Every year, the transition from summer to fall is displayed by a variety of realities. Long, lazy summer days are quickly replaced by cooler temperatures; schools reopen their doors to excited students; Friday Night Lights return to football fields all over the state, and the landscape begins to transform itself from run-of-the-mill green leaves to bright and vibrant explosions of color.

In North Dakota, there are several locations that offer enhanced viewing experiences. According to Kim Schmidt, public and media relations manager at the North Dakota Department of Commerce, the Pembina Gorge region is stunning with the abundant trees and hiking trails in the Rendezvous Region.

“There are also amazing scenic drives that provide unique views throughout the state,” she explained. “One example is the Sheyenne River National Scenic Byway that starts near Valley City and takes you through the Sheyenne River Valley and Fort Ransom State Park.”

Fall foliage viewing trips can also be combined with other activities or day-trips. “Fall is the perfect time to get outdoors in North Dakota as hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails crisscross the state, creating a patchwork of routes that lead to whatever the soul seeks,” Schmidt said. “Hiking and biking trails range from difficult on the Maah Daah Hey to easy on recreational paced routes in larger cities.”

The key for taking in all Mother Nature provides is to avoid procrastinating. “This is a beautiful time of year in North Dakota and it tends to go quickly, so we encourage people to get out and explore the scenic byways, take in the fall festivals and activities, and discover hidden gems that are located throughout the state,” Schmidt urged.

Several places within ND are famous for their fall foliage. In no particular order they are:

Western North Dakota:

  • Lewis & Clark State Park
  • Sully Creek State Park
  • Little Missouri State Park

Central North Dakota:

  • Cross Ranch State Park
  • Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
  • Fort Stevenson State Park
  • Lake Sakakawea State Park

Northeast North Dakota:

  • Grahams Island
  • Icelandic State Park
  • Lake Metigoshe State Park
  • Pembina Gorge State Recreation Area
  • Turtle River State Park

Southeast North Dakota:

  • Beaver Lake State Park
  • Fort Ransom State Park

On the Minnesota side of the river, fall foliage is equally as brilliant. According to Alyssa Ebel, public relations manager for Explore Minnesota Tourism, the fall color show typically begins along the northern border in early to mid-September and the color spreads southward over the next several weeks. “Each year, the fall color progression varies based on the weather and can be tracked via free weekly reports by Explore Minnesota during peak fall foliage,” she explained. “Travelers can also sign up at exploreminnesota.com/fallcolor.”

For those interested in a less scripted experience, Ebel recommends a variety of locations around the state. “From the north shore of Lake Superior to the bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley, there’s a scenic route for everyone to chase the colors,” she said. The state is also home to countless orchards, 165 pumpkin patches, museums, and fall festivals, all which can make for an exciting and pleasurable day trip or long weekend.

“Mild temperatures are the perfect time for outdoor fun from hiking, biking, paddling, golfing, fishing, and more,” Ebel explained. “The landscape is splashed with color as trees, shrubs, and prairie grasses take on golden, ruby, and tangerine hues. Fall colors are a beautiful backdrop to activities and reason alone to plan a road trip to enjoy the bright hues.”

Prime foliage viewing locations in Minnesota include:

  • The Mississippi River Bluffs near Winona and the Great River Bluff’s State Park.
  • The MN Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. Take advantage of more than 1,000 acres of varied landscapes
  • The 16-mile St. Croix River
  • Highway 61 on the North Shore near Duluth
  • Lake Mille Lacs, the state’s second largest lake, and the Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
  • Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul where you can explore the Mississippi River and nearby Minnehaha Falls
  • Grand Rounds Scenic Drive, which includes the Chain of Lakes: Nokomis, Harriet, Calhoun, and Lake of the Isles
  • Itasca State Park
  • The Brainerd Lakes Area

Ebel would like to encourage travelers and residents to share their fall finds with @exploreminnesota on Instagram and Facebook and @exploreminn on Twitter. Explore Minnesota also regularly features user-generated photos tagged #OnlyinMN. “It’s a great real-time travel inspiration tool, too, with more than 420,000 hashtag uses.”

By Jamee Larson