Red means go: Fall colors on the march in northern Minnesota

A map with different colors over the state of Minnesota
This map provided by the Department of Natural Resources shows where fall colors are popping in Minnesota.
Courtesy of DNR

Time to buckle in and get out.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Friday fall color map shows a chunk of northeastern Minnesota rushing into maximum beauty while vast stretches of the North Woods are more than halfway to peak.

If you can't get north, there's a chunk around Albert Lea on the Iowa border at Myre-Big Island State Park that's ahead of most of southern Minnesota in the color race.

Not much of a hiker? The DNR has a list of top state forest drives where the colors are cooking this weekend.

“This fall’s overall color display should be vivid and travel-worthy,” DNR forest health program consultant Val Cervenka said in a statement. “Minnesota has had one of the wettest years on record since 1871, so our fall color should be impressive.”

Below are a few places where the leaves are running hot right now, with descriptions and suggestions supplied by the DNR. Of course, always keep the weather in mind. Temperatures in northern Minnesota are cooling quickly.

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Bear Head Lake State Park, near Ely

Approaching peak color. The forest floor is speckled with small bursts of color, including yellow goldenrod, crimson sumac, khaki ferns, and burgundy blackberry foliage.

As you walk the trails, you may notice white flashes from Northern Flickers flushing from their ground foraging spots. Try the Norberg Lake Loop, which goes through several huge pine stands and past overlooks of Bear Head and Norberg Lakes.

A bull moose was spotted by a guest in the park. The ranger saw two gray wolves on the park road Sept. 21

Big Bog State Recreation Area, Waskish

A variety of colors are emerging around Upper Red Lake and the Tamarac River.

Climb the fire tower for a spectacular view of the shoreline along Upper Red Lake and the Big Bog. The mushrooms are magnificent along the boardwalk this year.

Lake Bemidji State Park, Bemidji

A big shift in the past week has suddenly brought a lot more yellow in the park, and the maples along the road are growing more orange and red.

With different plants, the bog looks different from the rest of the park through the fall season too. Some tamaracks are starting to show a tinge of gold. Understory plants, like Virginia creeper, are turning red already. Fall flowers, like asters and pearly everlasting, are everywhere.

Take a stroll along the bike trail to find many types of mushrooms.