Fall Colors & Driving Tours

Current Color:
Superior National Forest – weeks of September 26-30, 2005 

The leaves and foliage on the Superior National Forest are changing faster.  The reasoning could be the dry summer we had this year.  Along Highway 61 north the colors are very brilliant with golds and yellows.  It looks like a patchwork quilt with the variety of colors in the hillsides.  The under story of ferns along the roads are very colorful with golds.  


Along Highway 1 toward Finland, Isabella and Ely the maple ridges are at about 75% peak with reds with patches of yellows and golds.  County 3 near Sawbill Lake the colors have exploded with reds, yellows and golds.   The maples have turned completely and are nearing peak within the next two weeks.

In the Laurentian Ranger District the maples are turning, the aspen are still green, the ferns are done.  Highway 53 near the Laurentian Divide is nice, lots of maple, birch, and basswood.

In the Cook area, fall colors are still progressing with some leaves down already. The shrubs are really changing now with much understory yellow.

The Echo trail in Ely grows more colorful each day, with maples showing every shade and hue of red.  The yellows of birch and poplar are increasing as well.  The farther north on the Echo you go, the more color there is.  The Fernberg Trail and all the Ely area is colorful, too.

More colors should develop by next weekend, with peak in most places by this next weekend or the following one.  In the next several days looks more like a normal fall with cooler temperatures.  With the wind and rain we have received the last two weeks the leaves are falling fast.  There are a lot of hunters (small game, moose and deer) out and about on the backroads, so please remember as you are driving that there are others using the roads.  Stay on your side of the road.



For more infornation about fall colors & updates, visit: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors/index.html?region=ne

Fall Color Scenic Drive Options
A great way to explore the breathtaking views of fall is on specatcular scenic drives. To follow you will find highlighted driving routes where you can experience Iron Trail fall colors in all of their colorful glory!

Scenic Drive Option #1: The Laurentian Divide Recreation Area is located four miles north of Virginia with the opportunity to walk the Physical Fitness Trail and the Lookout Mountain cross-country ski trails. These trails will take you through some of the most colorful maple stands in the area.

Scenic Drive Option #2: From Virginia, take Highway 53 north for 8 miles to County Road 131. Turn right for 1 mile then left on County Road 68 for 0.3 miles. Continue north on County Road 405 to Forest Road 256 (gravel). Travel north on Forest Road 256 to Highway 1. You will pass the Pfeiffer Lake Campground and Picnic Area. Stop for a picnic lunch! This is a leisurely drive through a beautiful part of the Laurentian Ranger District. At Highway 1 you can turn right and go to Highway 169 or go left to Highway 53. Before you get to Highway 53 you will see County Road 381 to the south. Follow this gravel road. It turns into County Road 467 and leads you back to Highway 53.

Scenic Drive Option #3: Big Aspen Trail. Follow the directions for #3 and you will see the Big Aspen Trailhead. Walk, bike or ATV along the 20 miles of trails that loop up onto scenic ridges. Trail maps at each junction help you find your way.

Scenic Drive Option # 4: The Superior National Forest Scenic Byway (also known as Forest Highway 11 or County 110) east of Hoyt Lakes is a great place to view the colors. It holds some hidden treasures if you can leave the paved road and travel the gravel roads.

Directions: Follow the Highway from Hoyt Lakes east and south. You will pass the Skibo Vista road. The vista was where an old fire lookout tower used to sit. It is certainly worth the trip to the top of the hill.

Keep going to the stop sign. Turn right on County Road 16. Forest Road 118 (Camp 26 Road) goes south from County 16. It is a one lane gravel road with turnouts. The road will eventually connect with Highway 4.

At the same stop sign turn left instead of right. (This is still Forest Highway 11 but also known as County Road 16.) Further down County 16 is Forest Road 416. This is also a one lane gravel road with turnouts. This dead end road gives you twice the view as you turn around and come back out to County 16.

Scenic Drive Option #5: Highway 135 from Aurora to Tower is fall color fantasy land with rolling hills of the Laurentian Divide.

Scenie Drive Option #6: Just east of Biwabik on County Road 138 is Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort. In the fall they run the ski lifts so you can get a bird’s-eye view of the beautiful maple ridges. If you continue on (road becomes gravel) it will take you to County Highway 21. Go left to Virginia or right to Highway 135.

Scenic Drive Option #7: Take Highway 53 south of Virginia to the ramp exit for Highway 37. Turn west to Hibbing. If you have a little extra time turn south on County Highway 7 toward Zim.