Cedar Lake - Autumn

On calm days, the view from a boat is breathtaking. Tina McMillan caught this image on Cedar Lake near Aitkin.

To celebrate the most colorful season, Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism office, and Minnesota State Parks and Trails will launch a weekly fall color report starting last week.

From scenic drives to hiking, biking, apple orchards, pumpkin patches and more, Explore Minnesota and Minnesota State Parks and Trails offer trip planning tips to encourage travelers to get out and enjoy the changing leaves.

“With wide-open spaces and diverse terrain, Minnesota offers scenic and close-to-home trips for travelers to enjoy the fall color show. Our weekly reports on color progression can help travelers make the most of this short and sweet season,” said Explore Minnesota tourism director John Edman. “Along the way, businesses across the state continue to make visitor safety and health protocols a priority for those looking to take a trip this fall,” added Edman.

Minnesota State Parks and Trails staff check the status of trees, wildflowers and grasses in their area and update the online Fall Color Finder at mndnr.gov/fallcolor by every Thursday morning, just in time for the weekend.

The popular web page includes a color-coded map that shows the approximate percentage of leaves that have changed color, and a slideshow of recent photos taken by staff and visitors.

To subscribe for weekly email updates on where to find peak fall color, visit either mndnr.gov/fallcolor (888-MINNDNR) or explor eminnesota.com/fallcolor (888-VISITMN).

“Celebrate the change of the seasons with a visit to a Minnesota state park or trail this fall,” said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota State Parks and Trails. “Being outdoors is a great way to unwind and enjoy the beauty of fall.

“Remember to plan ahead, come prepared and socially distance to keep yourself and others safe.”


“This fall’s overall color display should be vivid and travel-worthy,” said Val Cervenka, the forest health program consultant in the DNR’s Forestry Division. Cervenka, who provides the annual fall color forecast for the DNR, says decreasing day length and the start of long, cool nights triggers the color change in leaves.

Brilliant crimson and purple leaf colors are produced by warm, sunny days and chilly, but not frosty, nights.

“No two autumns are exactly alike. Temperature and soil moisture together affect fall color, and combinations of the two can vary widely from year to year,” said Cervenka. “It’s good to keep in mind that local weather conditions will affect local fall color, but all things point to this year’s overall color being especially lovely across the state.”


Fall colors in Minnesota typically peak mid-to-late-September through mid-October, starting in the northernmost part of the state and working southward. Peak fall color usually lasts two weeks, but can vary widely depending on location, elevation and weather. Trees at higher elevations are the earliest to show color change.


With wide-open spaces, diverse terrain and spectacular fall colors, Minnesota makes an excellent destination for travelers looking to hit the road this fall. The state’s scenic drives meander through a variety of landscapes: the lake-splashed North Woods, tumbling waterfalls, grand bluffs towering above winding rivers, ribbons of prairie, and many parks and trails along the way. These 10 fall color drives include some well-known favorites, and some lesser-known gems around the state for vibrant leaf-viewing this autumn.

Road trippers can add a little friendly competition to their adventures by downloading a free bingo card at exploreminne sota.com/bingo, and for a stretch break, many hiking trails across the state are accessible from scenic routes.


Travelers can also tag fall photos and tune into social media to get real-time inspiration using Explore Minnesota’s popular statewide travel hashtag #Only inMN and Minnesota State Parks and Trails’ hashtag #JustAddNature.


Many scenic routes, parks and trails across the state are very popular in the fall. Travelers should consider a mid-week trip of off-peak hours to safely distance and avoid crowds. To promote the health and safety of guests and visitors, tourism businesses and destinations throughout Minnesota continue to enact health safety policies and procedures such as enhanced cleaning and sanitization protocols, social distancing guidelines, capacity limits, contactless check-in and check-out, and more.

Prior to making plans, travelers should visit Explore Minnesota’s COVID-19 travel hub and Minnesota DNR’s COVID-19 resource page for important travel safety updates about business, facilities and services across the state, FAQs related to outdoor recreation, etc.

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