The moment the first trees start to change, excitement ensues. The first question we start to hear around town is “when will it be peak fall color?” While it is difficult to predict, peak fall foliage in Minnesota is typically the last weekend of September & first weekend of October. First to go are the maple trees which begin turning in early-September. Depending on conditions, the peak fall color will extend on either side of the two peak weekends and sometimes longer. For a great resource for estimating this year’s fall color - review past fall color status reports. This PDF, produced by the Superior National Forest Service office in Tofte, demonstrates a comparison of eight years of peak fall foliage in Minnesota dates also check the Fall Color Finder map updated weekly for the most up-to-date fall color report.
Visit Cook County's 7 Most Instagrammable Fall Locations
While there are a lot of Fall Bucket List items to tackle, the second most sought after questions in autumn is, "where can I get the best picture?" - well Instagram fans, we have a few suggestions.
- Artists' Point in Grand Marais. The name says it all. Full of inspiration, big waves and brilliant fall colors - one could easily spend half a day (and fill a memory card) taking photos out here. Best times to visit: early September - mid-November.
2. Lutsen Mountains Gondola. The easiest and quickest way to the top of Moose Mountain peak on the Sawtooth Mountain Range. Overlooking Lake Superior, you'll see a field of brilliant maple trees from above. Trust us when we say, it is truly breathtaking view. Best times to visit: mid-September - mid-October.
3. The Mount Josephine Wayside Rest in Grand Portage, MN. The first trees to turn are typically the maples primarily in Schroeder, Tofte, Lutsen and parts of Grand Marais. Then it's the brilliant Birch, Poplar and Tamarack trees turn. Take a drive up to the Canadian border for spectacular views of where rocky cliffs meet Lake Superior's wild water. Best time to visit: Early - late October.
4. The Gunflint Trail. Traditionally known more for summer canoeing in the Boundary Waters and cross-country skiing in the winter, the Gunflint Trail is one of the hidden gems of the fall color tour. Tamaracks and Birch line the 57-mile long National Scenic Byway all the way up. Make sure to stretch your legs by taking a hike on the Honeymoon Bluff Trail about 30-minutes outside of Grand Marais. It's a short but steep hike with a view of Hungry Jack Lake that is worthy of each step. Best time to visit: Early - late October.
5. Drive along the Honeymoon Trail between Tofte & Lutsen. In the fall, there is a lot of stunning autumnal foliage to view. One of the best ways to take it all in is by car! So pack a lunch and hit the dusty trail...literally. With only a handful of paved roads in Cook County, you'll have to drive on a some of the gravel roads for some of the best fall color views. Best time to visit: mid-September - early October.
6. Superior Hiking Trail. You are pretty much guaranteed to find spectacular views year-round on the Superior Hiking Trail, but fall offers superior autumn views. Lookout Mountain in Cascade River State Park is a nice long hike with a great reward that is truly Instagram worthy. Best times to visit: early to late October.
7. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). News alert! The boundary waters are not just a summer destination. Autumn in the BWCAW is wilderness at it's finest. What can you expect of the BWCAW in fall? Fewer people vying for coveted campsites, more moose and wildlife sightings as the critters prepare for winter, illuminated tamarack bogs, and... northern lights. As the nights get longer, the chances of viewing the northern lights increase. The boundary waters offer some of the darkest sky ratings in the lower 48 states with little to no light pollution you'll be able to count every star as you drink hot chocolate around the campfire. Best times to visit: early September - mid-October.
Now, the rest is up to you. Start planning your fall color trip today! We suggest mid-week travel for the best deals and least crowded trails.