Autumn starting to show its true colors around Minnesota

Leaves begin to show fall colors.
Fall colors along the Mississippi River in St. Paul in 2021.
Ron Trenda | MPR News file

While we’re moving farther into the autumn season, September is still staying a bit steamy. Strong chances of rain over the weekend might dampen your chances to check out early fall colors, but most of the precipitation is expected in northeastern Minnesota.

A map showing most areas four regions with 10-25% fall colors
The best places to find fall colors for the weekend of Sept. 16 in Minnesota are in the northwest, west-central and south-central regions of the state
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Fortunately, the latest fall colors map from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources suggests your best chances at spotting the seasonal shift will be in the northwest, central south and western border near South Dakota near the Minnesota River.

Here are a few state park suggestions from the DNR to enjoy this weekend.

Northwestern Minnesota

Lake Bronson State Park

There’s still plenty of green, but the yellows and reds that show the start of the season are starting to appear at Lake Bronson State Park. Take a nice drive through the park or walk along any of the trails.

Old Mill State Park

Take a drive into the park or walk along the trails — especially around the Agassiz Trail Loop, to start spotting the signs of greens changing to yellows, oranges and reds. Old Mill State Park provides trails that are an easy jaunt into both the woods and the prairie, and don’t forget the Middle River, a gathering spot for wildlife and flora.

Hayes Lake State Park

Hike around Hayes Lake on the park’s nature trail along the lake’s northern edge. You should be able to spot fall colors along the lake, as well as plenty of wildlife.

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Central Minnesota-South Dakota border

Big Stone Lake State Park

The fall colors are starting to progress through both trees and grasses. So this is the chance to check out everything Big Stone Lake State Park has to offer. The state is part of the Minnesota River Country Landscape Region, which extends almost 200 miles from Ortonville to Mankato. The park has two areas: Meadowbrook with a campground, and Bonanza with a hiking club trail. Both areas have day-use facilities and a boat launch.

Central and southern Minnesota

Fort Ridgely State Park

The only leaves starting to change at Fort Ridgely are the early sumac, but goldenrod, aster, hyssop, coneflower, snakeroot and sunflower are starting to bloom!

Flandrau State Park

Most trees and grasses will still be fairly green, but some of the trees are starting to shift to yellow. Hike the Cottonwood trail to look out over the Cottonwood River. And there’s a new nature playground at the park.

Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area

Fall flowers are beginning to show and waterfowl are abundant as they prepare to migrate south. Sumac leaves are starting to turn red, so take a walk along the River Trail to try to catch the beginning of the color shift.

Myre-Big Island State Park

Go south on County Road 38. Take it as far as it goes — about 1 1/2 miles — to Big Island. Have a nice picnic at our spacious picnic grounds. On your way off of Big Island, look left and right to see varying shades of green along the lakeshore of Albert Lea Lake. For the budding birders, you might even catch a glimpse of herons, egrets, pelicans and more.