Fall Leaves Reaching Peak around Whitefish Chain

The walking trails at Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area are alight in fall color. Photo by Kate Perkins

The walking trails at Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area are alight in fall color. Photo by Kate Perkins


The Whitefish Chain is officially lit up with color as the leaves on the maples, birches and oaks have begun their vivid change. The shorelines of the lake and area roadsides are showing off their stunning yellows, reds, oranges and purples. We've lined up all the best ways for you to enjoy autumn's color palette. Colors are set to peak this weekend.

By car: The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway is just that- scenic! The byway makes its way all around the Whitefish Chain, with plenty of opportunities to stop at informational kiosks to learn about local lore, or walking trails to stretch your legs and enjoy the colors up close.

By boat: There's nothing like seeing the colors on the trees reflected on the blue waters of the lake. Ask your accommodations if they rent boats, or try an area rental company. Across the chain there are several companies that rent out boats- try Al's Marine or the Bait Box Marina.

Or, if you'd prefer to see the leaves without a motor, try renting a kayak from Wind, Water and Wheels in Crosslake, which provides shuttle services and transports the kayaks for you. Many resorts also offer use of kayaks and canoes- inquire with your host for more information.

While you're out on the water, you might want to stop at the Rollie Johnson Islands between Lower and Upper Whitefish lakes. Big Island is a particularly nice stop, with a nature trail that leads through the old-growth maple basswood forest, with towering trees more than 100 years old alight in fall color.

By bike: If it's a bike ride you're after, a great place to start is the Paul Bunyan Trail (not to be confused with the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway). The Paul Bunyan Trail is a rails-to-trails project, meaning the trail follows the bed of a decommissioned railroad. That means that the trail is relatively flat and great for biking. In the Whitefish Area, the trail follows along the Highway 371 corridor- but is a separate trail altogether, so you won't have to bike near traffic. Many of the roads that connect the Whitefish Area with the Paul Bunyan Trail have extra-wide shoulders for bikers, making it safer and more fun to reach the trail.

By foot: There are many trails around the Whitefish Chain that are both teeming with wildlife and about to reach peak autumn color.

Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area is a great place to see the fall color. The walking trails, just off County Road 16, meander alongside small ponds and wetlands, with plenty of opportunity to see the colors as well as wildlife.

The Crosslake Community Center, too, has several miles of trails that double as cross-country ski trails in the winter. The wide trails travel through the woods and around Cranberry Pond.

At Veterans Memorial Walking Trail, you can see the colors change on a variety of landscapes, from woods to wetlands. The trail includes a boardwalk across wetlands to an island, with panels along the way to learn about the native wildlife and vegetation.

Whether you walk, bike, drive or boat, you'll see a rainbow of color, from the warm colors on the leaves to the green of the grasses and the blue of the skies and lakes. There's no place like the Whitefish Chain in autumn.

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