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Race against the fall color clock: Over half of Minnesota already at or past peak

By Madison Moroder, Minnesota Public Radio News

Ticktock. And no, we’re not talking about TikTok.

We’re talking about fall colors, which have officially hit their peak across stretches of central and north-central Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ latest fall color map.

“We are largely past peak on the North Shore right now,” says the DNR’s Rachel Hopper. “You’re going to see the best color right now through central Minnesota.”

Fall colors are moving quickly and there’s no time to lose. According to maps from previous years, the state is well beyond it’s typical color progression at this time.

Just two weeks ago, the northern portion of the state was beaming with peak color, compared to the now carpets of fallen leaves that occupy the forest floor. While north-central and central Minnesota are hotspots for fall color, the southern stretch of the state should be seeing peak color within the next week.

So, if you’ve been waiting for the right moment to get outside and start leaf-peeping, go: the time is now. But hurry, or it will be too late.

For those looking to make the most of fall colors this weekend, below are suggestions and recommendations from the DNR.

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Preston

If you’re looking for a fall color activity that will entertain the kids, come explore the “story hike” path naturalists’ have created. The trail follows the Twinsite Loop, which begins near the picnic shelter.

The hike changes weekly, but this week’s featured children’s book is “Flashlight” by Lizi Boyd. Hopper suggests this activity as a way to get out of the house while social distancing, since there is low contact with those outside of your group.

Crow Wing State Park, Brainerd

Located in the north-central portion of the state, the park’s hiking club trail offers “a wonderful scenic overlook of the beautiful view of the Mississippi River,” according to Hopper.

On this path, Hopper recommends visitors explore the Old Crow Wing Townsite and the Red River Box Cart Trail, which are historical districts on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It is a great fall walk and has beautiful colors right now,” Hopper says.

Moose Lake State Park, Moose Lake

Hopper suggests visiting Moose Lake State Park, which is in the midst of peak fall color. From there, she recommends the Willard Munger State Trail, which is a 70-mile stretch that travels along a railroad route.

If you take the Willard Munger north, you’ll pass through Jay Cooke State Park. Hopper says, “The northeast portion of the trail provides beautiful scenic views of the St. Louis River and you can also see the twin ports of Duluth and Superior.”