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Minnesota Weekly Fall Color Update -Oct. 15, 2015

More seasonable temperatures have accelerated fall color change, and peak fall color fills parks within the central and southern regions of Minnesota, as well as the Twin Cities vicinity. Much of northern Minnesota is now past peak. Some of the nicest fall color can currently be found at Gooseberry Falls, St. Croix, Savanna Portage, Lake Maria, Interstate, Forestville/Mystery Cave, and Great River Bluffs state parks, along with the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.

Please note that fall color can change rapidly due to wind, rain and frost. 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 past their peak. A few, however, have just reached their peak including Gooseberry Falls and St. Croix state parks.

Bear Head Lake State Park--Ely
The majority of maples and aspen have lost their leaves, however, a few of the maples are stubbornly holding onto their bright crimson leaves. The tamaracks are picking up the slack, adding bright amber to the landscape. The Norberg Lake Trail offers beautiful overlooks of several lakes, and the drive into the park is spectacular.

Tettegouche State Park--Silver Bay
While the wind has brought down most of the maple leaves, the aspen and birch remain a brilliant gold. For panoramic views, begin at the trailhead, hike the Superior Hiking Trail up and over the Drainpipe to Raven Rock.

Gooseberry Falls State Park--Two Harbors
Autumn's yellow, gold, and orange leaves fill the park, especially along the shoreline. The park seems to be glowing in some areas. Three hikes are recommended: Gitchi Gummi Trail loop, Fifth Falls Trail loop, and the Picnic Flow area to the mouth of the Gooseberry River.

Jay Cooke State Park--Carlton
Roughly half of the aspen, ash and birch have dropped their leaves. The maples and oaks, which were the last to turn, are holding onto much of their red, orange and yellow hues. The drive into the park still looks very colorful. Stop by the Swinging Bridge and take a hike upstream traveling the less difficult CCC Trail or the more difficult Carlton Trail.

St. Croix State Park -east of Hinckley
The aspen are now a vivid yellow, and the oaks and maples are contributing bright red and orange, and rich rust and gold to the mix. For some of the nicest views, take a relaxing drive to the Kettle River, then hike to the confluence of the Kettle and St. Croix rivers. Fall migration is in full swing, with lots of hawks and eagles soaring overhead.

Father Hennepin State Park--Isle, southeast edge of Lake Mille Lacs
The red and sugar maples are just past peak but many remain bright orange and red. The birch are vivid yellow, and oaks are just beginning to turn burgundy and orange. Head to the beach/picnic area for panoramic views of Lake Mille Lacs. Keep an eye out the resident albino deer with her twin fawns. Anglers are enjoying good fishing action off the two fishing piers.

Northwest Minnesota

Most parks in northwestern Minnesota are past their peak. One area that has just reached its peak is the Big Bog Recreation Area where the tamaracks are glowing!

Zippel Bay State Park--Williams, northwest of Baudette
A few of the aspen and birch trees are holding onto their bright yellow leaves. Hike the trail from the large beach to the small beach for the best views.

Big Bog Recreation Area--Waskish
The tamarack trees along the boardwalk are bright yellow and orange. A variety of colors can be found along the lake. Be sure to climb the firetower for a spectacular view of the Upper Red Lake shoreline and the Big Bog. Canoeing the lazy Tamarac River is a wonderful way to truly take in the abundant fall colors, migratory birds and other wildlife. Canoes can be rented at the visitor center.

Lake Bemidji State Park--Bemidji
High winds last weekend stripped most of the leaves from the maple trees, however, the oaks and tamaracks remain wonderful shades of yellow, orange and rust. A walk to the bog is recommended.

Itasca State Park--north of Park Rapids
While some vibrant yellow and orange leaves remain on the birch and aspen trees, lots of leaves are on the ground. The nicest fall color can currently be found in the deep red oaks and stunning yellow tamaracks. Park staff recommend the South Entrance roads, Main Park Drive and Wilderness Drive for the finest driving routes. Hikers will want to travel Schoolcraft, Dr. Roberts and DeSoto trails. Everyone should take the time to climb the 100-foot tall firetower for panoramic views of the lingering fall colors.  

Central Minnesota

Most of central Minnesota is at peak fall color! Parks currently offering spectacular displays include Savanna Portage and Charles A. Lindbergh state parks, and the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.

Maplewood State Park--Pelican Rapids
Park staff report past peak conditions, however, bright yellow leaves fill the aspen and birch trees, and the oaks remain beautiful shades of amber and maroon. Even though red and orange leaves are less prevalent, an abundance of golden color fills the park. Visitors continue to 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.

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park--Little Falls
Leaf color has changed rapidly, and the park is now at its peak. The maples and oaks are contributing the majority of fall color, including bright yellow and orange, vibrant red, and rich gold and rust. The hike along Pike Creek is best for fall color and scenic views.

Mille Lacs Lake State Park -Onamia
Overall, the park is just past peak, but amazing fall color remains above ground in the yellow aspen, orange and red maples, and golden and rust oaks. The tamaracks are turning bright yellow-orange, and should be stunning this weekend. Be sure to climb the 100-foot observation tower for an aerial view of fall color.

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area--Crosby, northeast of Brainerd
Warm golds and bright yellows fill Cuyuna Country, with vibrant maples also in the mix! 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. Hikers will enjoy the 10-mile Sagamore Unit which was just mowed.

