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Best Spots for Fall Colors in MN Northland

Posted by David

Best Spots for Fall Colors in MN Northland

Cooler nights and shorter days have brought a changing of the seasons. Fall is bursting its way to our neck of the woods at the tip of Lake Superior. That means it’s time to get out, go for a drive, take a hike, and enjoy the most pleasant season in the northwoods. So grab a trusty pack, lace your boots, load up a picnic along with your rambling gear, and get out to enjoy the most colorful season nature has to offer!

Some of our favorite spots to catch fall colors in Northern, MN:

The Frost River Grand Portage and Nessmuk on Bat Lake on a short September BWCA Trip. Photo by Alex Messenger

The BWCAW - The northwoods at its finest! Untrammeled, undeveloped, and pure. A canoe is arguably the best vehicle to explore wilderness’ wonders and fall is a great time to get up to canoe country. Check out our September 48 Hour Field Journal here. Plan a trip, get a wilderness permit, and pick it up at Frost River Trading Co. in Duluth. 

Highway 61 -It’s been designated an “All American Road” for good reason, it’s beautiful! The winding route along Lake Superior’s North Shore from Duluth to Grand Marais (and beyond) offers vistas of the big lake, numerous state parks, scenic rivers, hiking trails, picnic spots, and leaves galore that’ll all be changing color soon. If you're traveling by bike, check out our panniers named after the road. Don’t forget to listen to some Bob Dylan while you're there...


Honeymoon Trail Drive -This drive takes you off the beaten path from Highway 61 and into some of the rolling hills that form the start of the Sawtooth Mountains. Take scenic drives on gravel roads and make a stop at George H. Crosby Manitou State Park for a hike through deep forest, past majestic rivers and waterfalls.

Highway 1 cuts inland from Lake Superior to Ely. This route travels up, over and across the Sawtooth Range as well and is usually one of the first areas of the state to reach peak colors. Take this scenic route on your way from Duluth to Ely for a great sampling of the northland. If traveling by bike, we've got bags named after it to help carry a load.

Highway 13 - This Northern Wisconsin scenic route runs from just south of Superior, east to Bayfield then to Ashland and points south. There are many hardwoods along this route and travel in October is stunning. Plan a stop to pick some Apples from one of the many orchards near Bayfield… or arrange to arrive for Bayfield’s annual Apple Fest on the first weekend of October. 

Jay Cooke State Park - Walk across the swinging bridge over the St. Louis River and marvel at the fall colors, the water and the geology. Hiking, biking, and walking trails, plus camping and interpretive programs available.

There are plenty of great spots to get out and enjoy the fall season right in Duluth. Amity Creek along the Lester Park Ski Trails on the east end of Duluth is a beautiful spot, with water, cliffs and rushing falls. Photo David Hoole

Do Duluth: There are lots of great areas and opportunities right in and around Duluth that are top notch. There are a bunch of great trails right in town for hiking, biking, or driving. The Seven Bridges Road works for all three travel types, plus we’ve got a pack named after it. Check it out and get a little background on the area. The Superior Hiking Trail goes all the way through Duluth and beyond, and provides great vistas near the water, and from the top of the hill. Stop by the Frost River store, we’d be happy to point out some more local favorites.

Hawk Ridge is a great spot to watch migrating birds (raptors especially) as they go around the wide expanse Lake Superior (knowledgable naturalists will help you spot the birds, and often even lend out binoculars). Plus it’s a great vantage point to see fall colors as they contrast with the deep blue of Lake Superior.

The Minnesota DNR does a great job keeping track of the changing leaves. Check out their site to get a forecast of when the change normally happens along with some of the science behind why we are so fortunate each year with stupendous scenery. 

Happy fall travels to you!

A fall color forecast by the MN DNR