Fall in Minnesota is a brief 2-3 week period of hiking amongst bright reds, yellows, and oranges. The temporary transformation of the forests can feel truly magical. If you love hiking through the vibrant trees amid crisp autumn weather as much as I do, you may be looking to discover where in Minnesota you should go to enjoy the best colors Minnesota has to offer.
While there will be patches of color throughout the state of Minnesota, my favorite fall hikes are located along Minnesota’s North Shore. Highway 61 runs from Duluth to Grand Portage along the shore of Lake Superior and the ridges above the lake host some of the best pockets of fall color in the state. Last year, we explored the hike at Oberg Mountain. This year, we spent a day hiking at Tettegouche State Park.
Tettegouche State Park
Tettegouche is one of Minnesota’s most popular state parks (just behind Gooseberry, Fort Snelling, and Itasca). And it is well visited for many reasons. Located about an hour north of Duluth, this park boasts so many great hikes and spectacular views including the following:
- Stunning views from the lakeside cliffs over Lake Superior
- Multiple waterfalls, including High Falls on the Baptism River (the highest waterfall entirely in Minnesota)
- Beautiful inland lakes, like Bean and Bear Lake
- Panoramic views of Lake Superior and forests from inland viewpoints like Mount Baldy
- 23 miles of hiking trails, from the Lake Suprior Shoreline to the Baptism River to the ridges of the Superior Hiking Trail
Because of the wide variety of trails at Tettegouche, this state park is a great year-round destination. But my favorite season on the north shore is the fall. So this post is all about the best route to enjoy fall colors at Tettegouche State Park.
If you are interested in a winter getaway to see the frozen waterfalls of the North Shore, check out the following blog post: A Dog-Friendly Winter Weekend at the North Shore’s MN State Parks
Fall Color Guide to Tettegouche State Park
When to Visit
Fall colors typically peak in late September or early October at Tettegouche. We visited on 9/20 in 2020 and colors weren’t quite at their peak. We visited on 10/2 in 2021 and the colors were perfect. For up to date information on fall colors, use the Minnesota DNR’s Fall Color Finder.
If you visit in late September and colors aren’t popping at Tettegouche State Park yet, drive a little further north and stop at Oberg Mountain Loop in the Lutsen, MN area. That is typically the first area of the North Shore to reach peak fall colors. The photo below is from Oberg Mountain Loop on 9/20/2020.
Where to Visit
While the views from Pallisade Head and Shovel Point are spectacular year-round (I mean, who doesn’t love the tall cliffs against the Lake Superior shoreline?), the best colors will be found further inland where there are more deciduous trees.
During our trip on 10/2/21, we could see bright red up on the ridgeline. But we still started at the main visitor center off of Highway 61 (5702 MN-61, Silver Bay, MN 55614; link to Google Maps). Even though there are a lot of coniferous trees along the Baptism River that don’t change color in the fall, I love High Falls and can’t visit Tettegouche State Park without stopping at High Falls and Two Step Falls.
You can see the full park map (click on the full map image to go to the DNR’s pdf version) and our starting route from the Vistors Center below.
And as always, Two-Step Falls and High Falls did not disappoint. All of the photos below were taken on 10/2/2020. (I know I keep repeating dates, but the time of year really matters for those looking to visit during peak fall colors.)
Around the falls, you can see some nice yellows, but also lots of pine trees.
After we were done enjoying the waterfalls we crossed the swinging bridge to the other side of the Baptism River. Caution: the bridge has a metal grate “floor” that may not be easy for all dogs to cross. I carried Glia across on our way out, but she did walk it on her own on the way back.
For this hike, our goal was to reach Mt. Baldy for some good overlooks of the surrounding forest. And we did make it to Mt Baldy, but unfortunately, by the time we reached the summit, it had started raining and clouds obstructed our views from the top. Luckily, the hike itself was nearly as spectacular as the overlook would have been. The trail itself was bursting with fall colors, especially as we approached the Mt Baldy overlook.
My favorite spots along the trail were the ski trail overlook, the picnic area at Nipisiquit Lake, and the portion of the trail from Nipisiquit Lake up to Mt. Baldy. The section of the Superior Hiking Trail that we took was also nice.
We had intended to hike more of the Superior Hiking Trail, but cut our time on the SHT short when we missed a turn. We didn’t realize that it followed the same turn-off as the Raven Rock overlook and missed our turn. As a result, the “stick” of our lollipop loop ended up being a little longer and we repeated part of the ski trail.
So pay attention to turns. But the most important thing to know for those chasing fall colors is that the best colors in Tettegouche State Park start to the west of the lakes (Nipisiquit, Mic Mac, and Tettegouche Lake).
So without further ado, here is some photographic proof that you should consider a visit to Tettegouche State Park during peak fall colors. Glia and I give it 5 stars!
Do you have a favorite fall hiking spot in the Midwest? Let us know in the comments section below.
And if you visit Tettegouche State Park, I hear that you can also find nice fall colors at the Bear and Bean Lake loop in the southern region of Tettegouche. I haven’t hiked Bean and Bear in the fall but loved it in the summer.