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Boreal Community Media

The DNR Fall Color Finder is now available on Boreal (plus, how to find the best colors this year)

Sep 11, 2023 09:02AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Laura Durenberger-Grunow

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - September 8, 2023

For some, it's the best time of year: cool, crisp evenings, comfortably warm days, and fall colors. One of the most asked questions from visitors (and some locals) is "When will the fall colors peak?"

There isn't really a concrete answer, because so many different factors come into play. 

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, "Patterns of temperature, precipitation, wind, and the timing of hard freezes can impact when fall colors peak and how long they last. These weather phenomena can only be predicted a week or so in advance, making a peak color forecast difficult."

However, the main trigger for a change in leaf colors is a decrease in sunlight as we head towards the winter solstice. Basically, the TLDR (too long; didn't read) is that less daylight means less time for the photosynthesis process to occur, which leads to a decrease in chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is  "The pigment that supports photosynthesis and gives leaves their green color", according to the MN DNR.  

Reduced chlorophyll means, you guessed it, colors - specifically, reds, oranges, and yellows. 

In Minnesota, we start losing daylight fairly quickly starting in August. By September 23 (the date of the fall 2023 equinox), we reach the equinox, which means an equal 12 hours of daylight and darkness. Based on the consistency of the amount of daylight we receive throughout the year (year after year), officials can estimate an approximate time of leaf changes. 

"Fall colors in Minnesota typically peak in mid-to-late-September through mid-October, starting in the northernmost part of the state and working southward. Peak fall color usually lasts two weeks but can vary widely depending on location and weather," according to the MN DNR. 

One of the best ways to keep up-to-date with the color changes is through tools like the MN DNR fall color finder, which is now available for viewing on Boreal's website, just above the ship spotter. We will be updating the finder as often as they are released by the DNR. 


The MN DNR also has a comprehensive list of all the state parks and the amount of color that's showing at each one. You can also find information such as wildflower blooms, and trail conditions. You can find more information about that feature here.