Come September, leaves start changing colors up north. By late Sept/early Oct, countless parks across Minnesota offer some sort of eye-popping leaf-peeping spectacle.
The full transformation happens fast, so make the most of the eight-ish-week window with these great spots for fantastic fall foliage.
Where to see leaves changing colors in Minnesota
1. North Shore of Lake Superior
A very popular route for fall fans, the coast is dotted with several state parks with different types of color-changing trees, rivers, waterfalls, trails and scenic overlooks. Fun fact: this route is a designated “All American Drive,” one of just 15 in the country noted for its incredible scenery.
2. Banning State Park
Banning is about 90 minutes north of Minneapolis. Kettle River runs through the park. There are miles of great hiking trails lined with aspen-birch and an awesome waterfall, which perhaps local folks might not be that impressed with, but I sure was.
3. Afton State Park
This one’s a convenient option if you want to stay close the Cities and offers some elevation change with rolling landscape, great views of the St. Croix River and a mix of hardwoods and pines.
4. Scenic State Park
We had a reservation here over Labor Day weekend but canceled it when we got an invite to the Boundary Waters. It’s still on my list and fall seems a perfect time to explore its white and red pine, jack pine and mixed hardwoods.
5. Jay Cooke State Park
Right outside Duluth, this historic area is a sight to behold with hardwood forests, steep valleys, and huge rock formations with a suspension bridge dangling over the very active St. Louis River.
6. Brainerd Lakes Area
With so many lakes to choose from, you can’t go wrong. Cozy up in a cabin and explore Whitefish Chain of Lakes, Gull, and Cross lakes with their aspen, birch, maple, and oak. The Paul Bunyan Trail is great for biking before snowmobilers take it over come winter.
7. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
Check out the observation tower for the best views or walk along the lake’s edge and breathe it all in.
DNR Fall Color Finder
The DNR’s handy Fall Color Finder has a real-time map showing percentages of color changes throughout Minnesota. You’ll see some quality colors within the 50-100% range, so keep an eye out often.
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