With 59 state forests that cover 4.2 million acres, Minnesota state forests are a great place to view fall color, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“Forests with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees offer a wonderful fall color experience,” said Jennifer Teegarden, DNR forestry outreach specialist. “The dark green needles of conifers accent the yellow, orange and red leaves of deciduous trees.”
Here are a few routes to consider, with average dates listed for peak color viewing. This fall, however, trees have been changing colors at least one week later than normal.
Bear Island State Forest loop: From Ely head south on state Highway 1 toward Isabella for about 20 miles. Take a right on New Tomahawk Road toward Babbitt for about 17 miles. Turn right on County Road 21 for 15 miles back to Ely.
Kabetogama State Forest loop: From Orr head north on state Highway 53 for 4 miles. Turn right on County Road 180 to head east for 16 miles. Turn right on Forest Road 203 to head east for about 4.5 miles. Turn right on Vermillion Falls road to head east for 8 miles. Turn right on County Road 24/23 and follow to Orr for 26 miles.
White Earth State Forest: Starting at Roy Lake head east on state Highway 200 for 1.5 miles. Turn right on Strawberry Mountain Road to head south for 5 miles. At Norris Trail turn left to head east for 3 miles. Turn left on Height of Land Road to head north back to Highway 200. For a longer loop follow Strawberry Mountain road to state Highway 113. Turn right on state Highway 113 to head east. Turn left on Height of Land Road to head north back to Highway 200.
St. Croix State Forest along County Road 25 south of Duxbury to the Mallard Lake Forest Road.
Early to mid-October
St. Croix and Nemadji state forests loop: From I35, take Hinckley exit #183 and head east on State Highway 48 for 19 miles. Turn left to head north on County Road 24 and follow as it curves east and north for 7 miles. Turn right on County Road 25 to head east for 9.5 miles. At Markville, head north on County Road 31 for about 12 miles. Turn left on Park Forest Road/Park Truck Trail to head west for 13 miles. Turn right on County Road 171 to head north for 2 miles. Turn left onto County Road 154/Kerrick Road to head west for 5 miles. At Kerrick, head south on state Highway 23 for 18 miles to I35 exit #195.
Rum River State Forest: along Rum River State Forest Road off of Highway 20 or Apple Street south between Kanabec County Road 56 and Mille Lacs 220th St.
Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest loop: From downtown Red Wing head south on Highway 61 for 10.5 miles. At Frontenac take a right onto Country 2 to head east for 9 miles. Take a right onto County Road 3 to head east for 4 miles. Take a right onto state Highway 58 to head north for 1.5 miles. Take a left onto Hay Creek Trail to head north for about 4.5 miles. Hey Creek Trail turns into Twin Bluff Road at Pioneer Trail. Continue on Twin Bluff Road for 1.5 miles and turn left on East Ave to return to downtown Red Wing.
Visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_forests/fall-colors.html for additional scenic routes and state forest information. Entrance into a state forest is free. State forest campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis for $14 a night.
Visit the Minnesota state parks and trails Fall Color Finder at www.mndnr.gov/fall_colors to find areas in Minnesota with peak fall color. The Fall Color Finder is updated every Thursday through the end of October.