Edit ModuleShow Tags

Unusually Vibrant Colors This Fall: Find the Best Spots

The MN DNR is predicting an especially colorful fall season due to ideal summer weather conditions. We found five spots around the state—including Lanesboro and Lake Superior—with great autumn views.


Photo by BisonTree/Flickr

For some, the reappearance of pumpkin spice lattes signals the beginning of autumn. Others prefer the centuries-old approach of watching the leaves change color. In the internet age, there’s a high-tech update to this method.

The Minnesota DNR has launched its annual online fall color finder, updated daily with a map of the state noting which areas are at their peak colors, past their peak, or not quite there yet. For those curious about the colors in Minnesota's state parks and recreation areas, the site includes a chart measuring the percentage of color saturation in each location (with photos).

The DNR expects especially brilliant leaves this season thanks to a Goldilocks-esque summer that has affected the color-changing process just right: not too sunny, not too rainy, with cool autumn evenings anticipated. Leaves change color due to biochemicals that create various hues when exposed to different levels of sun, water, and acidity, depending also on the health of the tree. The trees are already starting to change in some parts of Minnesota, with peak colors coming earlier in northern parts of the state and later farther south.

Check out these five popular spots for fall-color enthusiasts:

  1. Summit Avenue, St. Paul (late September–early October)

Summit Avenue is known for its historic mansions, but the stately line of trees along the street makes for vibrant viewing of the autumn colors. If you can’t get enough, head over to the nearby Lake Street and Ford Parkway bridges for views of the Mississippi River bordered by colorful trees.

  1. North Shore Scenic Byway (mid-September–early October)

This 150-mile 3-hour drive following the Lake Superior shoreline provides some of the state’s best colors. Spanning from Duluth to Grand Portage, highlights include views of the Split Rock Lighthouse, maple hikes at Tettegouche State Park, and a panoramic view from Mount Josephine at Grand Portage National Monument. 

  1. Grand Rounds Scenic Loop (late September–mid-October)

This scenic loop circles through some of Minneapolis’ most popular sights: Lakes Calhoun, Harriet, and Nokomis, Minnehaha Falls, the Stone Arch Bridge, and more. Combining both urban and natural landscapes, this tour can be completed in a car, or on bicycle for more adventurous color-seekers. 

  1. Root River State Trail (early–mid-October)

For those wanting to ditch the car completely, this 42-mile bike trail follows the Root River in southeastern Minnesota, near Lanesboro. For a particularly unique view, grab some paddles and kayak or canoe the same route on the water itself.

  1. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (late September–mid-October)

This 1,200-acre space in Chaska is home to tree gardens, prairie spaces, natural forests, and art installations. For those looking for a quick tour of the arboretum’s autumn colors, check out 3 Mile Drive, which loops around the park, allowing visitors to drive, shuttle, bike, or walk among the trees and gardens. 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

Learn about the contributing writers.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Travel Blog

Where to Run a Turkey Trot in Minnesota This Thanksgiving

Burning off those Thanksgiving Day calories is a great way to start the day before giving thanks for what you have. Join one of these fun (and local) turkey trot races on Thanksgiving morning.

Sue Z.'s Charitable Check-In: November

Sue Z.'s ideas for getting charitable this month include baking with North Minneapolis teens and the annual Taste of the NFL

Finding Neverland Brings the Story of Peter Pan to Life

There was never a dull moment during the performance of Finding Neverland, the story of how Peter Pan came to be.

Drag Queens Fill First Ave for Puerto Rico

Flip Phone and drag queen Phi Phi O'Hara team up for a First Avenue show in Minneapolis with all proceeds benefiting victims of Hurricane Maria

Photos from Nigeria: A Series with a Cause by a MN Resident

MN photographer Bre McGee's series "Stolen Lives: The Lost Futures of Nigeria's Trafficked Youth" raises money for victims of child labor and sex trafficking

Calhoun, Mud Lake, and Pig’s Eye: A Brief History of Renaming Minnesota Places

Lake Calhoun is on its way to becoming Bde Maka Ska, but it's only the latest in the history of Minnesota place renamings, which includes N-word lakes, Pig's Eye, and a middle school almost named after Prince

Staging a Magazine: A Storytelling Pop-Up in St. Paul

St. Paul's Fitzgerald Theater hosts a "live magazine"—where journalists become performers

What to Do on Halloween around the Twin Cities

Celebrate scariness over the weekend—or on Tuesday,, October 31—with haunted tours, a First Ave monster mash, and the last Zoo Boo

Pumpkin Nights: 3,000 Artful Jack-o'-lanterns

In this photo essay, check out how the MN State Fairgrounds have transformed into a Halloween celebration—and go for yourself this weekend

The Weird Beauty of Scream Town

How the decade-old Minnesota scare fest, in the middle of a Chaska cornfield, has combined today’s "Insidious"-conditioned jump-scare obsession with the dreamlike, strangely touching allure of old-world Disneyland

Hit the Road for a Fall Weekend in Alexandria, Minnesota

When fall comes around in Alexandria, Minnesota, the leaves aren’t the only things that are colorful. Fall festivals and events brighten up the first chilly months and give life to a city that lives on the lake during summer.

Lantern Light Festival Celebrates Chinese Culture at Canterbury Park

Shakopee is the temporary home of dazzling lanterns illuminated in lights, Chinese performances, and a unique family-friendly experience.

Get Ready for a Sweat Fest

ALTR’s fitness classes in Minneapolis' North Loop are a high-octane thrill ride with a one-way ticket to shredded

Photographing the City on Your Lunch Break

Local photographer Wayne Moran leads afternoon tours through picture-perfect Minneapolis
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags