be moving faster than we can wrap our minds around, take some time and gather friends and family for a day hike. Especially for us students, it is essential that we take in our surroundings now before we’re living in the unpredictable future. The best way to put life in perspective is to step back and immerse yourself in the beauty of the state we live in. You’ll find a compilation of what I believe are three quality day trips to some of the best Minnesota State Parks.

1. Interstate Park in Taylors Falls

This park is located on the St. Croix River. Taylors Falls is extremely drivable for a day trip. From Holy Family, the drive is approximately an hour and 30 minutes. Before you leave, pack some lunches to eat while sitting on the rocks overlooking the river. Once you get up to the falls, there is an easy accessible trail next to the parking lot. Immediately, the trail will lead you to an overlook of amazing, towering cliffs. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, these cliffs are “made of basalt from the ancient lava flows…if you look closely at the formations, you will see layers of tiny, empty, bubble-like spaces running through the cliffs. Each of these layers marks what was once the top of a lava flow.” After you stare at some rocks and get a couple weird stares from other hikers, follow the paths and stairs down to the base of the river. Taylors Falls is the optimal location for an easier hike with views high cliffs directly next to a rushing river.

2. Tettegouche State Park

Tettegouche is a longer drive, but the views are worth it! From Holy Family, it’s approximately a three and a half hour drive. Get an early start, bring a water bottle, and have a good music playlist ready. On your way, stop at Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe in Duluth. When you get to the park, there are breathtaking views from the cliffs, the inland bluffs and the High Falls of the Baptism River. The hiking trails are relatively easy, and going at the close of the fall season will lead to less-crowded trails. Also part of the park, and only two miles from the Tettegouche visitor center, is Palisade Head. It’s a beautiful overlook that can be hiked or is accessible by car. The variety in landscape makes for eye-opening scenery and a full SD card. If you’re a tree-lover, this is the park for you. According to the DNR, “inland, the birch-aspen forests are replaced by maple, yellow birch, basswood, white spruce and red oak trees.” On your way home, stop at Va Bene Caffe and sit in their enclosed solarium for an amazing views of the lake.

3. Gooseberry Falls

Can’t beat the snow? That’s alright, Minnesota trees are beautiful when covered in white – as long as you have the proper attire. Gooseberry Falls is about three hours from Holy family, but the drive along the North Shore only adds to the experience. As you drive through Duluth to get to the State Park, stop for lunch at the JJ Astor Restaurant and Lounge. This restaurant actually moves, so if you aren’t prone to motion sickness make sure to eat here for an amazing view of the city. If motion while eating isn’t your thing, head over for wood-fired pizzas at Vitta Pizza in Canal Park. After, check out Father Time Antiques. You’ll find vintage items you never thought you needed until you saw them. Next, take the North Shore Scenic Highway (Hwy 61) to Gooseberry Falls. If you go in the winter like I have, you can see the frozen falls. Don’t feel like you’ve done enough? Keep driving a quick 8 minutes to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. A historic light house situated on the North Shore of Lake Superior that will not disappoint. I highly suggest ending your day with the view from lighthouse at sunset. Once your fingers are so frozen that you can’t take any more pictures, its time to head back. Enjoy the calming drive home with a smile on your face from a successful day of exploring our backyard.