Minnesota Northwoods Fall Color Report

Minnesota Fall Colors

The glow of a Minnesota Fall with its fiery reds and brilliant yellows are now visible in all parts of the state, with many areas now at peak fall color.

Peak fall color typically arrives in the northern one-third of the state in mid-September to early October. The central third of the state is most colorful between late September and early October. Southern Minnesota trees reach the height of their fall color late September to mid-October. One exception is the North Shore of Lake Superior, where peak fall color arrives about a week later than inland areas due to the warming effect of the lake. Please note that fall color can change rapidly due to wind, rain and frost. White Birch Resort.net

“Northeast Minnesota”

Many state parks in the northeast region are nearing peak fall color, including inland areas of parks along the north shore of Lake Superior. This weekend, consider a trip to Cascade River, Jay Cooke, Father Hennepin and Gooseberry Falls state parks. A drive along the North Shore All-American Scenic Drive is another great option.

*Scenic State Park-Grand Rapids/Bigfork
Some of the deciduous trees continue to turn color, but most have dropped their leaves.

*Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park – Soudan
The park is nearing peak fall color. The birch and aspen are vibrant shades of yellow, and the maples are full of orange and red leaves. Vermilion Park Drive, the entrance road leading to the campground, is a good spot to view the colorful leaves. Hwy 169 is also recommended. Mine tours are open weekends through MEA weekend, Oct. 19-22.

*Bear Head Lake State Park – Ely
While the maples on Bear Head Drive have taken on shades of peach, orange, red and yellow, leaves are falling rapidly. The aspen leaves have quickly turned into golden coins that shimmer with the wind. Norberg Lake Trail is a fantastic 3-mile loop showcasing one of Bear Head Lake State Park’s designated trout lakes. Views from the middle of the lakes are magnificent in the fall, and the walleye and crappie bite can be equally impressive. Canoes, kayaks and rowboats are available through the park office.

*Cascade River State Park – Grand Marais
This is the time to take the 3 1/2-mile hike along the Hiking Club Trail for stunning views from Lookout Mountain — a 50 mile view across the valley. Visitors will see stands of crimson maples, yellow-green aspen and golden birch, along with beautiful raging waterfalls. Also consider a drive along the Caribou Trail or the county road that borders the northern side of the park.

*Temperance River State Park – Tofte
The aspen and birch along the Lake Superior shoreline are quickly taking on shades of bright yellow and gold, but the most stunning fall color can be found inland in the maple forests. Many of the maples are at peak shades of yellow, gold, coral, peach, tangerine and crimson. The 6-mile, round-trip hike to Carlton Peak will reward you with broad vistas and panoramic views of the maple forests. Carefully explore the River Gorge to view the rushing waters of the Temperance River.

*Gooseberry Falls State Park – Two Harbors
The fall colors are bright and beautiful with brilliant red and orange leaves filling the maple trees and smooth sumac. Recommended hikes include the Gitchi Gummi Trail with its view of Gooseberry River Valley and Lake Superior. High Point Lookout is a must for those who want a longer trail with great views.

*Jay Cooke State Park–Carlton
Park staff estimate fall color change at 80 percent and continually changing. Peak fall color is projected to occur mid-week between Oct. 7 and Oct. 14. Shades of bright yellow brighten the ash, basswood and aspen trees. The maples and sumac are vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red. Driving into the park on Hwy. 210 is a great way to see the fall colors along the St. Louis River. Stop at the Swinging Bridge to view the river up close. The overlooks at Oldenburg Point will give you panoramic view of the park and river valley. This weekend, stop at the naturalist tables by the Swinging Bridge for a 5 minute nature talk.

*Father Hennepin State Park – Isle, southeast edge of Lake Mille Lacs
More than half of the maples have turned a bright yellow, and some of the maples are stunning shades of red and orange. A hike to Pope’s Point is recommended — start at the beach and walk along the shore while listening to the waves on Lake Mille Lacs. A picnic at the Lakeview Shelter is also a good choice.

*Northwest Minnesota

If I did not have the top down in my car, I never would have seen this spectacular sight. This very vibrant and colorful photo of the Fall Colors in Minnesota was taken on the St. Louis River that runs through the northern part of the state.

