Fall Color Report in Cook County

Fall Color Report on the North Shore and Gunflint Trail | 2023 | Updated weekly

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.

Fall Color Finder Report from MN DNRGenerally 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.  

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 FacebookTwitterYouTube, 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. 

Estimated Peak Fall Color Map from MN DNR

Labor Day Weekend 

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!

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!


Everything that glitters is gold! From the beginning of October through mid-month, the birch, aspen, poplar, and tamarack trees go from green to brilliant gold. These sunny little pockets of yellow stand in stark contract to the evergreens that surround them making for an incredible scene to behold. 

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. 

Fall 2020 - LakeSuperior - Space Angle from Coast Watch GLERL.Noaa
Fall 2020 Lake Superior - Space Angle from Coast Watch GLERL.Noaa
Fall 2021 - LakeSuperior - Space Angle from Coast Watch GLERL.Noaa
Fall 2021 Lake Superior - Space Angle from Coast Watch GLERL.Noaa

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!