Fall colors are heating up!

Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area, on County Road 16, is a beautiful place to enjoy the fall colors. Pictured at last year's peak display. Colors are currently at 5-10 percent peak. Photo by Kate Perkins

Autumn is arguably the most beautiful season on the Whitefish Chain, and this year is shaping up to be extraordinary. We're here to provide you with tips on how to best enjoy the fall colors on the Whitefish Chain! According to the DNR, Minnesotans can expect a "near perfect" fall color show.

Already the roads are tinged with fall flames.  As of Sept. 12, the Whitefish area was at or below 10 percent color, with the reds, yellows and golds growing every single day. Typical peak color around the Whitefish Chain, according to the DNR, is late September to early October.

Since the area saw average rainfall this summer and plenty of sun, the fall colors will be bright and vivid this year, the DNR said in a news release. Fall colors are also helped by a light frost at the beginning of the season (which we may see in the coming weeks) and are triggered by the days becoming shorter.

There are many ways to enjoy the fall colors on the Whitefish Chain. If you enjoy hiking, the Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area, Veterans Walking Trail and Big Island nature trail are all great spots to check out. All of them have places to sit along the way and lovely views to enjoy.

If you want to get out on the water, consider renting kayaks from Crow Wing Kayaks. Many of the fabulous resorts around the chain also provide kayak rentals.

Biking is another great way to enjoy the colors. You'll find that around the chain, most main county roads have extra-wide eight foot shoulders (two feet wider than the standard six feet) to increase safety and comfort while biking. There are also trails to consider: The Paul Bunyan Trail, which takes a similar path as Highway 371 from Nisswa to Pine River, is a rails-to-trails multi-use trail that is wonderful for biking. While it follows a similar route to Highway 371, it is well separated from the highway and, since it was formerly a railroad, it's relatively flat. Crosslake has a trail through town from the dam to north of Moonlite bay, which is a great way to get through town while still enjoying the colors. West Shore Drive in Crosslake also has a nice multi-use trail that's separate from the road.

If you prefer to take a scenic drive, the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway is a great option. In all, 54 miles of scenic roadway circumnavigate the chain (and then some) and provide for a great way to see the colors. You can pick download a map here, or simply follow signs. Much of County Roads 3, 1, 11, 15 and 16 near the chain are part of the byway. The byway map and website also list great places to stop and learn about historical, geological and environmental elements of the area at informational kiosks.

Finally, keep an eye on the progress of fall colors using the DNR's color finder map. It's updated frequently to provide you with current information on when and where the colors are peaking.

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