If you’re ready for the vibrant oranges, burnished golds, and rich reds of autumn, you might want to start planning your travel destinations for fall foliage now. According to the National Weather Service, peak times to see fall colors in Minnesota usually fall around mid- to late September and into early October. This summer was exceptionally hot, which means that the displays of color may take longer to reach peak brightness. You can use the Minnesota DNR’s online Fall Color Finder to get insider information on the best times to view fall colors.
Along the North Shore of Lake Superior are many parks and sight-seeing destinations, with a variety of places to stay. Take a trip to Duluth, Two Harbors, or Grand Marais. Head to Split Rock Lighthouse, plan to stay at Gooseberry Falls State Park, or drive through the Superior National Forest. Fall colors peak mid-September to early October.
Visit Minnesota’s oldest state park and home of the Mississippi River headwaters, Itasca State Park, or take a trip into the Chippewa National Forest. According to the Park Rapids Fall Color Finder, you may want to enjoy the colors early in the morning or in the evening, when the sun illuminates the leaves along the eastern shorelines. You can also head over to Lake Bemidji or take a drive along Highway 38. Colors peak mid-September to early October.
Mississippi River Valley
In the Winona area along the Mississippi River, make sure to check out the Elba Fire Tower and stop by the Inspiration Point and Chimney Rock overlooks in Whitewater State Park for views of oak, maple, and evergreen forests. Venture out to one of the many other state parks in the area, including the Great River Bluffs, John A. Latsch, and Perrot State Parks, or head over to the apple orchards in Rochester. Colors peak mid-October.
Douglas and Ottertail Counties
The area of Alexandria and Fergus Falls has the Glacial Ridge Scenic Byway, which will take you through Kensington Rune Stone Park and Lake Carlos State Park. While you’re sightseeing, stop by any of the lakes in the region, including Lake Geneva, Lake Le Homme Dieu, and Lake Victoria. Colors peak late September to early October.
St. Croix River Valley
Follow the St. Croix River between cliffs and wooded hillsides, stopping by the scenic towns of Taylors Falls and Stillwater, and venturing down to the charming community of Hastings. State parks along the river valley include William O’Brien, Afton, and Wild River, or you can visit the St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park. Colors peak late September to early October.
Closer to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and among the forests and parks by Hibbing, Ely, Virginia, and Hoyt Lakes is the Mesabi Iron Range, a popular area to visit for fall foliage. Check out the Laurentian Divide Recreation Area, Lookout Mountain, and the Pike River Dam in Tower. The Iron Range Tourism Bureau also recommends the Mines and Pines Tour, starting at Hibbing, and the Northern Lights Tour, from Eveleth to Hoyt Lakes. Colors peak mid-September to early October.
Lake Mille Lacs Area
Venture to the center of Minnesota. The Lake Mille Lacs area offers many driving routes nestled among forests of various wood types, including oak, aspen, and birch. Follow the road around Lake Mille Lacs, or take a tour of the Pillsbury State Forest and follow a drive that will take you west to the Brainerd Lakes region. Colors peak late September to early October.
Lake of the Woods County
Head up near the northern border to visit the towns of Angle Inlet, Baudette, and Williams. The Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau recommends traveling down the Wilderness Drive south of Baudette through the Beltrami Forest to visit the second-largest state forest in Minnesota. Or you can visit Zippel Bay State Park, which is heavily decorated with poplar and birch trees. Other destinations include Pine Island State Forest and Franz Jevne State Park. Colors peak mid- to late September.
Twin Cities Area
Follow the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway around the Twin Cities and drive through some of the most colorful parts of the area. Take a tour of the Chain of Lakes, including Harriet, Lake of the Isles, and Nokomis, head over to Minnehaha Falls, and visit Theodore Wirth Park. Colors peak late September to mid-October.
Minnesota River Valley
Visit Mankato, New Ulm, and St. Peter in the Minnesota River Valley, stopping by Minneopa State Park or taking a drive along the Minnesota River Scenic Byway, which starts near the South Dakota border and travels to Belle Plaine. You’ll find Minnemishinona Falls in Mankato along the drive. Colors peak late September to mid-October.