Picture-Perfect Fall Colors

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September, 2019

Picture-Perfect Fall

Fall is just around the corner, full of possibilities for outdoor enjoyment before the white flurries start flying. Ride a bike or horse under the multi-color canopy at one of our many state trails, or warm up by a fire at your state forest or state park camp site. Go for a hike or climb to a high point for a sprawling view of fall colors. Just make sure you have a camera to capture the magical moment: Scroll down for fall photo tips from renowned photographer Travis Novitsky and naturalist Amber Brooks and share your photos on our website or social media.

Want to know exactly where color changes are happening? Sign up for our weekly fall color updates newsletter

Send us a note if you have any feedback, information you'd like to see, or if you want to submit your profile at your favorite state park or trail for the new Out & About section.

Happy Trails!

Our state trails icon

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

Fire Tower Mille Lacs

Climb to the top of the 100-foot observation tower that overlooks the park and Mille Lacs Lake, a must during the fall color season.

100-Feet High View of Fall Colors

As summer winds down our thoughts drift to cool autumn breezes and gorgeous fall colors!  Grab your camera and head to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park where you'll find amazing views of fall colors and learn about the park's rich history. The park trails offer visitors excellent opportunities to watch waterfowl, birds and many kinds of wildlife.  Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is one of several locations in Minnesota where you can visit a historic fire tower.

Out and about icon

Elena Middleton

Hometown: Bloomington, Minnesota
Favorite Outdoors Activity: Hiking, camping, playing frisbee
Claim to Fame: Recorded podcasts for MPR
Fuel for the Trail: Cheese sticks and cuties

Elena at the top of the tower at Mille Lacs Kathio SP

Photo of park visitor Elena M

Dave Strand

Hometown: Jasper, Minnesota
Favorite Outdoors Activity: 
Volunteering as a Site Steward for Mille Lacs Moraine SNA (Scientific and Natural Area) and as a Campground Host at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.
Claim to Fame: 
Taking long-distance, scenic trips by motorcycle for the past 20 years.
Fuel for the Trail:

Dave in uniform at Mille Lacs Kathio SP

Photo of campground host Dave Strand

Tips icon

Fall Photo Tips

Tamarack in fall

Tamarack, Minnesota's only deciduous conifer. Big Bog State Park. © Travis Novitsky

  1. New Perspectives: Lie down or go high—change your angle, change your view!

  2. Light:
    • Let the sun backlight your subject or poke through tree branches during the “golden hour” (dusk/dawn.)
    • Cloudy days are best for photos from under the forest canopy—there’s less glare, thus, less contrast.
  3.  Up-Close:
    • Capture the color variation within each individual leaf.
    • Look to the ground for frost or beaded droplets on leaves—you’ll get fascinating macro photography!
  4. Fog: After a cold night, get to a high spot and look for fog in the surrounding lowlands for a magical image.
  5. Land of 10,000 Lakes:
    • Love the leaves across the lake? Include the shoreline on your side for depth.
    • Capture the reflection of the colorful trees on calm water.
  6. Fast-moving subject? Make a video, pause it and take a screenshot to get the perfect action shot.
  7. Slow Down: The less you move, the more nature will come alive around you.
  8. Phone Camera? Get an app that will add SLR capabilities and get a zoom lens to attach to your phone.
  9. #NoFilter: Not if you want to bring out the deep, rich colors in nature—use a polarizing filter.
  10. Starry Nights: As leaves are shed, find interesting tree silhouettes that will look nice against a starry sky backdrop.


Northern Minnesota's Many Falls: Visit at different times to observe completely different colors. Maples change first (typically peaking around late September, early October.) Birch, aspen, and other trees peak when maples start to fade, and can be enjoyed into mid-October.  


Aside from capturing breathtaking images of nature around him, Travis Novitsky is the Park Manager at Grand Portage State Park.

Amber Brooks is one of our parks many rock-star naturalists. Pro tip: Reserve a spot at the bison tour she leads at Blue Mounds State Park. You won't regret it! 

Ground perspective. © Amber Brooks

Leaf on ground

How-to icon

Check Out Equipment - For FREE!

Birding Kit

Try out a new activity with free loaner equipment at Minnesota state parks:

  • GPS units can be used to participate in the statewide Geocaching Program.
  • Kids Discovery Kits feature activities, stories and tips for a memorable experience. 
  • Fishing Kits include a rod, a reel and a stocked tackle box with artificial lures. 
  • Birding Kits include binoculars, guide books and bird lists unique to each park.
From the MCV Archives

Bright Spots

During the fall season, colorful scenes are just a hike away in Minnesota state parks.  In this article from the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer (MCV) archives, author Gary Alan Nelson highlights six state parks with hikes leading to breathtaking fall color vistas.  Full story.


Minnesota Conservation Volunteer is a print magazine dedicated to Minnesota’s wild places and creatures. For more stories, visit mnDNR.gov/MCV or subscribe.

Sept-Oct 2018 Cover
Discover icon

Events this Month

Minnesota State Parks and Trails offer a wide variety of programs for children and adults:

  • learn about turtles, wolves and peregrine falcons;
  • go fishing, paddling or hiking with a naturalist;
  • try out archery and bird-watching;
  • join us for seed collecting in the prairies!
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Find your favorite activity and mark your calendar for some time outdoors this month!