There is a sense of anticipation at this time of year in the forests and prairies all across Minnesota, especially at Maplewood State Park in Pelican Rapids. Each autumn, thousands of visitors tour the park to take in the spectacular colors offered by the diversity of its hardwood tree species, especially sugar maples, and its prairie grasses.

“This year the fall colors are bursting out earlier than usual,” said Don Del Greco, Maplewood State Park manager. “The exceptionally warm and dry late summer will likely push the fall color season ahead one to two weeks.”

Established in 1963 and nestled between two biomes that provide a unique and spectacular blend of fall color in northwestern Otter Tail County, this 9,200-acre state park has a long tradition of welcoming fall “leaf- lookers.” At this time of year, the vibrant and lush greens of summer forests and prairies transform to the colorful and splendid palette of the reds, yellows and oranges of autumn.

“The fall color season is well underway with trees turning quickly, and there are some particularly vibrant reds and scarlet maple leaf colors this year,” said Del Greco. “The best overall color is expected during the last two weeks of September.”

The park is located on a series of high tree-covered hills with striking vistas of small, clear lakes nestled in deep valleys. It is known for its hardwood trees, including sugar maple, basswood and oak, which provide a stunning display of fall colors. Red cedar and tamarack are also found in the park. Spring through fall, wildflower lovers will find colorful displays of blooming flowers and grasses of both the prairies and forests with the vibrant reds yellows and oranges of the maple-basswood forest and the delightful golds and purples of the prairie.

The Friends of Maplewood State Park celebrate the autumn season each year with “Leaf Days” on the last weekend of September and the first weekend of October. Highlights of Leaf Days include food, wagon tours, classes on geocaching, a digital camera scavenger hunt, guided trail hikes, painting Maplewood landscapes with chalk pastels, and various demonstrations and presentations.

With 25 miles of hiking trails, the park offers many places to experience fall colors. One of the most popular leaf hikes is the climb up Hallaway Hill for a panoramic view of the area. Another visitor favorite is the 4.5-mile scenic park drive. Along the way, visitors can observe some of the park’s 150 bird species and 50 mammal species, along with a variety of wildflowers and prairie grasses.

“This is a great opportunity for park visitors to explore the many natural resources of Maplewood State Park during the colorful and wonder-filled autumn season,” Del Greco said.

For more information what there is to see and do at Maplewood State Park, call 218-863-8383 or visit and take a virtual tour.

Logo courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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