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Minnesota Weekly Fall Color Update -Oct. 1, 2015


Recent cool temperatures have accelerated fall color development throughout Minnesota. Warm, golden tones are spreading across the state's trees, shrubs, native grasses and field crops, with vibrant ruby red, tangerine orange, apricot, peach and burgundy leaves also visible in many areas. Some parks are now at, or nearing, peak fall color. For amazing displays, check out Scenic, Bear Head Lake, Itasca, and Maplewood state parks.

Please note that fall color can change rapidly due to wind, rain and frost, and drought conditions can alter the timing and intensity of fall color. This update will be sent each Thursday afternoon during the fall color season, with additional updates as conditions warrant. This update is brought to you by Explore Minnesota, with much of the information provided courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

For a customized travel planner for your next Minnesota getaway, please call one of our 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 ten spectacular fall color routes in Minnesota! Subscribe here to receive any or all of our updates by email.


[Southern] [TwinCities] [Central] [Northwest] [Northeast]


Northeast Minnesota

Most parks in northeastern Minnesota are nearing peak fall color, with spectacular fall color currently found at Scenic, Bear Head Lake, Cascade River, and Jay Cooke state parks.

Scenic State Park--Bigfork, north of Grand Rapids
Park staff report near peak conditions in the trees and shrubs. Spectacular ruby-red maples are striking against the bright yellow and orange birch, aspen and basswood trees. For the most scenic views, hike the Chase Point Trail. Take a moment to listen and watch for the many migratory sparrows. And while in Grand Rapids, check out the Fall Studio Tour, Oct. 3 & 4.

Bear Head Lake State Park--Ely
Forest leaves are more than halfway to peak fall color. More color appears each day with stunning shades of amber, orange, and crimson in the birch, aspen and maple trees. The Norberg Trail offers beautiful overlooks of several lakes, along with great views of the transformation.

Cascade River State Park -Grand Marais
The inland trees are magnificent shades of yellow and red, with little change in color along the Lake Superior shoreline. Hike the 3.5-mile loop to Lookout Mountain, or take the short half-mile loop to Cascade Falls for great views of the maples and birch. The waterfalls offer great photo opportunities! Another highlight is the Crossing Borders Studio Tour, taking place through Oct. 4 in North Shore communities, including Grand Marais.

Tettegouche State Park--Silver Bay
The maples have turned a vibrant red and will soon be at their peak. The aspen and birch are taking on nice shades of yellow and gold, but a green trees still fill the park. Take the hike into Tettegouche Camp from the Lax Lake Road parking area and enjoy a stroll through tunnels of peaking maples interspersed with oaks, basswoods, and yellow birch trees. The Baptism River waterfalls are impressive due to abundant rainfall late this summer.

Gooseberry Falls State Park--Two Harbors
While the park continues to change color, most trees and shrubs remain mostly green. The birch are full of bright yellow branches, and some of the maples and sumac are adding bright orange and red to the mix. The Fifth Falls Trail is ideal for views of the emerging fall color and the rushing waterfalls of the Gooseberry River.

Jay Cooke State Park--Carlton
Cooler temperatures have caused the trees and shrubs to change rapidly. Shades of yellow fill the park, with the maples adding vibrant crimson red and orange to the mix. Take a hike along the river to view beautiful fall color, as well as the amazing rapids. Peak fall color is expected to occur this weekend or early next week. Stop by the Swinging Bridge this weekend for a quick presentation on the flora and fauna of Jay Cooke.

Banning State Park--Sandstone
Fall color is nearing the midway point, with a great mixture of color in the ash, aspen, and maples. The forest is filled with vivid yellows and golds, along with patches of tangerine and bright red leaves. More fall color is visible each day. The Quarry Loop Trail is very scenic with views of the "Hells Gate Rapids." The river boat launch area is also spectacular.

Northwest Minnesota

The trees and shrubs in most areas of northwestern Minnesota are either at, or approaching, peak fall color, with lovely fall color now found at Itasca state park, and in the Detroit Lakes vicinity.

