The leaves are beginning to change color here and there around the state, and staff at Minnesota state parks and trails have planned a variety of special programs and events to help visitors feel the “wow” of fall, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Starting Sept. 6, online fall color reports will be updated weekly by staff at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. As in past years, these reports will include percent of color change, peak color projections, flowers and grasses in bloom, and three parks considered “hot picks” of the week. The fall color reports, updated by noon every Thursday, are posted at www.mndnr.gov.

The DNR also offers fall colors “to go” on a mobile website compatible with smart phones and tablets. The mobile fall color reports include percent of color change, integrated with Google maps. To access the mobile site, scan the QR code at http://mndnr.gov/mobile or visit http://mndnr.gov/mobile/fall_colors and bookmark the site on a smart phone or other mobile device.

Colors typically peak between mid-September and early October in the northern third of Minnesota, between late September and early October in the central third, and between late September and mid-October in the southern third (which includes the Twin Cities).

“The fall colors are arriving right on schedule in northern Minnesota, and they’re making their way south,” said Jana Albers, forest health specialist for the DNR’s Forestry Division. “We had a decent amount of rain in August across much of the state, and if the sunshine and cool nights continue in September, that’s the ideal recipe for fall color. There are already splashes of color wherever you go, and it’s only going to get better in the weeks to come.”

Many family-oriented Minnesota programs and special events will take place at Minnesota state parks and trails and other public lands to coincide with peak color projections in their area. There will be guided hikes, bike rides and ATV rides, geocaching and canoeing programs, and scavenger hunts and harvest festivals.

Central Minnesota (including the Twin Cities metro area)

  • Saturday, Sept. 22, and Tuesdays, Oct. 2 and Oct. 16: Naturalist-led bike rides from 10 a.m. to noon on the Gateway State Trail in St. Paul.
  • Saturday, Sept. 22, and Sunday, Sept. 23: “Million Shades of Autumn” geocaching weekend, with activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days at William O’Brien State Park in Marine on St. Croix.
  • Sunday, Sept. 30: Fall Colors Photo Scavenger Hunt from 2 to 3 p.m. at Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls.
  • Saturday, Oct. 13: Naturalist-led Fall Colors Walk from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Afton State Park in Hastings.

Northwestern Minnesota

  • Saturday, Sept. 22: Guided ATV ride through the fall colors of Beltrami Island State Forest (reservations required).
  • Saturday, Sept. 29: 25th annual Ozawindib Walk at 1:30 p.m. and Harvest Festival with lantern-lit hikes, music and children’s activities from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Itasca State Park in Park Rapids.
  • Sept. 29-30 and Oct. 1-2: Leaf Days, an annual celebration of fall color with special programs, demonstrations, food and more at Maplewood State Park in Pelican Rapids.

Northeastern Minnesota

  • Saturday, Sept. 29: Fall Colors Geocaching 101 from 2 to 3 p.m. at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Two Harbors.
  • Saturday, Sept. 29: Autumn ATV Ride and Picnic Lunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Moose Walk/Moose Run ATV Trail near Tettegouche State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior (reservations required).

Southern Minnesota

  • Saturday, Sept. 22: Guided 10-mile canoe trip on the Minnesota River from 1 to about 4 p.m. at Minneopa State Park (reservations required).
  • Saturday, Oct. 13, and Sunday, Oct. 14: Naturalist-led fall color walks from 2 to 2:30 p.m. at Sibley State Park in New London.

For more information about these and many other free programs and special events, visit the online calendar at www.mndnr.gov or call the DNR Information Center at 651-259-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Information Center can also provide fall color updates to those without access to the DNR website.

A vehicle permit is required for entrance to Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. Can’t decide between a one-day or year-round permit? The DNR offers a deal: Park visitors can start with a one-day permit for $5 and visit as many state parks as they choose. Then, if they like, they can trade in the one-day permit before the end of the day and get $5 off a year-round permit. Year-round permits, $25, provide unlimited access to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for a full year from the month of purchase.

After returning from a trip to a Minnesota state park, people are encouraged by the DNR to upload fall color photos to the DNR’s fall color website.

Logo courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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