Savanna Portage State Park--north of McGregor
The park is at its peak, with lovely coral, orange and yellow leaves filling the large sugar maples. The aspen ridge tops are a striking gold, and the oaks are crimson red, orange and burgundy. The ground is carpeted in gold. Wolf Lake and the Continental Divide trails are beautiful. Nice color remains around Loon and Shumway lakes.

Twin Cities Metropolitan Vicinity

Nearly all parks in the Twin Cities are at their peak. Exceptional fall color can be found at Lake Maria, Interstate and Wild River state parks, as well as the big woods parks within the Three Rivers Park District, and at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Lake Maria State Park--Monticello, northwest of Buffalo
Park staff report that most maple trees are at peak shades of bright yellow and gold, with some trees displaying vivid red and orange leaves. Oak trees are still mostly green, but some are turning maroon and red. While the ash, aspen, cottonwood and birch trees are past their peak, most are still bright yellow and gold. The Bjorkland Lake Trail and Anderson Hill Lookout offer the best 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
Fall color is brilliant this week​ at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum​! The sugar maples are bursting with bright red, orange and yellow leaves. The sumacs are deep crimson red, and the dogwoods and viburnum are a marvelous maroon. Don't miss the red/orange foliage of the hazelnuts, bright yellow witch hazels, and the bright red fruit on the winterberry holly. The prairie is golden with maroon highlights from the little bluestem grasses. A particularly stunning tree is the autumn purple white ash with its deep magenta colored leaves--look for it near the Margot picnic shelters.

Three Rivers Park District--Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Scott & Wright counties
Most of the Big Woods parks, including Lake Rebecca, Baker, and Elm Creek, are at or near peak fall color. Many maples are in full color in the canopy, and along many of the trails. Some beautiful hackberry and pockets of sumac can also be seen along the trail edges. The oak-dominated parks, such as Hyland and Murphy-Hanrehan park reserves, as well as Eagle Lake Golf, Bryant Lake, and Silverwood parks, are just beginning their fall color transformation. The red, white, and bur oaks found in these parks are perhaps 25 percent of their way to peak fall color. If cooler, sunny weather conditions continue, color could change rapidly. Keep an eye out for unusually green trees and shrubs, as these are often the non-native species such as buckthorn, Russian olive, and non-native bush honeysuckles. This weekend should be excellent for beautiful fall color!

Interstate State Park--Taylors Falls
Bright yellows, oranges, and a few reds glow amongst the pines. The color palette across the river valley is gorgeous this week. Experience the beauty of the St. Croix River Valley from scenic views along the River Trail, or tackle the many stairs along the Sandstone Bluffs Trail for a broader view of the valley. The glacial potholes parking area fills quickly on weekends so if you are planning to hike, please consider using the campground entrance on the south side of the park, then hiking the 1.25- or 1.5-mile trails to the glacial potholes area. Autumn programs are scheduled for the upcoming weekends, including MEA. Please call the park for more information at 651/465-5711.

Wild River State Park--Almelund, east of North Branch
Beautiful fall color is hanging on in most of the maples which are displaying stunning shades of yellow and orange this year. The oaks are approaching their peak shades of deep maroon and gold. The Visitor Center offers a tremendous view of the river valley filled with colorful maples and oaks. Prairie lovers will want to hike the Amador Prairie loops. Numerous naturalist programs are offered during the month of October. To learn more, contact the park at 651/583-2125.

Southern Minnesota

Most of southern Minnesota is either at or approaching peak fall color. Parks with vibrant fall color include Forestville/Mystery Cave, Great River Bluffs, and Camden.

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park--Nerstrand, south of Northfield
The park is filled with lovely shades of red, orange, and yellow! For the most varied display, travel the Hope Trail loop. Also hike the hilly trails to the north for views of Hidden Falls surrounded by fall color.

Frontenac State Park--southeast of Red Wing
The sumac has turned bright red, some maples are ablaze in red and yellow, and the aspen are almost entirely yellow. The prairie grasses are holding onto their rich gold and maroon tones. The bluff top picnic area offers expansive views of Lake Pepin and the fall foliage. 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.

Great River Bluffs State Park -southeast of Winona
The fall color is very beautiful with golden maples, bright red sumac, and yellow ash illuminating the park. Hike to any of the five scenic overlooks for amazing views of the Mississippi River. Now is the time to get out and enjoy what remains above ground.

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park--Preston
The maple trees are at peak shades of red and orange but the wind has brought some of the leaves. The sumac is bright red, and many of the oaks are adding amber and maroon to the show. 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 the month.

Whitewater State Park -Altura, north of St. Charles
The maples, aspen and walnut trees are approaching their peak, especially in the bottoms of the valleys. The oaks are beginning to display nice shades of red, orange, and gold. Hike from Chimney Rock to Inspiration Point for some great overlooks.

Fort Ridgely State Park - northwest of New Ulm
The park is at its peak, with bright red sumac, red and orange maples, and golden oaks filling the park with color. The overlook along County Road 30 offers great views of the native and restored prairie areas, as well as the woodlands of the Minnesota River valley.

Lac Qui Parle State Park -Watson, northwest of Montevideo
The prairie grasses are fully rust and gold. The ash trees are nearing peak shades of yellow, with leaves now falling. The best views are from the overlook on County Road 32 near the Upper Campground.

Camden State Park--south of Marshall
The native grasses and trees are very colorful. The green ash and cottonwoods are shades of gold and tangerine, and the maples are taking on shades of bright red and orange. 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. For the best views of the rust and gold grasses, head to the prairies on the west side of the park.

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