The fall transformation is nearing its peak in the trees and shrubs in much of northwest Minnesota. One of the most colorful parks this weekend should be Itasca State Park. A drive along the Lake Country Scenic Byway is also a great option.

*Zippel Bay State Park–Williams, northwest of Baudette
The forest continues to change color quickly, with beautiful shades of yellow, gold and orange taking over the park. Hike along the 1.5 miles of trails that follow Lake of the Woods.

*Lake Bronson State Park – Lake Bronson, far northwest corner of Minnesota
The box elder and cottonwood trees are very golden, and the American hazel are adding bright red to the understory. Some of the oaks are nice shades yellow. The bike path along the lake provides beautiful views of the colorful transformation. Climb to the top of the historic WPA tower for a bird’s-eye-view of the landscape.

*Hayes Lake State Park – south of Roseau
Most of the trees are bare following recent heavy rains and wind, and the park is now closed for the season.

*Big Bog Recreation Area–Waskish
The tamarack trees along the boardwalk are bright shades of yellow and orange, and other trees are adding to the golden glow. Take a stroll on the Big Bog Boardwalk to see unique and sometimes rare plants and animals. Be sure to climb the firetower for a spectacular view of the Upper Red Lake shoreline and the Big Bog.

*Lake Bemidji State Park – Bemidji
The maples throughout the park are shades of vibrant orange and red. Travel the main park road and Rocky Point Trail for the best views.The Sundew Pond Overlook offers views of the tamarack trees which have turned yellow and orange.

*Itasca State Park – north of Park Rapids
Fall colors are quickly approaching their peak! While lovely fall color remains in many of the maples, the oak and aspen trees have colored the park deep gold, yellow, orange and maroon. Recommended routes include the South Entrance Road, Main Park Drive (with views across the east arm of Lake Itasca), and Wilderness Drive during the early morning or late afternoon when the sun accents the golds, red-browns and soft oranges. Hiking any trail, especially those passing along lakes and wetlands, will reveal the colorful change. Top picks include the Aiton Heights, Dr. Roberts and Brower trails.

*Buffalo River State Park – Moorhead
Many of the cottonwood, aspen and poplar trees have already dropped most of their leaves, but the sumac, oak and elm are still holding onto beautiful yellow, orange and red leaves. A walk on the Prairie View Trail offers colorful sights of the oak dominated forest. For a shorter trip, head to the picnic area for an overlook of the Buffalo River.

“Central Minnesota”
Staff at parks in the central region of the state report fall color change ranging from midway to nearing peak. Some of the most colorful parks this weekend should be Maplewood and Glendalough state parks, as well as the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. Also consider a drive along the Otter Trail Scenic Byway or Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway.

*Maplewood State Park – Pelican Rapids
Maplewood is known for its stunning maples, and this week will be spectacular! The maples are already filled with vibrant shades of orange and red, and the smoky golds and yellows of the ash trees create a yellow glow along the forest edges. The prairie grasses are stunning shades of gold, blue, maroon and bronze. Hallaway Hill is always an excellent vantage point to view fall colors, and the scenic park drive offers a colorful 4.5-mile drive through the heart of Maplewood’s forests and prairies.

*Glendalough State Park – Battle Lake
The maple leaves are turning stunning shades of red and orange. The ash and cottonwood trees are bright yellow. Even the oaks are turning gold and maroon. The prairie grasses continue to show an array of purple and orange. Recommended areas in the park include the bike trail, lodge, trail center, and the middle of the lake from canoe or kayak — rent one at the park office through Oct. 22!

*Sibley State Park – north of Willmar
The prairies, filled with big bluestem and Indian grass, are at their prime and very gold and maroon. The ash trees remain a striking bronze. The woodland vines and maple trees are adding splashes of red, orange and yellow to the landscape. The red oaks are beginning to turn various shades of red. Many of the early-turning ash, basswood, hackberry and understory trees have shed their yellow leaves. Hike the Mount Tom Trail then climb to the Mount Tom Lookout for a panoramic view of Sibley and beyond. Kayaks and canoes are available to rent most weekends — experience a unique view of the park from Lake Andrew.

