To celebrate the season, Explore Minnesota, the state's tourism office, and Minnesota State Parks and Trails will launch a weekly fall color report starting this Thursday, Sept. 12. From scenic drives to hiking, biking, harvest festivals and more, Explore Minnesota and Minnesota State Parks and Trails offer trip-planning tips via email, social media and online to encourage travelers to get out and enjoy the state's most colorful time of year.
"From the North Shore of Lake Superior to the bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley, there's a scenic trip for every traveler to chase the fall colors in Minnesota," said Explore Minnesota tourism director John Edman. "With weekly fall color reports, we're able to help travelers make the most of one of the busiest travel seasons in our state."
Minnesota state park 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 (viewed over half a million times in 2018) includes a color-coded map that shows the approximate percentage of leaves that have changed color, and a slideshow of recent photos taken by park staff and visitors. To subscribe to weekly email updates on where to find peak fall color, visit either mndnr.gov/fallcolor (888-646-6367) or exploreminnesota.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. "You can't beat our state's blazing red, orange and gold fall colors on a crisp, sunny day. Listen for a gentle breeze in the trees, smell the scent of fallen leaves. The season will be over before we know it— so get out there and enjoy it."
Minnesota State Parks and Trails and communities statewide have planned activities to coincide with peak fall color, such as the Fall Colors Hike at Savanna Portage State Park (Sept. 14), Autumn Color Walk at Afton State Park (Oct. 12) and Annual Fall Pumpkin Festival at Lake Shetek State Park (Oct. 19). Thousands of harvest festivals, heritage events and more will take place all season long and can be found at exploreminnesota.com/events and on the Minnesota State Parks and Trails events calendar.
2019 Fall Color Forecast, Science Behind Color Progression
"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 trigger the color change in leaves. Brilliant crimson and purple leaf colors are produced by warm, sunny days and chilly, but not frosty, nights. Yellow color, found in ash, aspen, basswood, birch, cottonwood and elm, can be early or short-lived due to drought conditions. But Minnesota has had one of the wettest years (January to July) on record since 1871, so this fall should be flooded with color.
Peak Color Timeline
The fall color show in Minnesota typically begins along the northern border in early to mid-September and then spreads southward through October. 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. The full 2019 forecast and color progression details can be found here.
Scenic Fall Road Trips
Travelers can hit the road for a scenic drive through a rainbow of colorful fall foliage in Minnesota these next several weeks. Minnesota's scenic fall routes meander through a variety of landscapes: the lake-splashed north woods, tumbling waterfalls, grand bluffs towering above winding rivers, ribbons of prairie, and many state parks along the way. These 10 fall color drives include some well-known favorites, and some lesser-known gems around the state.
Take a Hike!
There's no hiking like fall hiking. Explore Minnesota's Hike MN initiative encourages visitors to take a stretch break to see diverse Minnesota landscapes and brilliant foliage. Hike MN highlights 10 trails, including five Minnesota State Parks and Recreation Areas, with varied terrain, length and difficulty. Enter the Hike MN sweepstakes through Oct. 20 for a chance to win getaway packages or gift cards from various Minnesota destinations.
Share Your Sights on Social
Travelers can also tag fall photos and tune into social media to get real-time inspiration using Explore Minnesota's popular statewide travel hashtag #OnlyinMN and Minnesota State Parks and Trails' hashtag #JustAddNature.