Zippel Bay State Park--Williams, northwest of Baudette
The birch trees are nearing peak shades of yellow, and offer the best color display within the park. Aquatic grasses, ferns, asters and goldenrod are also contributing to the colorful display. Hike the trail from the large beach to the small beach for the most spectacular views. Watch for the many migratory birds stopping to rest at the park.

Lake Bronson State Park--Lake Bronson, far northwest corner of Minnesota
While beautiful fall color is visible throughout the park, last weekend's high winds took down many of the leaves. The trail around the lake will offer the nicest views of the red, orange and yellow trees and shrubs. The hiking club trail is best for views of the stunning trees and prairie grasses.

Hayes Lake State Park--Roseau
The aspen and birch trees have turned bright shades of yellow and gold. Take a hike along the Moose Ridge and Pine Ridge trails for beautiful views of fall color along the lakeshore. Consider a canoe or kayak trip to view fall color from a different perspective -- bring your own or rent one at the park office.

Big Bog Recreation Area--Waskish
The tamarack trees along the boardwalk are turning bright orange, and other trees are displaying nice fall color around the lake. Be sure to climb the firetower for a spectacular view of the Upper Red Lake shoreline and the Big Bog.

Itasca State Park--north of Park Rapids
The park is overflowing with fall color, with burnt orange and ruby red in the maples, amber and gold in the ash, birch and tamaracks, and lemon-yellow in the basswoods. Amazing shades of peachy-pink, purple, and pinkish-yellow fill the shrubs. Additional shades of orange, orange-red and cinnamon will soon appear in the trembling and big tooth aspen, bur oaks, and red oaks. For a full range of color, travel along the Main Park Drive, and from the Peace Pipe Vista to the campground registration. Boating on Itasca, Mary and Elk lakes, and biking the park bike trails will also provide great views of the fall transformation. Peak fall color in the maples and basswoods is delayed, and will occur in early October; the oaks and aspen will likely reach peak in mid-October.

Buffalo River State Park--Moorhead
The prairie is ablaze in fall color! Buffalo River State Park offers a chance to experience one of Minnesota's finest and largest remnant prairies, and this is best time to view it in all its glory! Walk the Wide Sky Trail to view colors ranging from bright yellow to maroon to purple. And be sure to hike to the overlook on the south side of the River View Trail for wonderful views of the Buffalo River below.

Detroit Lakes vicinity
The maple leaves are turning orange, while the aspen and birch are glowing shades of yellow. Stands of sumac along the road ditches are deep red, offset by the rusty hues of big bluestem grasses. Peak fall colors are expected to arrive sometime between now and Oct. 12, depending on weather conditions. For the best views, hike the trails at Sucker Creek Preserve east of Detroit Lakes on Hwy 10, Dunton Locks County Park south of Detroit Lakes on Hwy 59, and the county roads in Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge--don't miss their annual Fall Festival this Saturday, Oct. 3. Be sure to check out the amazing views from the top of Detroit Mountain via the ski lifts, Oct. 3 & 4. Detailed Fall Color Tours are available for the Detroit Lakes area.

Central Minnesota

Most of central Minnesota is halfway to peak fall color. Parks currently offering spectacular displays include Maplewood and Mille Lacs Kathio state parks, as well as the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.

Maplewood State Park--Pelican Rapids
Park staff report an amazing fall color display. The prairie grasses are now splendid shades of gold, maroon, amber and brown. The maples are bright orange and red, and should be approaching peak fall color by this weekend, Oct. 3 and 4. The birches are displaying wonderful golden hues, and the sumac remains crimson and scarlet along the fields and forest edges. Visitors will enjoy the many miles of hiking trails, as well as the 4.5-mile Scenic Park Drive which winds through prairies, hardwood forests, and past many lakes and ponds. Hallaway overlook provides a dramatic vista of the Lake Lida area and Mapleleaf Hills. Celebrate autumn during Leaf Days, Sept. 26 & 27, and Oct. 3 & 4, with a variety of events and activities offered at the park.

