The Best Time and Places to See Fall Colors in Minnesota

These areas offer prime viewing of colorful autumn foliage

Road Amidst Trees Against Sky During Autumn
••• Dan Thornberg / EyeEm / Getty Images

Minnesota is known for its beautiful autumn, with mild days, clear skies and sunshine and some of the most gorgeous and vibrant fall colors in the nation.

The state is nationally recognized as a place where trees are respected and cared for — the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul both have Tree City USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation. And they are not alone. Minnesota has 96 other cities also recognized as Tree Cities USA.

If you're visiting Minnesota in the autumn, here are some resources on when to expect the best fall colors and prime places to them.

When Is the Best Time to See Fall Colors?

The exact time for fall color depends on the weather and location in Minnesota. In the Minneapolis–St. Paul area, the leaves usually begin to change color in mid- to late-September. The peak of the fall color is usually around the first and second week in October. The colors last another week or two past that, and then the leaves begin to fall signaling the upcoming winter.

In Northern Minnesota, such as Duluth, Ely, the North Shore and Grand Marais, the fall color season begins earlier, sometimes as soon as Labor Day. The peak of fall color is usually during the end of September and the first week of October. By mid-October, the leaves begin falling and winter starts to set in.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has an excellent fall color status map, covering the whole of the state, plus the most recent photographs from Minnesota's state parks.

Where Are the Best Places to See Fall Colors?

Many of the state's Tree Cities USA are in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. If you're flying into Minneapolis–St. Paul, you don't even need to leave the city to see fall colors. Here are some great suggestions to see fall color in the Twin Cities.

If you have access to a car, this is a perfect time of year to get out of the city and take a drive in the countryside.

There are many places to visit, especially in the St. Croix Valley and Bluff Country, with gorgeous river views and many autumn colors to appreciate. Check out these day trips from the Twin Cities.

Another day trip idea is to visit an apple orchard or a pumpkin patch. Many can be found within an hour's drive from Minneapolis–St. Paul.

For a long weekend, a trip north is the classic fall color destination. The North Shore is gorgeous but usually busy. Ely, Grand Marais, and other northern Minnesota destinations are great choices, too.