*Charles A. Lindbergh State Park – Little Falls
The oaks are starting to turn burnt orange and maroon. Many of the early turning maples have already dropped their leaves, but the others are nearing their peak. Most ash and elms are now bare. To see red sumac, colorful flowers and grasses, take the trail through the prairie on the northwest end of the park. The wooded trails along Pike Creek are another fall favorite.

*Mille Lacs Kathio State Park – Onamia
Although many trees remain green, there is abundant fall color throughout the park. The maples are full of crimson, orange and yellow leaves. The ash, basswood, aspen and birch trees are very golden. The oaks are quickly turning red, orange and yellow. Mille Lacs Kathio’s 100-foot observation tower offers an amazing view of the fall colors. Rent a canoe, kayak or rowboat, or bring one of your own to explore the beautiful waters of Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Consider renting a camper cabin too.

*Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area – Crosby, northeast of Brainerd
Deep reds, warm golds and bright yellows are spreading throughout Cuyuna Country, with patches of vibrant red and orange showing up in the maples. Fall color enthusiasts will want to check out Miner’s Mountain Overlook for views 200 feet above the surrounding area. The overlook can be accessed by vehicle or bike. There are numerous scenic overlooks along the paved Cuyuna Lakes State Trail and the mountain bike trail system. For those who want to do some hiking away from the paved trail, the 10 mile Sagamore Unit is the place to go. Fall color viewing by boat, canoe or kayak is another great way to view the transformation. Be sure to inquire about the yurts with woodstoves.

*Savanna Portage State Park – north of McGregor
The forest is golden with patches of coral, orange, red and brown. The aspen ridge tops seem to be turning yellow more quickly now. The large maples and oaks are almost entirely yellow, orange, coral and brown. The rain and wind have thinned some of the leaves, thinning the overall color of the forest in some areas. The Continental Divide Trail and Wolf Lake are very pretty. Loon Lake, Lake Shumway, Savanna Lake and Beaver Pond Trail offer the best views.

*Minneapolis-St. Paul Area
Fall color continues to spread throughout the Twin Cities vicinity. Parks along the St. Croix River such as Wild River and Interstate state parks should offer the nicest fall color this weekend. The Big Woods parks within the Three Rivers Park District should also be very colorful. A drive along the St. Croix Scenic Byway is another great option.

*Wild River State Park – Almelund, east of North Branch
Cooler temperatures have led to an increase in fall color change, especially in the maples which are adding splashes of bright red, orange and yellow throughout the park. The hazel and dogwood shrubs are contributing salmon, orange and deep maroons, and the ash, birch and aspen are casting a golden glow in the forests. The prairie grasses are lovely shades of maroon and gold, accented by colorful wildflowers. The Visitor Center deck offers sweeping views of the St. Croix River valley. Hikers will want to check out the River Trail, Nevers Dam Trail and Amik’s Pond Loop for great views near the river. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent through Oct. 7. To reserve, dial 651-465-6315.

*Interstate State Park – Taylors Falls
Park staff estimate fall color change at 40 percent. While the view is still mostly green, patches of soft yellows and oranges are creating a beautiful palette across the St. Croix River Valley. Cooler temperatures will help bring out more vibrant fall colors over the coming days. Hike the River Trail for stunning views, the Sandstone Bluffs Trail for great views and a workout, or the Glacial Potholes Trail for the unique geology. Also enjoy guided Glacial Pothole Tours at noon most Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 21.

*William O’Brien State Park – Marine on St. Croix/north of Stillwater
The wildflowers and prairie grasses are highlighting the upper trails, and the bright fall colors in the trees behind Lake Alice offer a spectacular backdrop. The Prairie Overlook Trail in the northern section of the park, and the Riverside Trail that follows the St. Croix River and Lake Alice are absolutely beautiful this time of year.

