Fall stroll through Father Hennepin State Park, Isle; photo by Douglas Anderson
Fall color is developing rapidly, and this should be a great year for vibrant fall color. Recent warm temperatures may cause the fall color to peak a bit later, and last a bit longer!
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, 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.
Peak fall color will develop rapidly and lodging generally fills quickly -- plan ahead and make the most of this glorious season! 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. Subscribe here to receive any or all of our updates by email.
[Southern] [TwinCities] [Central] [Northwest] [Northeast]
Most parks in northeast Minnesota are now displaying nice fall color, with a 25-50 percent change in the trees and shrubs at Bear Head Lake, Jay Cooke and Banning state parks.
Scenic State Park--Bigfork, north of Grand Rapids
While the trees remain mostly green, some of the sugar maples are brilliant shades of red and orange. The dogwoods have turned a beautiful maroon. For the most scenic views, hike the Chase Point Trail. Other popular fall trails include the Tell Lake and Fire Tower trails.
Bear Head Lake State Park--Ely
Park staff report a 25-50 percent change in the trees and grasses. The forest canopy is brightening each day, with the birch, aspen and maple trees turning lovely shades of yellow, orange, and red. The Norberg Trail offers beautiful overlooks of several lakes, along with great views of the transformation.
Cascade River State Park -Grand Marais
The birch and aspen trees have just begun to change color, with more color inland than 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 good views of the maples. The waterfalls also offer great photo opportunities!
Tettegouche State Park--Silver Bay
Individual maples have turned a vibrant red, and the aspen and birch are taking on nice shades of yellow and gold. The Baptism River waterfalls are still running strong due to abundant rainfall late this summer.
Gooseberry Falls State Park--Two Harbors
The park is more colorful this week, but most trees and shrubs are still primarily green. The poplars, however, have dropped their yellow-brown leaves, and the birch are full of bright yellow branches. 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. Also watch for the many migratory birds along Lake Superior as they make their long journey south.
Jay Cooke State Park--Carlton
A lot of yellow is appearing in the early-turning trees such as the ash and basswood. An occasional maple is adding vibrant red to the mix. Take a hike along the river to view beautiful fall color, as well as the amazing rapids. Peak fall color usually occurs the last week of September or first week of October. Celebrate fall with a variety of activities during Fall Color Fun Day on Sept. 26.
Banning State Park--Sandstone
Fall color is developing rapidly, and this is a great year for vibrant fall color. While the forest is filled with vivid yellows and golds, an occasional bright red maple shines against the golden backdrop. More fall color seems to appear each day. The Quarry Loop Trail is very scenic with views of the "Hells Gate Rapids." The river boat launch area is also spectacular.
Father Hennepin State Park--Isle, southeast edge of Lake Mille Lacs
While most of the forest remains green, the sugar maples and sumac are starting to turn beautiful shades of red. Hike any of the park trails for views of the emerging fall color, and be sure to head down to the beach area for a panoramic view of Lake Mille Lacs. Keep an eye out for the resident albino doe and her twin fawns! Anglers will want to cast a line off one of the two fishing piers!
The trees and shrubs in some areas of northwestern Minnesota are at 50 percent peak fall color, including Lake Bronson, Hayes Lake, and Itasca state parks.
Zippel Bay State Park--Williams, northwest of Baudette
The birch trees are rapidly turning yellow, and offer the best color display within the park. Aquatic grasses, ferns, asters and goldenrod are also contributing to the colorful display. Hike through a canopy of fall color along the trail from the large beach to the small beach. Watch for the many migratory birds stopping to rest at the park.
Lake Bronson State Park--Lake Bronson, far northwest corner of Minnesota
Beautiful fall color is visible throughout the park. 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 prairie grasses and remaining wildflowers.
Hayes Lake State Park--Roseau
The aspen and birch trees are turning bright yellow. Take a hike along the Moose Ridge and Pine Ridge trails for beautiful views of fall color along the lakeshore. Adding to the beauty of the park are the sounds of the many migratory birds. 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
A wide array of fall color has rapidly developed around the lake. Be sure to climb the firetower for a spectacular view of the Upper Red Lake shoreline and the Big Bog. Visitors will want to attend the Fall Color Candlelight Boardwalk Hike on Saturday, Sept. 26.
Lake Bemidji State Park--Bemidji
While most of the trees remain green, patches of red, orange and yellow are spreading throughout the park, especially in the understory. Travel the Rocky Point Trail where most of the vibrant yellow maples can be seen. Keep an eye out for the young fox traveling the park roads. A pontoon boat tour of Lake Bemidji will be offered this Saturday night, beginning at 5:30 p.m. --sign up is required, by dialing 218/308-2300.
Itasca State Park--north of Park Rapids
Shades of yellow and orange now fill the park as the ash, basswood, birch, aspen and tamarack change color. The yellow glow is accented by an occasional bright red or orange maple. The shrub layer currently displays the most color, with rich shades of purple in the dogwoods, pale yellow in the hazel, soft pinkish/yellow in the cherry trees, and blood-red in the sumac leaves. 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 typically occurs the last two weeks of September; the oaks and aspen generally reach peak early to 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.