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park--Little Falls
Some of the park trees and shrubs are at their peak, and some of the trees have yet to begin their transformation. The most vibrant fall color can be found in the maples which are bright yellow and orange. The Hiking Club Trail offers the nicest views.

Mille Lacs Lake State Park--Onamia
Nearly 50 percent of the park forest is displaying spectacular fall color. The ash trees are peak shades of gold. The red and sugar maples are well on their way to peak shades of red, orange, and yellow. The birch and quaking aspen are very yellow. Mille Lacs Kathio's 100-foot observation tower offers an amazing view of the fall colors. A drive along the park road is also a great way to see the progression of color. Colors are progressing rapidly, and peak fall color should arrive the first week of October.

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area--Crosby, northeast of Brainerd
Fall color enthusiasts will not want to miss Miners 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 both the paved Cuyuna Lakes State Trail and the mountain bike trail system. Fall color viewing by boat, canoe or kayak is a perfect way to explore the crystal clear mine lakes. Be sure to inquire about the seven yurts with woodstoves that are available to rent year-round!

Sibley State Park--north of Willmar
The colorful big bluestem grasses fill the prairies with rich, warm autumn tones. The Glacial Lakes Trail travels from Willmar to New London, with bike lanes on the road leading to the park--a wonderful trail to experience the scenic landscape.

Savanna Portage State Park--north of McGregor
Light green and yellow leaves fill the understory, with yellow and orange filling the birch, ironwood and hazel. The small maples have turned orange, red and burgundy, and the larger maples are taking on similar shades of autumn rapidly. The ash trees are entirely yellow, and many have lost their leaves. For the best views, travel the park roads, Beaver Pond Trail, and around Loon and Wolf lakes. Yellow-shafted flickers seem to be everywhere, and the oaks are raining acorns!

Twin Cities Metropolitan Vicinity

While the most Twin Cities' parks remain primarily green, nice fall color has developed within Lake Maria State Park, and many of the big woods parks within the Three Rivers Park District.

Lake Maria State Park--Monticello, northwest of Buffalo
Park staff report that the ash, aspen, cottonwood and birch trees are displaying their customary yellow and gold leaves. A few scattered maples are adding beautiful red and orange to the mix. The sumac is bright red and rich maroon. The prairie grasses range from gold to rusty red, and the goldenrod and asters dot the prairies with yellow and purple blooms. The Bjorkland Lake Trail and Anderson Hill Lookout offer the best early fall colors. Hawks and songbirds are migrating through the park, and trumpeter swans and waterfowl can be seen at the lakes and wetlands. Canoe, boat and kayak rentals are available on weekends until mid-October!

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum--Chaska/West Metro
The Arboretum's sugar maples are turning bright red, orange and yellow, and the red maples along the boardwalk are taking on shades of vibrant red and yellow. The elms and birch are adding some gold to the mix. The sumac is deep red, and dogwood is maroon. The aralias along Three-Mile Drive have turned golden yellow. The prairie is speckled with colorful flowers, including bright yellow sunflowers, goldenrod and rudbekia, and blue and purple asters.

Three Rivers Park District--Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Scott & Wright counties
This week's cold snap should cause fall color to progress more rapidly within the Three Rivers Park District this week. The fall color change is at roughly 40 percent of peak in the Big Woods parks such as Elm Creek, Crow-Hassan, and Baker park reserves, as well at French and Fish Lake regional parks. Lots of yellow and gold fill the forests, with some bright red and orange hues accenting the warm glow. Much of the sumac and dogwood are holding onto their bright crimson and magenta leaves, especially in the understory and along the forest edges. The Big Woods parks will treat visitors to a very nice color display this weekend.

Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area--Chaska/Shakopee/Jordan
While many of the silver maple, oaks and ash have lost their leaves, beautiful fall color remains in the bright red sumac, and yellow ash and elm trees. For views of the vibrant sumac, take a short hike to the horse campground. The trail to the river is very golden. Keep an eye out for pelicans flying overhead, and the many wild turkeys on the forest floor.

