Minnesota:Peak Fall Colors

The glow of autumn is visible in all parts of the state, with many areas now at peak fall color!whitebirchresort.net

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.

The Explore Minnesota Fall Color Update will be sent each Thursday afternoon during the fall color season, with additional updates as conditions warrant. Information in this report is provided courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and the Three Rivers Park District.

The Hike MN Sweepstakes is underway now through Oct. 22, with an array of prizes awarded including Minnesota getaways, Gopher Sports tickets and gift cards for Mall of America and Minnesota State Parks. For information on hiking in Minnesota, visit Hike MN.

Don’t miss the spectacular fall color show! Plan ahead with a customized travel planner from our Explore Minnesota Travel Counselors at 888-VISITMN (888-847-4866), or request your planner at Contact a Travel Counselor. Before you go, be sure to check out these 10 spectacular fall color routes in Minnesota, and plan a stop at an apple orchard or pumpkin patch along the way!

Northeast Minnesota

While many state parks in the far northeast region of the state are now past peak, the parks along Lake Superior are at their peak. Near peak fall color can be found at some parks just south and west of Lake Superior. This weekend, consider a trip to Cascade River, Temperance River, Gooseberry Falls, Jay Cooke and Father Hennepin state parks. A drive along the North Shore All-American Scenic Drive is another great option.

Scenic State Park – Grand Rapids/Bigfork
While a few of the deciduous trees have not fully turned color, most will soon be bare.

Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park – Soudan
The park foliage is at or just past peak fall color. The birch and aspen are vibrant shades of yellow, and the maples are holding onto their 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. 20-22.

Bear Head Lake State Park – Ely
The red oaks are holding onto their burnt red and orange leaves, but windy conditions have brought down lots of bright yellow and orange aspen leaves. The tamaracks are beginning to add their brilliant gold color to the mix.

Cascade River State Park – Grand Marais
The entire park is blazing with color right now, but the leaves are dropping fast as well. Any trail within the park is sure to be exceptional for the next few days, and Lookout Mountain still offers spectacular views! Visitors will see yellow-green aspen, golden birch and raging waterfalls, along with an occasional bright red or orange maple.

Temperance River State Park – Tofte
The aspen and birch along the Lake Superior shoreline are stunning shades of bright yellow and gold, but the leaves aren’t expected to remain above ground for long. While the inland maple forests are also at peak shades of yellow, gold, coral, peach, tangerine and crimson, leaves are dropping quickly. 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 shades of yellow, orange and red filling the park. 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. Programs offered Oct. 14 include a Civilian Conservation Corps hike and discussion about the men and boys who lived at and built Gooseberry Falls State Park.

Jay Cooke State Park–Carlton
The park foliage is just past its peak. While there is still plenty of color, some of the trees have lost their leaves. Driving into the park on Hwy. 210 is a great way to see the abundant 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.

Father Hennepin State Park – Isle, southeast edge of Lake Mille Lacs
The maples have turned bright yellow and orange, with a few displaying stunning red leaves. 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

Most parks in this region of the state are past their peak for fall color, however, the oaks, aspen and tamaracks at Itasca State Park are very colorful. A drive along the Lake Country Scenic Byway should also offer some nice fall color this weekend.

Zippel Bay State Park–Williams, northwest of Baudette
The forest remains very golden but the leaves are falling fast. Hike the 1.5 miles of trails that follow Lake of the Woods.

Lake Bronson State Park – Lake Bronson, far northwest corner of Minnesota
While the leaves are quickly falling to the forest floor, some nice fall color remains in the wooded areas of the park.

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 are bright shades of yellow and orange along the Big Bog Boardwalk. Many of the other tree species along the entrance road and Ludlow Pond are holding on to their brightly colored leaves. Be sure to climb the firetower for a spectacular view of the Upper Red Lake shoreline and the Big Bog. Canoeing on the slow moving Tamarac River is a great way to view all of the color — consider renting a canoe from the park office.

Lake Bemidji State Park – Bemidji
Although the maples are past peak, the oaks are coming on strong with dark red and copper colored leaves. The tamaracks at the bog and Sundew Pond are starting to turn golden. The bog walk and the trail to Sundew Pond are now best for fall color.

Itasca State Park – north of Park Rapids
While Itasca is now past its peak for fall color, plenty of stunning color remains as the oak and aspen reach their peak and the tamaracks begin to add their brilliant golds to the mix. This second wave of transformation has filled the forests with deep golds, yellows, oranges and reds which are especially beautiful surrounding the park’s 100 lakes. For lovely views of the oak and aspen tour the South Entrance Road and Wilderness Drive. Top picks for hiking trails include the Aiton Heights, Dr. Roberts and Brower trails.

Buffalo River State Park – Moorhead
Most of the cottonwood, aspen and poplar trees have dropped their leaves, but beautiful yellow, orange and red leaves are lingering in the oak and elm. 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

Fall color at most parks in the central region of the state is either at, nearing or just peak. Some of the most colorful parks this weekend should be Maplewood, Glendalough and Mille Lacs Kathio state parks, as well as the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. Also consider a drive along the Glacial Ridge Trail Scenic Byway or Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway.

