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.
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:
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.
(NOTE: All 7 state parks the DNR includes in the Twin Cities Metro are currently at 50-75% peak…we still have time to get out there!)
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 the leaves green through spring and summer. This breaks down in the fall, allowing the other colors to start showing up.
- Carotenoids—These are responsible for the yellows and oranges that emerge 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.
The best weather for super fall color is bright, sunny days combined with crisp nights in the 30s-to-mid-40s.
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, a form of larch.
You can see in the photo below how gorgeous they look next to the dark, rich colors of the true evergreens:
Now…go find those leaves!