Afton State Park--Afton, north of Hastings
The sumac are at their peak, and now fully crimson and blood-red. Some of the maples have turned bright orange and red. Some of the native grasses remain lovely shades of gold and rust, and the asters are full of white and purple blooms. Venture to the prairie area for the best views.

Southern Minnesota

While most areas of southern Minnesota remain fairly green, pockets of vibrant fall color can be found at Frontenac State Park. For amazing color in the native grasses, check out Frontenac, Forestville/Mystery Cave, Minneopa, and Lac Qui Parle state parks.

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park--Nerstrand, south of Northfield
The leaves continue to change daily, but many have already fallen to the ground. Visitors are enjoying Fox Trail and the cascading leaves that spiral down around them. Hike the hilly trails to the north for views of Hidden Falls surrounded by fall color.

Frontenac State Park--southeast of Red Wing
The bluff top picnic area offers expansive views of Lake Pepin and the fall foliage. The sumac has turned bright red, the maples are turning yellow, pink and red, and the aspen are almost entirely yellow. The prairie grasses are holding onto their rich gold and maroon tones. Hike the inner bluffs on the Hiking Club Trail, then venture to the two extensions of the park along Hill Avenue for outstanding bluff top views. Visitors will also want to consider the many festivities offered in Wabasha through Oct. 25 during SeptOberfest.

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park--Preston
The old townsite prairie is very colorful due to the gold, red and rust grasses, and the multitude of blooming wildflowers. Visitors will want to travel the trails leading past the restored prairies and old townsite, as well as the forest edges and stream edges. Be sure to also check out the tours of Historic Forestville offered each Saturday through the end of October, as well as the Mystery Cave tours offered each Saturday and Sunday through the end of October -- an additional tour has been added each Wednesday, Thursday and Friday through October 2.

Whitewater State Park -Altura, north of St. Charles
Many of the ash have already dropped their leaves. The maples and oaks are beginning to display nice shades of red, orange, and gold. Hike Coyote Point Trail for great overlook views.

Minneopa State Park--Mankato
The big and little bluestem, and Indian grasses are at peak shades of rust and gold. The trees are beginning to lighten. The falls area is the best place to view fall colors at this time. The twin waterfalls are running fast due to recent rains.

Flandrau State Park--New Ulm
Travel the Bluebird Trail to view bright wildflowers, as well as beautiful bronze big bluestem grasses. Shades of bright red can be seen in the sumac and some of the maples, especially at the rustic campground and day use area. Don't miss the very popular Oktoberfest celebration running through Oct. 10 in New Ulm.

Lac Qui Parle State Park--Watson, northwest of Montevideo
Most of the fall color can be found in the prairie grasses with rich gold, maroon and burnt orange tones visible throughout the park. The goldenrod and sunflowers are adding bright yellow patches here and there. The ash trees have turned nice shades of yellow, but the leaves are falling. Watch and listen for the waterfowl on the river. Visitors will want to also check out Meander - the Upper Minnesota River Arts Crawl held Oct. 2-4 in Montevideo, as well as other Upper Minnesota River Valley communities.

Camden State Park--south of Marshall
Park staff continue to report a 10-25 percent change in the trees. Fall color can be observed in the green ash and cottonwoods, along with some of the maples. Camden is probably the most westerly example of a naturally-occurring sugar maple/basswood forest in the state, and possibly the country. The Redwood River Valley within the park is a great place to catch spectacular maple color in the fall. In the prairies, many wildflowers are in full bloom, and the native grasses are also very colorful. The best prairie views are on the west side of the park.

Blue Mounds State Park--Luverne
The ash trees are quickly turning yellow. The Mound and Upper Cliffline trails provide some very nice views of the Blue Mounds Prairie where you may get a good look at the park's bison herd. The Bur Oak Trail that leads to the quarry features huge boulders and walls 90 feet tall!

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