Fall color in the North Country

When we last left Minnesota’s North Shore, it was snowing. On October 5! I guess that’s what you get when you drive almost to the Canadian border.

Map of Norh Shore BLOGThe blue star marks the Twin Cities, and the red star is where we ended up.

But remember what I said about the changeable weather along Lake Superior? 24 hours later it was sunny and comparatively mild, so my friend Uta and I headed out for some hiking. I was so excited to see the sun that I even snapped photos through the (dog-spit-covered) windshield.

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Fall color through windshield 1350143 BLOG

Oberg Mountain Trail

Our first destination was Oberg Mountain, off Highway 61 (see directions below). It’s a favorite spot for fall color … as the full parking lot attested. Sigh.

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The signs weren’t kidding when they warned of sheer cliffs.

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And parts of the trail were rugged, with lots of rocks and roots on which to sprain your ankles.

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Rough trail 1350757 BLOG

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But the light filtering through the birches and maples was a gorgeous distraction.

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And the reward of these vistas was well worth the climb:

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Uta on Oberg Mountain 1350486 BLOG

Some of the overlooks were overcrowded, but it still warmed my heart to see so many people out enjoying nature.

Oberg crowded at the top 1350508 BLOG

Even after a three-mile loop through the woods we weren’t sated, though, so we drove south on Highway 61 toward the lake.

Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center

It’s a good thing Uta has such sharp eyes — and knows the area — because I would have sailed right past the unassuming turnoff at marker 73. I was surprised that just five minutes later we were gazing out at Lake Superior.

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Uta by Lake Superior 1350594 BLOG

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We didn’t hike to the famous pebble beach because there was a family there with 782 children. (Or at least that was our estimate, from all the yelling and carrying-on.) But we did spot one of the old mooring rings that remain from the harbor’s logging heyday.

Superior anchor 1350628 BLOG

On our way back to the car we also spotted this portly red squirrel — the only wildlife we saw during our entire four-day weekend.

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Illgen Falls

“I know of a secret spot,” Uta said as we hopped back in the car and backtracked north on Highway 61. Again, I would have missed the unmarked parking lot … but I could already hear the waterfall.

A short hike took us to the edge of Illgen Falls, which were spectacular after the previous days’ rain and snow. Yes, I did walk right to the edge to get these photos.

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Uta was even more brave: She actually lay down on the edge.

Uta on the edge 1350702 BLOG

She also took me upstream to her favorite swimming spot, where a way-more-fancy-than-me photographer was futzing with his tripod.

Illgen Falls 1350721 BLOG

When we finally returned to the cabin, the rapids in Uta’s back yard were running pretty vigorously too.

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Beaver Creek Falls

On our way home the next day I asked Uta to pull off Highway 61 one more time for a parting look at the Beaver Creek Falls. There was no hiking required for these views:

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Back in the Twin Cities, I’m already missing the birch trees and pine forests of the North Shore. But I’m grateful to live in such a beautiful state — and to have such a wonderful friend with whom to share it.

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••• IF YOU GO •••

Oberg Mountain Trail
From Tofte, take Highway 61 North about 4.5 miles. Turn left onto Onion River Road (Forest Road 336). Proceed for about two miles to the parking area on the left.
• Three-mile moderate hike on dirt trails, with significant vertical changes.
• Keep children and dogs from the edge of the cliffs.
• Waterproof shoes with good tread recommended.

Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center
Located lakeside on Highway 61 at mile marker 73 (9096 West Highway 61, Schroeder, Minnesota).
• About a half-mile, easy hike to the lake on maintained trails.
• Staffed welcome center with gift shop (hours vary by season).
• Active research area; don’t disturb plants, rocks, or wildlife.

Illgen Falls
From Highway 61, take Highway 1 toward Finland, proceed 1.6 miles, and park on the gravel pull-off on the left side of the road. Look for the sign that says “Illgen Falls, Devil’s Rock” at the head of the short gravel path.
• About 0.3-mile walk to the edge of the impressive 35-foot drop.
• Waterproof shoes with good tread recommended.
• Accidental-death insurance coverage also recommended. (Kidding.)

