Leaf-Peeping – Fall Color Drives

Leaf-Peeping – Fall Color Drives

Talk about “living color.” Autumn in Cook County presents a palette unseen anywhere else. To take it all in, you’ll need all five senses—and then some.

We’ve selected our Top 8 Fall Color Drives in Cook County MN.

Open the maps in Google Maps for step-by-step directions or contact our information center for printed copies of our fall color tours

Discover the typical best time for Fall Colors here. Get an update report on the status of the fall colors in the Superior National Forest here!


1.) Scenic Highway 61 from Duluth to Grand Portage State Park 

One of the most scenic stretches of highway in the entire USA. Make sure to stop to explore at least one of the Minnesota State Parks on the drive.

Best time to drive: mid September – end of October.

Most known for: Maple laden Sawtooth Mountain peaks flanked by Lake Superior.

2.) Grand Marais to the end of the Gunflint Trail (Saganaga Lake) 

Not just for summer trips into the BWCAW. Best known for optimum access into the Boundary Waters, the Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway begins in Grand Marais and winds 57 paved wilderness miles northwest near the border of Canada.

Best time to drive: mid September – mid October.

Most known for: Mixed forest with a healthy smattering of tamaracks, aspen, birch, and deciduous undergrowth.

3.) Honeymoon Loop  (Route 1 on Fall Color map| Lutsen/Tofte

Get off the beaten path and explore the region beyond the pavement. The aptly named Honeymoon Trail is full of such wonder and beauty, you’ll feel like you are on a second honeymoon. 

Best time to drive: mid September – early October.

Most known for: Maple lover paradise. Set in the midst of a spectacular sugar bush (don’t forget to stock up on locally made maple syrup by swinging through one of the sugar shacks for a tour)

4.) Richey Lake Loop | Tofte/Schroeder/Finland 

Probably the most maple laden loop of them all. You start by driving through the Temperance River State Park (make sure to get out and stretch the legs here) and continue for miles on the backroads.

Best time to drive: mid September – early October.

Most known for: Through the thick maple trees and backcountry roads you’ll see both the headwaters of the Temperance River as well as the falls that crash into Lake Superior.

5.) County Road 60  (Route 3 on Fall Color map) | Grand Marais

One drive through the maple tunnel and you’ll understand why this route makes our list. Don’t forget to stop and visit the local dairy farm not only for an incredible Lake Superior view but also for farm fresh milk and other treats.

Best time to drive: mid September – early October.

6.) Alternate County Road 60 & Bogus Lake Road | Grand Marais/Gunflint Trail

Extend your adventure from #5 by driving deeper into the forest and getting a taste of the lower Gunflint Trail region.

Best time to drive: mid September – early October.

7.) Arrowhead Trail Loop (Route 4 on Fall Color map) | Hovland

Take an adventure into the backcountry region of Hovland. Lots of side roads to explore and an abundance of wildlife.

Best time to drive: late September – October.

8.) Rengo Road Loop | Hovland & Grand Portage

Dramatic elevation changes, true off road adventure, spectacular foliage make this drive truly unique.

Best time to drive: late September – October.


Check the Minnesota DNR Fall Color Reports for the latest on the changing leaves. After looking your fill, remember to check out other autumn marvels, too, like Moose Madness Family Festival and Lake Superior gales.

Here are six ways to soak up Minnesota’s best fall colors:

2012 Fall Colors Map_SP