Minnesota DNR’s Fall Color Finder

bright red maple leaves in a forest
Maples leaves in their autumn glory

The best online resource we know of to keep tabs on where fall color is peaking in our state is the Minnesota DNR’s Fall Color Finder.

Whether you’re looking for color here in the Twin Cities or statewide, this should be your go-to source for where and when to find the best of autumn’s blaze.

mn dnr fall color map
The Minnesota DNR does a great job keeping us up-to-date on where fall colors are peaking in our state

Minnesota DNR’s Fall Color Finder

You can see in the screenshot above—from yesterday—where color is already at peak (the red splotches), where it’s approaching peak color (orange), and so on. The darkest red is past peak already, but that doesn’t mean the color is necessarily gone—just past it’s most brilliant.

Not only is this map updated daily this time of year, the web page also gives a running list of all the state parks, their level of fall color peak, trail updates and photos sent in by park visitors:

fall color updates
These updates aren’t quite as recent, but come with photos sent in by visitors

Each of the Location names in blue is a live link to that Park’s page where you can see exactly where it is in our state and get more details.

There’s also an option to choose a specific region of the state if you want to key in on just the state parks in that area.

What Influences the Fall Colors?

This page on the DNR’s website gives us a pretty detailed explanation of why  leaves change color in the fall, and when typical color happens in Minnesota.

To sum it up, it has to do with four biochemicals:

  • Chlorophyll—What makes leaves green through spring and summer. This breaks down in the fall, allowing the other colors to start to show up.
  • Carotenoids—These are responsible for the yellows and oranges we see when the greens disappear.
  • Anthocyanins—These produce the reds and purples we love so much.
  • Tannins—Think “boring”! These are the leaves that just turn brown.
autumn leaves surround a paved trail through the woods
The brilliant colors we see in the leaves has to do with chemical processes

The best weather for super fall color is bright, sunny days combined with crisp nights in the 30s-to-mid-40s.

Maples and More

Maples are the most famous of our fall color beauties. Many of our local parks are loaded with maples, so it’s not hard to find a colorful hike of their yellows, oranges and reds. They’re one of the earlier trees to turn.

Aspen and birch leaves turn bright yellow. Those are plentiful around us, too.

Oak leaves aren’t as bright—more rusty oranges and reds. They peak later than the maples, generally.

Did you know there’s a tree here in Minnesota that looks like an evergreen but doesn’t act like one? It turns bright yellow and loses its needles each fall. It’s the tamarack (they call them larch out West).

You can see in the photo below how gorgeous they look next to the dark, rich colors of the true evergreens:

Tamarack needles turn bright gold, making a beautiful contrast with the evergreens

Now…go find those leaves!

Here’s more…

Sharon Brodin