Red (leaf) alert! Fall colors already peaking in northern Minn. after recent freezes

Fall colors in Duluth
Leaves across Minnesota, including in Duluth (pictured here Tuesday), are changing color very quickly this year. Recent freezes up north have “kick-started” peak color, says the DNR.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

We don’t want to alarm you but if you’re in the mood for some fall colors, “you probably want to head out as soon as possible,” says the Department of Natural Resources’ Rachel Hopper.

That's because this year’s explosive color progression is ahead of schedule. Typically at this time of year, the state has not yet reached peak color, according to maps from the past two years. Just last week, only a few patches across the state had reached 50-75 percent color compared to the now color-drenched northern border.

But cold weather is spurring the quick transformation.

“We had several freezes up in the northern portion of the state last week and that really kick-started peak color,” says Hopper, the DNR’s visitor services and outreach manager.

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Below are a few spots in Minnesota showing off striking peak color this weekend. 

A fall color map of Minnesota.
Where to go to find the best fall colors this weekend.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park, Soudan

“There are beautiful colors at the overlook, which is located right by the visitor center,” Hopper says. “Ash and maple are in full peak and the aspen have really started to display their colors as well.”

The DNR also recommends Lake Vermillion Park Drive or a drive between Lake Vermillion and Bear Head State Park, which is about 30 minutes, for a picturesque presentation of peak color. 

Savanna Portage State Park, McGregor

Check out Lake Shumway’s fishing pier, Loon Lake’s swimming beach or the Savanna Portage Trail to enjoy a woodland fall fantasy. 

The DNR says that many of the trees have already begun dropping leaves. You know what that means — hurry!

William O'Brien State Park, Marine on St. Croix

If you’re not able to make it north, the DNR recommends a day trip to William O’Brien State Park. Located about an hour from the Twin Cities, the park’s most popular destination is the Riverside Trail, which borders the St. Croix River and Lake Alice. 

“As you walk along Lake Alice, the backside of the lake is starting to show beautiful color!” according to the DNR. 

Oh, and keep a lookout — the DNR says river otters, beavers and other animals can be seen along the way.