Fall colors in Minnesota: Where to see the best fall foliage

Fall is officially here and the leaves are beginning to change across the Midwest. 

With hot temperatures and drought this summer, the time for peak colors might be earlier this year in some areas of Minnesota, but there are many great places in Minnesota to see the brilliant fall foliage. 

Grab a pumpkin spice latte and head out for a leaf-peeping adventure! 

Fall colors on the North Shore

The view from Oberg Mountain in the Superior National Forest in 2021. (Melissa Turtinen/FOX 9)

The North Shore's stretch of 150 miles of Lake Superior shoreline is a stunning place to take in the fall foliage. Peak colors in this area typically occur from late September into early October.

Lutsen: This area is a perfect place to enjoy the fall colors, as there are multiple hikes, viewing areas, and activities nearby. The Caribou Rock Trail offers three separate overlooks and a waterfall on a trail that takes about five hours to hike in full. Nearby Oberg Mountain boasts a 1,555-foot peak to take in the view. Summit Eagle Mountain for an exhilarating alpine slide ride through the trees. 

Lutsen Resort offers a gondola ride above the brightly colored leaves for a relaxing fall experience.

Gunflint Trail: This trail is a Minnesota Scenic byway and offers beautiful views on a 57-mile journey between Grand Marais and Lake Saganaga.

North Shore Scenic Drive: This drive offers a more relaxed way to take in the fall scenery in Northern Minnesota. There are no towns along the way, so the area's natural beauty is on full display.

Minnesota State Parks: The Minnesota DNR manages several State Parks that dot Lake Superior in Minnesota's Arrowhead, which all offer spectacular opportunities to take in fall colors. Take a hike to see where the trees meet the lake at Tettegouche State Park, or a short walk at Grand Portage State Park to see Minnesota's tallest waterfall against a backdrop of colors. 

The view of the fall colors along Lake Superior at Tettegouche State Park near Silver Bay, Minnesota, in 2019. (Melissa Turtinen/FOX 9)

Fall foliage near the Twin Cities

Enjoy the views from scenic overlooks, river cruises, or hot air balloons near Minneapolis and St. Paul. The peak time for viewing in this area is from late September to mid-October.

Minneapolis: Head to the University of Minnesota campus for a fitting display of maroon and gold foliage.

St. Paul: Crosby Farm Regional Park offers 6.7 miles of paved trails that run along the shady, wooded area next to the Mississippi River, past the marshes of Crosby Lake, and connects to the Mississippi River Boulevard parkway, offering fall foliage during the entire stroll.

Stillwater: Stillwater provides the perfect small-town backdrop for a fall foliage tour. Take a scenic cruise on one of the large river boats or opt for a more intimate journey on the local gondola. Float above the treetops in a hot air balloon for a unique view of the fall colors. Enjoy the colors from the top of the historic stairs on the north end of town for a breathtaking view of Main Street, or grab a bite at Papa's Rooftop at the Water Street Inn for pictures of the foliage from their rooftop patio.

Taylors Falls: Head to one of Minnesota's oldest state parks, Interstate State Park. Just a short walk from the parking area, this park is the perfect place to take in the autumn air and fall colors. It is also home to incredible glacial rock formations over 10,000 years old. Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours also offer a way to see the foliage from the river.

Red Wing: Follow U.S. Route 61 between Red Wing and La Crescent for a driving option. The drive typically takes a little over an hour and a half.  Frontenac State Park offers 2,300 acres for camping, hiking, or horseback riding this fall. Or go for a hike up Barn Bluff for a view of the city.

Fall leaves in central Minnesota

Fall colors at Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake in 2019. (Melissa Turtinen/FOX 9)

Paul Bunyan State Trail: This 115-mile-long trail offers a perfect escape into an autumn wonderland. The trail is generally level and wheelchair accessible, except for the nine-mile segment that passes through the Chippewa National Forest. 

Gull Lake: Take a day trip around Gull Lake. This area is perfect for a fall adventure with multiple lodges, restaurants, and overlooks. Stopping points on the drive include Cragun’s ResortMaddens On Gull LakeGull Four Seasons ResortSandy Beach ResortGrand View Lodge, and Lost Lake Lodge.

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park: The 100-foot observation tower at this park provides a unique vantage point to take in the changing leaves this autumn.

Fall in northwestern Minnesota

The peak time in Northwestern Minnesota is from late September to early October.

Lake Bronson State Park: Near Canada and North Dakota, this park offers expansive views of both the prairie and the woods. Take a drive or walk along many trails, especially around the lake, to take in the fall colors.

Hayes State Park: Visit the trail near the lake's northern edge to take a hike surrounded by beautiful autumn colors.

Keep tabs on where the leaves are changing and the most current fall foliage information on the Minnesota DNR's website here.

Fall foliage in Lutsen in 2021. (Melissa Turtinen/FOX 9)