Friday, September 16, 2005

With the first few color variations of maple and birch in northern Minnesota, Autumn has officially arrived. In celebration of this perennial phenomenon, I share with you "peak color information" for the Autumn season within the state of Minnesota. Check out these eight sample scenic and colorful byways.

And for those of you in the Great Lakes Region, check out for the changing colors in your area by clicking on AMAZING AUTUMN.

North Shore Of Lake Superior
Route: Hwy. 61, Duluth to Grand Portage
Peak color: mid-Sept. to early Oct.

Great color and lake views, very popular with fall color fans. Several state parks with wilderness rivers, waterfalls, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks. Yellow aspen and birch along shoreline, with scarlet maples inland along forest roads. Make sure you have a reservation for a place to stay, and try planning midweek trips to avoid the busiest travel periods. Designated nationally as an "All American Drive" for its outstanding scenery.

Edge Of The Wilderness
Route: Hwy. 38, Grand Rapids to Bigfork
Peak color: mid-Sept. to early Oct.

Designated as a National Scenic Byway, this beautiful road winds over rolling hills through the colorful mix of pine and hardwoods of Chippewa National Forest. Return via Co. Rd. 7, with a side trip to Scenic State Park. Or take one of the back roads through the forest, with stops at lakes and hiking trails.

Otter Tail County
Route: Hwys. 108 & 78, and numerous county roads
Peak color: late Sept. to early Oct.

The rolling countryside between Fergus Falls and Perham is a blend of wooded hills, lakes, and farmland. Highlights are Maplewood and Glendalaugh state parks, historic Phelps Mill, and the view from Inspiration Peak, off Co. Rd. 38.

Brainerd Lakes
Route: Hwys. 371 and 6, and the county roads between them
Peak color: late Sept. to early Oct.

Gull, Pelican and Cross lakes and the Whitefish Chain of Lakes sparkle amid woods of maple, oak, birch and aspen, for a pretty fall color scene. Fishing, boating, golfing and biking the Paul Bunyan Trail are favorite activities in this lake country.

St. Croix Valley
Route: Hwy. 95 from Taylors Falls to Afton
Peak color: late Sept. to mid-Oct.

Scenic St. Croix winds through wooded hillsides and sheer cliffs. Four state parks feature great river views: Interstate, Wild River, William O'Brien and Afton. Charming towns of Stillwater, Taylors Falls and Afton have numerous antique and gift shops. Boat excursions feature great fall color. This drive is very popular in the fall; consider a midweek visit to avoid weekend traffic.

Twin Cities
Route: Parkways around Minneapolis lakes, along Minnehaha Creek, Mississippi and Summit Ave.*
Peak color: late Sept. to mid-Oct.

Few major cities can boast such beautiful drives, especially pretty in the fall. Circle Lake of the Isles, Calhoun, Harriet and Nokomis lakes, and visit Minnehaha Falls. They're all along the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway. The Lake Street bridge has a view of the Mississippi bordered by colorful, wooded hillsides. St. Paul's tree-lined Summit Avenue is bordered by stately homes.

Mississippi River Valley
Route: Hwy. 61 between Red Wing and LaCrescent
Peak color: Mid-Oct.

Charming rivertowns and wooded bluffs along the Mississippi. Steep hillsides dressed in brilliant autumn hues of red, russet and gold. Several scenic overlooks, including those at Frontenac and Great River Bluffs state parks. Several roadside apple stands. This is a popular fall drive, so book your stay ahead of time. Part of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway.

Minnesota River
Route: Co. Rd. 6 & Hwy. 93 from Belle Plaine to LeSueur, then Hwy. 169 to Mankato, then Hwy. 68 to New Ulm
Peak color: late Sept. to mid-Oct.

Follows the bend in the river, and the ribbon of yellow and gold hardwoods that borders its waters. Riverside parks in LeSueur, St. Peter, Mankato, and New Ulm, blufftop overlooks in New Ulm and a waterfall at Minneopa State Park. Part of Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway, a National Scenic Byway.

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