Fall Colors in Minnesota’s North Shore

Being Minnesotans, we have a tradition of visiting the Minnesota’s North Shore every few years to catch the fall colors. Prior to this trip, we learned about the potential historic fall snowstorm with frigid temperatures across portions of the north central of the US. We could only hope it wouldn’t derail most of our fall colors hiking plans. In the past, we typically stayed in Two Harbor. This time, we decided to stay even further north along the north shore. We chose a secluded place in Croftville, which is about 3 miles away from Grand Marais. The non-stop drive to the destination is about 6 hours.

We left at 7 AM on the first day so that we would have enough time to hike to the summit of Lookout Mountain in Cascade River State Park. Upon arrival in Croftville, we apparently went to the wrong house because I punched in the incorrect house number on the map. Thankfully, after some confusion, the house owner was able to laugh it off and showed us the right house. It was embarrassing and comical at the same time as I tried in vain to pry open the locked door.

On Friday, we lazily woke up at 8 AM knowing that it was going to be a very wet day. We almost never wake up this late during our trips. After wandering around downtown Grand Marais, we did a short hike in Judge C.R. Magney State Park. From there, we drove along Arrowhead Trail to Rengo Road. Rengo Road appears to be the local photographers’ favorite location for fall colors. The single-lane unpaved road is very uneven and rugged, and frankly speaking, it is not suitable for our vehicle. We were blocked by 2 downed trees, but we were able to break off part of the tree trunk by our hands to allow our vehicle to squeeze through. It was stressful to say the least knowing that we were literally in the middle of nowhere and about half a mile away from the Canadian border.

The temperature dipped drastically on Saturday as predicted. The wind chill temperature was in the mid 20s. It was the coldest day throughout the trip. While the road along the north shore wasn’t affected by snow, after driving just 5 minutes towards the inland to hike Tofte Peak and Carlton Peak, the entire area was covered with nearly 6 inches of snow. It was confusing to witness beautiful fall colors and pristine snow at the same time. From there, we continued our drive on Sawbill Trail to Honeymoon Trail. The further inland we ventured, the worse the road condition became. After driving half a mile on the single-lane Honeymoon Trail, we realized it was a terrible idea because our regular-season tires couldn’t get any traction to move forward. The road was too narrow to safely turn around without getting stuck. We finally chose to reverse very slowly all the way back to the main road. We then drove on Gunflint Trail for 40 minutes to do a short hike at Honeymoon Bluff.

We had the best sunny weather on our departure day. In fact, the weather was so gorgeous that we had to make short visits to Palisade Head in Tettegouche State Park and Enger Park in Duluth before heading home. This is one of the very few times we actually witnessed peak fall colors along the north shore. Typically, the inland’s fall colors were much more spectacular than the fall colors along the north shore. This time, the entire area was exploded with incredible colors.

On this trip, we ate a lot of fish and wild rice. We also tried a few local beers. We had a wonderful accommodation in a secluded place. Although the weather was generally very wet throughout the trip, we were still able to carry on with most of our planned activities.

Fall Colors
Fall colors view from the summit of Lookout Mountain in Cascade River State Park.
The quaint downtown Grand Marais.
A white barn on County Road 60.
Brule River in Judge C. R. Magney State Park.
The rugged landscape while driving on Rengo Road.
Brutally cold at Tofte Peak.
Winter wonderland on Honeymoon Trail. After taking this picture, our vehicle was unable to move forward and we had to reverse half a mile back to the main road.
Overlooking Hungry Jack Lake from Honeymoon Bluff.
Spectacular fall colors view from Palisade Head in Tettegouche State Park.
Our northern Minnesota adventure.
Places we covered in this album.

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