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Top 5 Drives in the Northland to See the Fall Colors

Fall is by far my favorite season.  School finally starts, the weather cools down to sweatshirt weather, the Vikings start regular season football, and the smell of cinnamon and apples and pumpkin fill me with joy.  I love walks on fall evenings when your feet kick the dry leaves and the wind blows just enough to remind you it’s there.  Fall is the time of year when the most beautiful colors nature has to offer come to life, if only for a brief period of time.  I’m not sure when I first realized that I was a fall lover, but I know it goes back to when I was a kid.  I still lived in the cities, and we had plenty of trees surrounding us.  However, we had to travel to really get the full “Leaf Changing Experience.”  My favorite uncle Tom, who passed away in 1994, loved fall, and loved the fall colors.   One of his favorite things to do each September was take a drive up the North Shore. 

I know many Northlanders aren’t ready for summer to be over.  But when we dread the inevitable (winter) so often it can make us bitter, and we forget to enjoy the best of the four seasons before it’s all over.  To help you get in the right mood, I present my Top 5 Drives in the Northland to see the Fall Colors.  Now I know it may seem a little premature, but if we go into the autumn season unprepared, we’ll miss it! According to

Maples, birch and aspen/poplars are hinting their annual color change. Generally colors are best for maple and oak from the middle of September into early October. Colors for birch and poplar / aspen are last two weeks of September into mid October. Tamarack changes to lemon yellow at the end of September into early October.


Jay Cooke State Park

Carlton, Minnesota



From the “Rootbeer Falls” and the somewhat scary suspension bridge, to the beautifully kept campground and picnic area, Jay Cooke State Park is one of my favorite places to go with the kids to do some (easy) hiking. If you take the route from Fond Du Lac to 210, it is one of the most beautiful drives in the fall. If you’re planning to do the drive solo, I recommend you find a designated driver. Once you catch sight of the St. Louis River atop the bluffs, you may have trouble keeping your eyes on the road!

Photo by Rick
Photo by Rick


Highway 53/169

Duluth, Minnesota to Ely, Minnesota



One of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever made was the day after my husband and I were married. It was October 3, 2009 and we were headed north to spend a week on Lake Vermillion.

Photo by Deb Knecht
Photo by Deb Knecht


Pattison State Park

Superior, Wisconsin



There are so many cool things about Pattison State Park that we may not even take advantage of! Did you know that Pattison State Park features the highest waterfalls in Wisconsin and the fourth highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains? Big Manitou Falls is 165 feet high.  Take a hike through the 1,436-acre park to see some of the beautiful fall foliage!

Photo by Shell Foeckler, Superior Images
Photo by Shell Foeckler, Superior Images


Superior National Forest Scenic Byway

Aurora, MN to Silver Bay, MN



The area between the Range and the North Shore has some of the most beautiful fall colors you’ll be able to check out during peak season. This photo was taken in Schroeder, Minnesota, by Ken Gill of Some of the most beautiful reds are popping like crazy!

Photo by
Photo by


Highway 61-The North Shore

Duluth, Minnesota to Grand Portage, Minnesota



There are so many reasons why the drive up Scenic Hwy 61 up the North Shore is one of my favorites-especially in the fall. It has been designated as an “All American Drive,” one of only 15 routes in the country so noted for their outstanding scenery!  You can stop off at any of the many State Parks and scenic overlooks, see the waterfalls and hike the trails.  If you’re looking for fall colors, make sure this trip is on your list!

Photo by
Photo by

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