Some of the parks in central Minnesota now offer nice fall color in their trees and shrubs, including Maplewood and Savanna Portage state parks.
Maplewood State Park--Pelican Rapids
The ash trees are turning yellow, and red and orange branches are appearing in the maples. The prairie grasses are amazing shades of amber, maroon, and gold. 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. Celebrate the season during Leaf Days, Sept. 26 & 27, and Oct. 3 & 4, with a variety of events and activities.
Charles A. Lindbergh State Park--Little Falls
Park trees and shrubs remain at a 10-25 percent change, although more of the maples have turned yellow and orange. The Hiking Club Trail offers the nicest views.
Mille Lacs Lake State Park--Onamia
Roughly 20 percent of the park forest is displaying fall color, with the progression occurring rapidly. Mille Lacs Kathio's 100-foot observation tower offers a wonderful view of the fall colors. A drive along the park road is also a good way to see changing colors. Peak fall color is expected to arrive the last days of September into the first week of October. Enjoy wonderful autumn foliage during the annual Archaeology Day event this Saturday, Sept. 26. This event will feature displays, demonstrations and activities highlighting the archaeology and history of the region.
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. A walk along the Parker-Fremberg Trail will take you through a scenic oak savannah just starting to turn golden. Birds are gathering in the pond for migration, including red-tailed and broad wing hawks.
Savanna Portage State Park--north of McGregor
More color has developed along the park roads, Beaver Pond Trail, and around Loon and Wolf lakes. All of the ash trees have turned yellow. Light green and yellow fills the understory, and the birch, ironwood and hazel are mostly yellow and orange. The small maples have turned orange, red and burgundy. The larger maples are just beginning to change. 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 is progressing through Lake Maria State Park, the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area, 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 early fall yellow and gold leaves. Occasional maples are adding beautiful red and orange to the mix. The prairie grasses range from gold to rusty red, and goldenrod and asters dot the prairies with yellow and purple blooms. The sumac is bright red and rich maroon. 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
While fall color remains sparse in the Arboretum's trees, brilliant red is appearing in the sumac, and shades of deep gold and maroon fill the native grasses. The prairie is speckled with colorful flowers, including bright yellow sunflowers, goldenrod and rudbekia, and blue and purple asters. Be sure to check out the annual and perennial gardens, and don't miss the dahlias!
Three Rivers Park District--Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Scott & Wright counties
It appears that the warmer weather has slowed the progression of fall color within Three Rivers Park District this week. The fall color change is at least a week or two behind fall color development last year. The Big Woods parks are showing the most change, with bright orange and yellow sugar maples at Elm Creek, Crow-Hassan, and Baker park reserves, as well at French and Fish Lake regional parks. While the basswood have a more muted yellow color this year, vibrant yellow is developing in the aspen stands, as well as some of the birch, boxelder, and elm trees. The sumac and dogwood are displaying bright crimson in the understory and along the forest edges. The oak-dominated parks, such as Murphy-Hanrehan and Hyland park reserves, remain mostly green.
Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area--Chaska/Shakopee/Jordan
Nice fall color is visible 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 around the prairie and areas near the historic Strait House are also beautiful. Keep an eye out for the many wild turkeys.
Afton State Park--Afton, north of Hastings
The native grasses are lovely shades of gold and rust. The sumac and some of the maples have turned red. Venture to the prairie area for the best views. Watch for the many bird species migrating through the park, including bluebirds and cedar waxwings.
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, Lac Qui Parle and Camden state parks.
Nerstrand Big Woods State Park--Nerstrand, south of Northfield
The leaves seem to change each day, and the green of the forest has turned more of a yellow hue. Hike the hilly trails to the north for views of Hidden Falls surrounded by fall color. A hike along the Prairie Trail on the southern edge of the park offers views of the lingering multi-colored flowers.
Frontenac State Park--southeast of Red Wing
The bluff top picnic area offers beautiful views of Lake Pepin and the developing 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 have turned 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. To the south, in the city of Wabasha, check out the many festivities offered through Oct. 25 during SeptOberfest.
Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park--Preston
The old townsite prairie is full of golden grasses mixed with vibrant prairie flowers. The asters are filled with white, lavender and deep purple blooms, and the goldenrod and sunflowers add bright yellow to the landscape. 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.
Flandrau State Park--New Ulm
Travel the Bluebird Trail to view bright wildflowers, as well as beautiful bronze big bluestem grasses. Shades of red can be seen in the sumac and some of the maples.
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 are turning nice shades of yellow with leaves now falling. The best viewing is at the overlook and down the road to the beach.
Camden State Park--south of Marshall
Park staff report a 10-25 percent change in some of the trees. Fall color can be observed in the green ash and cottonwoods, along with some 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 including sunflowers, asters, goldenrod and an occasional gentian. The native grasses are also very colorful.
Blue Mounds State Park--Luverne
The ash trees are quickly turning color and it won't be long before they are fully 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!