Autumn Foliage: Best Places to See Fall Leaves in Northwest Minnesota
September 16, 2016
Autumn is an amazing time in the Northwest Minnesota area: Bemidji, Blackduck, and Cass Lake. The air becomes crisp, fallen leaves rustle underfoot, and the lakes grow serene under a trinity of color set against the clear, blue sky. This is the time to plan that get-away and enjoy the glimpse of color before the land is covered in a blanket of snow. Just sit back and relax on the deck of a cozy cabin or enjoy the view of brilliant colors from one of the recommended spots on this post.
1. Lake Bemidji State Park Bog Walk
If you’re not an avid hiker or your little ones aren’t too keen on a long hike through the woods, this breezy 1.25 mile trail is perfect for you. While the "Bog Walk" is popular during the summer for exotic pitcher plants, insect-eating sundews, and Lady’s Slipper orchids, the cooler season reveals another facet of this untouched ecosystem. After walking through the glowing gold of tamarack needles amid the blazing red of maple, relax on a bench facing the peaceful Big Bog Lake.
2. Itasca State Park
Itasca State Park, being one of the most visited state park in the country, boasts a harmony of every fall color there ever was. Most common are the brilliant red of sugar maple and lemony-green of basswood. Close to the prairie edge are the deep maroon of oak and radiating gold of aspen. And of course there’s the amber glow of tamarack, one of the few deciduous conifer that sheds its needles every year. The evergreen backdrop of Norway and white pine accentuates the fall colors even more. Enrich your experience by participating in one of Itasca’s Naturalist programs, such as the Lantern lit hike, or Music under the pines.
3. Buena Vista Forest
Buena Vista State Forest, best known for its snowmobile trail and ski hill, is a hidden gem for fall foliage. Aspen and northern hardwoods cover much of the forest, while black spruce, tamarack, and cedar grow on the wetter sites. Buena Vista Ski Area, a ski resort on the edge of the state forest, celebrates the changing season at the Fall Color Festival with food, live music, traditional crafts, and covered horse wagon rides. Be mindful that the state forest is a popular hunting area, so dress in blaze orange and stick to the trail. Be sure to avoid making wild animal sounds and movements.
4. Heartland State Trail
The 49 mile trail connects Cass Lake and Park Rapids, alongside an abandoned railroad. The paved 20 mile segment from Walker to Cass Lake offers lots of great fall color and lakes along the trail. Keep an eye out for surprise appearances by diverse wildlife surrounding the trails. Common mammals include whitetail deer, red fox, porcupine, and beaver. Many varieties of birds can be seen along the trail including the bald eagle, which has a large population in the Chippewa National Forest. If you’re not traveling with a bike, rent at one of the three Nice Ride Bemidji locations.
5. Lady Slipper Scenic Byway
An autumn drive along the scenic byway is magical. The glimmering gold of aspen and symphony of red, orange and yellow of the maples, interspersed with lush evergreens is an unforgettable experience. Just a short drive from all resorts of Minnesota Northwoods, the byway is a 28-mile drive that follows County Road 39 between the small towns of Blackduck and Cass Lake. Roll down your window, sit back and enjoy the grand sight that plays before your eyes while the crisp breeze sweeps the stress away from you.
6. Resort on a Lake
Fall color is best viewed from the water on board a boat, pontoon or canoe. There is no better way to melt away the stress of everyday life than by lazily floating along on a peaceful lake. All our resorts are located on a beautiful Minnesota lake and offer affordable boat rentals for guests. Lay on a kayak and watch the bald eagle soar across the sky, or catch walleyes which bite better during the fall. If you’re traveling with your family, or a group of good ol’ friends, take a pontoon out on the lake and enjoy the golden sunset that brings surrounding fall colors to life.
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