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Fall Color, Scenic Highway 61
Minnesota North Shore

Oberg Mountain, Tofte, MN
From the top of Oberg Mountain, overlooking Oberg Lake
along Minnesota's popular North Shore Scenic Highway

One of the most scenic stretches of road on the Lake Superior Circle Tour is the 150 miles of Scenic Highway 61 from Duluth, MN to Grand Portage. Fall is a good time to enjoy traveling along the North Shore. Fewer bugs, cooler nights, and less competition for lodging, campgrounds, and attractions - and if you time it right you can catch Mother Nature painting the foliage with golds, yellows, oranges, and reds and colors in between.

North Shore Fall Drive Color Pages

Fall Color, Duluth to Tofte (here)
- Ely Peak
- Carlton Peak
- Oberg Mtn

Fall Color, Lutsen to Border
- Moose Mountain
- Lookout Mountaini
- Pincushion Mountain
- Grand Marais

Fall Color Drive Updates & Reports

During the last week in September of 2011 we gambled that this would be the right time to catch some peak color and enjoy some leisurely touring along the North Shore. In addition to leaf peeping, we planned to sample some restaurants and pubs, do some golfing, and do quite a bit of hiking as we had decided to accept the Seven Summits Challenge of the Superior Hiking Trail Association. If we managed to hike to the top of five of the seven peaks in the challenge, we'd qualify. As it turned out in addition to getting some great exercise, the hikes allowed us to see a good deal more color than if we had just toured the area by car.

In addition to the pictures and desriptions to follow you might also enjoy our North Shore Color Tour travel blog entries in our companion website.

(click on small pictures for a larger size photo)

Ely Peak - Duluth, MN

View from Ely Peak, Duluth, MN
While a little early for fall color change in Duluth, Jo and I enjoyed a vigorous hike to the top of Ely Peak (2 mile round trip) for a panoramic view of the countryside south of Duluth.

Ross and Jo at the top of Ely Peak
The trail to Ely Peak is the beginning of the 40 miles of Superior Hiking Association's trail system that runs through Duluth on its way to Two Harbors. Duluth also offers a number of other hiking trails in their extensive park system. Several of the trails also serve as cross country or snowshoeing trails in the winter time.

Two Harbors, MN

superior hiking trail store

Our first night we camped at Burlington Bay campground in Two Harbors and the next day stopped in the SHTA office to pick up our Seven Summits Challenge record sheets plus snag some nice SHTA logo shirts and hats smile View along Lax Lake Road, Silver Bay, MN


The cclors had not changed much in Two Harbors so no pictures to offer here. Ten days later (October 5th) we stopped by the Split Rock wayside to take a photo of the historic lighthouse. By then the Birches were changing, but the Aspen (Popple) were not quite ready.

Split Rock State Park hiking and camping info

View along Lax Lake Road, Silver Bay, MN
One of the dilemmas facing the fall color tourist traveling Minnesota's North Shore of the Lake Superior Circle Route is that the species of trees and vegatation close to Lake Superior do not offer the best fall color (although otherwise the scenery along the lake is outstanding). To get the best fall color one has to leave Scenic Highway 61 and travel inland, away from the lake. One such detour recommended by the folks at the Temperance River campground is taking Lax Lake Road north of Silver Bay to Finland and then follow Cramer Road through the hills to Schroeder where you then return to Highway 61.

The other good alternative to seeing some of the best color is to stay on Scenic Highway 61 and get out of the car to do some hiking to the top of several peaks that run adjacent to the Lake Superior shoreline. That's the alternative we took and will be shown here.

Temperance River - Carlton Peak

Temperance River State Park
We used Temperance River State Park campground as our base for 4 days while we took several day hikes in the area from Schroeder to Cascade River. Temperance River is one of only two parks along the North Shore that have some RV sites with electric hookups. We were surprised that mid-week in late September the campground was almost full. We were lucky to get a site w/o having reservations.

Temperance River Tofte, MN
In the area around Temperance River State Park campground and the mouth of the river there were attractive splashes of color here and there but overall fall color change was no more than 50%. The river was carrying a fair volume of water, more than other rivers we've seen south of here, so the cascades were attractive. There is a nice network of hiking/walking trails around the base area and on either side of the river with several scenic lookoouts.

Mouth of the Temperance River

Carlton Peak Fall Color
Carlton Peak.
The Superior Hiking Trail (see map), coming from Silver Bay, loops down to Highway 61 near the campground and then returns away from the lake to climb to the top of Carlton Peak. From the campground there are shorter hikes along the river where you can see the waterfalls and cascades. A more ambitious hike (3.5 miles one way, scaling 900 feet of vertical rise) from the campground leads to Carlton Peak. An easier alternative is to drive a few miles north to Sawbill Trail and drive 2.5 miles to the Britton Peak Trailhead parking lot. From there the hike to Carlton Peak is only 3.6 miles round trip and you scale less elevation since you've already driven part way up into the hills above Lake Superior.

Carlton Peak Hiknig Trail

The volunteers of the Superior Hiking Trail Association have done an excellent job building and maintaining the trail to Carlton Peak. Most people who can walk two miles will have no difficulty with this hike.

Carlton Peak Fall Color

At the top you have about a 270 degree view of the forest below and of Lake Superior. At this date (Sept 25th) there wasn't much color change looking toward the lake; away from the lake, looking inland, offered the best color.

Carlton Peak Fall Color



Oberg Mountain - Tofte, MN

Oberg Mountain Hiking Trail
The Oberg Mountain loop off the Superior Hiking Trail is one of the easiest hikes of the Seven Summits Challenge (about 2 miles round trip) and it offered some of the best fall color vistas. On the trail to the top we were perhaps five days too early for peak color (see picture of Jo and Donna on the trail at the left) but at the top you see lots of color. The loop around the top gives you a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside from seven lookout vistas.

Oberg Mountain Lookout
On a clear day you can see the Apostle Islands across the lake. From other lookouts you can see Grand Marais, views of Moose Mountain and Leveaux Mountain, and overlooks of Oberg Lake. Because it is relatively easy hike and its spectacular views it is one of the most popular fall hikes along Lake Superior.

Oberg Mountain Vista

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