Fall is one of the most captivating seasons on the North Shore and Gunflint Trail. Our deep green forests transform into brilliant fields of red, orange and yellow over the course of a few short weeks. Whether your fall color viewing plan is to go for a hike, bike or a scenic fall color drive - we're here to help guide you toward the best activities.
How to track the fall colors on the North Shore and Gunflint Trail
The MN DNR does a great job of updating their Minnesota Fall Color Map on a regular basis to make planning peak viewing a little easier. Of course, nature does have a mind of her own and can change at any time. Our recommendation is to make a plan but be prepared for things to change.
Generally speaking, "Peak Fall Color" is when both the treetop canopy and the ground below are at their brightest. That typically occurs the last two weekends in September thru the first weekend in October. However, fall color continues to be stunning in different types of forests at different times. The Gunflint Trail's peak fall color sometimes doesn't occur until October and there are pockets of tamaracks on the back roads that do not peak until late October.
Of course, you could always check out our local webcams for a current view. In particular, the 360 degree panoramic web camera at Lutsen Mountains is something to tune into daily.
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Tracking Fall Color in Cook County MN
We want to keep you up to date with what is happening locally this autumn. Each week, we'll post a new image of what is happening right now in Cook County. To see more frequent updates, please follow our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram channels. You'll find additional content from us as well as reposts and stories sharing more and more of this great place with you virtually. Use #donorthmn to join the conversation.
Labor Day Weekend - September 3, 2022
What will the fall color season bring this year? It is really hard to tell. Our wet spring may help increase the vibrancy of the fall colors, but there are a lot of variables at play. Click here to learn more about the science of fall colors from the US Forest Service. It is too soon to tell what our fall color season is going to look like but one thing we do know is: sweater weather has arrived, fall colors are imminent and there are plenty of lodging opportunities to be found.
Pockets of red and yellow are starting and the lush summer green is waning. The first frost of the season should be arriving soon and that means it won’t be long until the sea of color erupts!
North Shore Fall Color Update
Late September - Autumn Equinox
It's starting to get very vibrant in the forest! The tops of the maple trees are a mix of red, orange, and yellow with still a few little pockets of green yet to turn. The under story is still pretty green and the birch and aspen have not really started yet.
End of September
The tops of the maple trees peaked over the weekend. The color below the canopy has really started to explode giving a real rainbow effect when walking on a trail. Birch and aspen are now starting to turn along highway 61 and inland up the Gunflint Trail. More fall color excitement to continue throughout the first week of October!
The birch and aspen really just started to pop and the maple trees are still going strong.
The first snow of the season has arrived and if you thought fall colors were beautiful, add a layer of snow and wow, it gets even prettier!
Can you see fall colors from space?
Apparently YES! Below are two photos taken one year apart on the autumnal equinox demonstrating the difference between years.
Don't forget about the Gunflint Trail!
Many think of the north shore communities as being the top spots for viewing the fall colors. However, it would be a shame to overlook the Gunflint Trail. For over a decade, the fall colors on the Gunflint were minimal due to the Ham Lake fire. The forest was mainly spruce and pine trees with few deciduous trees like maples, birch and aspen. Now, after years of regrowth and forest evolution, variety has regrown and sprung up all around the Gunflint Trail. Treat yourself to a drive on the 57-mile Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway - who knows, maybe you'll even spot a Moose too!