Hike Savanna Portage State Park, North of McGregor
This beautiful park of forests, hills and lakes is not as well-known as many other state parks, and the quieter experience here is part of its appeal. Savanna Portage is about 20 miles north of McGregor, in the wooded area between Aitkin and Duluth. This gem is especially brilliant in the fall, when the mix of birch, aspen, maple, oak and pine make for a colorful tapestry. Peak color is typically in late September and early October, with tamaracks turning a vivid gold later in October.
Savanna is a great spot for a fall hike. The one-mile trail looping around scenic Loon Lake is an easy walk, and starts at the picnic area. There's a playground for families with young children, and canoe and boat rentals so you can enjoy the fall view from the lake. There's also a two-mile trail around Lake Shumway, with a campground on its shore.
There are several options for a longer, more adventurous hike through the forest. From the large parking lot on the park's main road, hikers can head out on a four-mile loop trek along the Old Schoolhouse Trail, turning right where it intersects with the Continental Divide Trail, then turning right again on the Anderson Road Trail, which leads back to the parking area. The Continental Divide is a high ridgeline, noteworthy because rivers and streams to the west flow into the Mississippi River, and those to the east drain into Lake Superior. There are some up and downhill treks along this loop, rewarded by an overlook along the Continental Divide trail with a panoramic view of the forest.
Another fall highlight is the chance to see migrating tundra and trumpeter swans, which stop over at the park's lakes, especially larger Wolf Lake.