*Fort Snelling State Park – St. Paul
The ash leaves have turned yellow and are beginning to fall on windy days. The cottonwood trees continue their change from green to gold. Wildflowers are at full bloom. Enjoy the crisp autumn air by hiking around Pike Island, renting a Nice Ride bike to tour the main park, or renting a canoe for a paddle on Snelling Lake. Stop by the park office or the Visitor Center for a map and trail recommendations.

*Three Rivers Park District – Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Scott & Wright counties
The trees are nearing their peak for many Big Woods parks within the Three Rivers Park District. Check out Lake Rebecca, Baker, Carver and Elm Creek park reserves. While bright, sunny colors fill many of the ash, hackberry and elm trees, the maples are adding beautiful shades of red and orange to the mix. The oak-dominated parks such as Hyland and Murphy-Hanrehan park reserves, and Eagle Lake Golf, Bryant Lake and Silverwood parks are just beginning to take on fall color.

“Southern Minnesota”

Most state park staff at parks in southern Minnesota report a 25 to 50 percent change in the foliage. Parks offering the strongest displays this weekend should include Nerstrand Big Woods, Frontenac, Fort Ridgely and Big Stone Lake state parks. Also consider a drive along the Shooting Star Scenic Byway.

*Nerstrand Big Woods State Park – Nerstrand, south of Northfield
Most of the maples have already turned color, with many now bare. The next wave of color is spreading through the park, and the prairie grasses are adding to the beauty. Hike to the far south end of the park to Prairie Trail and enjoy a colorful 1.5 miles through the woods, and another 1.5 miles around the prairie loop. Also be sure to check out Hidden Falls.

*Great River Bluffs State Park – Winona
The maples and sumac are starting to take on more fall color, with leaves turning bright shades of red and orange. Hike to the five scenic overlooks for breathtaking views of the Mississippi River Valley.

*Frontenac State Park – southeast of Red Wing
The ash, sumac and some prairie grass varieties are almost past their peak. The rest of the park foliage is mostly green. A hike through the prairie and along portions of the Hiking Club Trail will offer the nicest views of the bright red-orange sumac against the lovely prairie grasses. Rent a canoe and paddle around the Pleasant Valley Lakelet for a different view of the fall colors in the park.

*Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park – Preston
There has been a resurgence of color change with a golden glow now filling the park. Some of the maples are adding shades of orange and red. The rivers and creeks are running low but the trout are still biting. Palisades Trail is a looping trail on the outskirts of the main park. This trail will lead you along the popular South Branch Root River and the colorful bluffs that frame it. Forestville offers 3 trout streams, each offering great trout fishing. Mystery Cave Scenic Tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the end of October.

*Whitewater State Park – Altura, north of St. Charles
The ash, cottonwood, sumac, cherry, blue beech and some of the maples are turning lovely shades of yellow, orange, coral, peach and red. Hike the Chimney Rock Trail to Inspiration Point for some great overlook views of the Whitewater River.

*Sakatah Lake State Park – Waterville
The American elm, ash, poplar, walnut, maple and oak trees are turning bright shades of yellow, with some beginning to drop their leaves. Park staff report a 25 to 50 percent change in the park foliage, with the best views along the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail and Big Woods Loop Trail.

*Fort Ridgely State Park – Fairfax, northwest of New Ulm
The prairie grasses have turned stunning shades of gold and maroon. The sumac and Virginia creeper vines are lovely shades of red, the maples are filled with yellow and red leaves, and the ash and cottonwood are bright yellow. The bluffs along the Minnesota River are filled with rich fall color.

*Lake Shetek State Park – Slayton
The Indian and bluestem grasses are at peak shades of maroon, rust and gold. The trees are in the beginning stages of fall color change, with leaves turning yellow. The sumac is a deep burgundy. Hike the Smith Lake and Loon Island trails for views of the lakes. Visit the picnic area and beach house for a view of Lake Shetek and surrounding shorelines. The docks and fishing piers are still accessible, and boat, canoe and kayak rentals are available at the park office.

*Big Stone Lake State Park – Ortonville
The Bluebird Trail offers a great hike through the abundant fall colors. The drive along Hwy 7 from Ortonville to Browns Valley is also very colorful. The Bonanza Area glows in the morning and evening sun, and the hillsides are beautiful with the fire red sumac.
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