Maplewood State Park – Pelican Rapids
Maplewood is known for its stunning maples, and the fall colors are just about at their peak! There are bright yellow, orange and red maples throughout the park. The ripening prairie grasses are showing peak shades of gold, blue, maroon and bronze. The golden shimmer of aspens and the deep purple and bronzes of the oaks are adding to the beauty. 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. Boats, canoes and kayaks are available for rent — check with the park office for details.

Glendalough State Park – Battle Lake
While some of the trees are losing their leaves, most of the maples remain stunning shades of red and orange, and the ash and cottonwood trees are still a 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
Peak fall color came on suddenly, and Sibley’s peak fall color show is starting to fade. The big bluestem and Indian grass are holding onto gold and maroon hues. The ash trees remain a striking bronze. The oaks are beginning to turn various shades of red. Most of the maples and early-turning trees and shrubs have shed their 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 quickly filling with burnt orange and maroon leaves, but the maples are past their peak and most of the ash and elm trees are bare.

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park – Onamia
Fall color is spectacular with crimson red, orange and yellow trees visible throughout the park. Mille Lacs Kathio’s 100-foot observation tower offers an amazing view of the fall colors along Lake Mille Lacs, Lake Shakopee and the Rum River. Rent a canoe, kayak or rowboat, or bring one of your own to explore the beautiful waters of Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Don’t miss the trail walk offered Oct. 14.

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area – Crosby, northeast of Brainerd
Deep reds, warm golds and bright yellows are visible 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, but the color is fading fast as leaves fall to the ground. The Continental Divide Trail, Wolf Lake, Loon Lake, and Lake Shumway are holding onto the best fall colors.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Area

Fall color continues to spread throughout the Twin Cities vicinity. Peak or near peak fall color can be found at Wild River and Interstate state parks, as well as the Big Woods parks within the Three Rivers Park District. Also consider a visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, or a drive along the Minneapolis Grand Rounds Scenic Byway or St. Croix Scenic Byway.

Wild River State Park – Almelund, east of North Branch
The Visitor Center deck offers stunning views of near peak conditions in the St. Croix River Valley. Cooler temperatures have led to an increase in fall color change, especially in the maples which are full of vibrant red, orange and yellow leaves. The ash, birch and aspen continue to cast a golden glow in the forests. The oaks are just beginning to turn. A few of the riverbank trails remain flooded — check with the park office for updates.

Interstate State Park – Taylors Falls
Cooler temperatures have brought out more vibrant fall colors. The yellow and orange trees are lovely across the St. Croix River Valley. 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
Bright fall colors fill the trees behind Lake Alice. 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 beautiful.

Fort Snelling State Park – St. Paul
The ash and cottonwood trees are shedding their golden leaves on windy days. Many of the silver maples are still green, providing a nice contrast in color. The sumac shrubs are a brilliant red on the west side of Snelling Lake. Please note that the Pike Island Trail is currently closed due to flooding, and the boat docks on Picnic Island and Cedar have been pulled from the water.

Three Rivers Park District – Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Scott & Wright counties
The trees are at their peak this week at all of the Big Woods parks within the Three Rivers Park District, including Lake Rebecca, Baker, Carver and Elm Creek park reserves. While the recent frost may soften the colors a bit, the maples are filled with beautiful shades of red and orange. 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.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum – Chaska
With the most diverse collection of trees in one place in the state, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum offers an amazing fall color experience. The sugar maples are in their glory right now! For the best color viewing, plan to walk through several collections. The grounds are the least crowded before 11 a.m. and after 4 p.m.

Southern Minnesota

Most state parks in southwestern Minnesota are now past peak, but parks in southeastern Minnesota are nearing peak shades of yellow, orange and red. The strongest displays this weekend should be found at Nerstrand Big Woods, Forestville and Whitewater state parks. Also consider a drive along the Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway and the Apple Blossom Drive Scenic Byway.

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park – Nerstrand, south of Northfield
Fall colors are at their peak, with a nice mix of red, orange and yellow leaves. 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 the rushing waters of Hidden Falls.

Great River Bluffs State Park – Winona
The maples and sumac continue to take on shades of bright red, orange and yellow. The other tree species and understory shrubs are quickly becoming more colorful. 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 past their peak, but the rest of the park foliage is just starting to change color. A hike through the prairie and along portions of the Hiking Club Trail will offer the nicest views. 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 and the maple trees are at their peak for fall color. It won’t be long until the red oaks are also dazzling shades of red and orange. The rivers and creeks are running high which can be a challenge for trout anglers. Hikers have been enjoying the view from the Scenic Overlook off of the Sandbank Trail. 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 maple trees are popping, with vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow throughout the park. The ash, cottonwood, sumac, cherry and blue beech are adding lovely fall color to the mix. 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 bright shades of yellow and orange, however many are rapidly dropping their leaves. The views along the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail are best.

Fort Ridgely State Park – Fairfax, northwest of New Ulm
Leaves are changing color quickly, with lots of golden yellow in the ash and cottonwoods. The maples are adding orange and red to the mix. The bluffs along the Minnesota River are filled with rich fall color. The upper picnic area is lovely with lots of orange, yellow and brown in a variety of trees. The campground road is a beautiful drive to take in the park.

Lake Shetek State Park – Slayton
The trees are starting to drop their leaves, but many remain very yellow. 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 lingering fall color. 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.

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