Fall colors are about to have their ultimate moment. The season of the classic road trip to view the foliage meets the year of road trips, widely embraced as safer than flying since COVID-19 burst into our lives.
This autumn, spending a day behind the wheel seems not so much a nod to the coronavirus pandemic as a pleasant pastime. It feels downright normal in our not-so-normal world, even if we practice social distancing, stock the car with disinfecting wipes and bring our own food. Plus, the travel trends of the year — driving to your destination, spending time outdoors, staying closer to home — suit the season. So bring on the colors.
Minnesota is blessed with practically countless routes through forests of reds and yellows. Here are a few options for catching the fleeting beauty. Each is sure to brighten your day.
With the Sawtooth Mountains on one side and Lake Superior on the other, the North Shore may be Minnesota’s top spot when trees take on their autumnal hues. The Federal Highway Administration has designated Hwy. 61 along our greatest lake as an All American Road. State parks such as Tettegouche and Gooseberry Falls, with hiking trails and waterfalls, line the roadway. Find yellow aspen and birch along the shoreline and red maples inland. According to the Minnesota DNR, the best time to see fall color in the region is mid-September to early October. The photos on this page, meant to inspire a drive anywhere, were taken along the North Shore.
In the Twin Cities (projected to peak late September to mid-October), head to one of the parks of the Three Rivers Park District. In Bloomington, the winding Bush Lake Road cuts through oak forest and runs beside Bush Lake. It also leads to various stops that make up the Hyland Lake Park Reserve, including the Hyland Hills Ski Area, the Richardson Nature Center and the Hyland Visitor Center. All have trails through prairie landscapes or woods.
If you like apple stands to accent your fall color drive, consider the Apple Blossom Scenic Byway, expected to peak in late September through mid-October. The route rolls through farmland and the bluff country of the Mississippi River Valley, just inland from the Mississippi River (the route links on both ends to the Great River Road, Hwy. 61). Stretch your legs at Great Bluffs State Park, overlooking the river.
Here are some resources to enjoy your fall leaf-peeping trip.