Beaver Creek Falls
The Beaver Creek Falls bridge is just east of Beaver Bay on Highway 61. There’s a parking lot at the intersection of Lax Road and Highway 61, adjacent to the bridge.
• Easy stroll from Lax Road lot is less than one-tenth of a mile.
• Panoramic view of four torrents running a course of approximately 300 feet.
• Access to rustic hiking trails that take you down to the waterfall’s edge.

For even more information on fall colors along the North Shore, visit this wonderful website.


    • Thank you, Anthony — and I’m sorry. Does this mean the end of the biking season for you, or will you tough it out yet a while longer?

      • I should tough it out….but as the temperature has been dropping, this likely spells the end of the outdoor season for me. I will do some cycling on my vacation, but apart from that, I may have start doing some zwift.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your kind words, Raegan. You’re so right that it’s good to explore our own back yards — because I’d (almost) forgotten how beautiful my home state is! And thank YOU too for the wonderful writing on your own blog. I’m happy to be your newest subscriber and to follow along on your journeys, too.

  1. These pictures are insanely beautiful! And make me miss home! It is crazy, because of the way our weather has been, the leaves haven’t really turned here, and in my hometown of New Hampshire which is known for gorgeous foliage, it has been kind of lackluster. I think where you live is the place to go for foliage this year! Thanks for sharing sweets! ❤

    • I can’t take TOO much credit for the photos, because it was Mother Nature’s show. 😉 But isn’t it funny how some years it’s spectacular … and others kind of meh? I’m sorry you’re having one of the latter in your neck of the woods, dear Kate. But there’s always next year! In the meantime, thank you so much for stopping by and for being such a faithful blog-friend. xx

  2. Spectacular photos! You remind me how much I love the look of birch trees. I would imagine that the shores of Lake Superior will become a mighty inhospitable place in the next few weeks.

    If it seemed like a family with 782 kids from your vantage point, think of how many kids it must have felt like to that poor Mom who had to keep them corralled!

    • You are right about the inhospitability of Lake Superior, JP — they had flooding and 20-foot waves there a couple of days after we left! I still don’t know how people can live there year-round.

      And you’re right too about that poor mom trying to corral all those kids, LOL. Seen from that perspective, the moment now seems downright idyllic!

      Thank you — as always — for reading, and especially for your kind comment.

    • I am so glad you liked the photos! And would you believe they don’t do the places justice? I hope you’ll have the opportunity someday to see for yourself. Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • Thank you Alicia — it is indeed stunning! Sometimes I forget how beautiful my home state is, which is why I’m so grateful for getaways like this one. Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • It’s difficult to either comprehend or convey just how much space there is in the United States. This strikes me especially after my trips to Europe, where everything is so much more compact. But weren’t those colors gorgeous? It was a real privilege to be there on the right weekend, for once. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!

        • Yes, yes — I know exactly what you mean about Scotland. There are some truly vast, sweeping landscapes there! But you’re right also that they don’t quite compare in vastness to the long stretches of empty land we have in the U.S. It bothers me quite a lot when I have to drive across these prairies or tundras, but it’s wondrous once you stop and look around.

    • It was breathtaking — literally. There were a few moments when I was completely at a loss for words. Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • A friend from Sweden has also remarked that the landscapes here remind him of his native land. Perhaps that’s why I have so many neighbors of Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian heritage!

      Thanks to your kind comment, I’ve also just had the pleasure of visiting (and subscribing to your blog). ¿Hablas en realidad tantos idiomas? C’est vraiment hallucinant de trouver un blog qui <> non seulement espagnol mais aussi français !

      • Hello Heide. I decided to return here again. First, Your photos showing fall colors are stanning. Second, those landscapes resemble indeed ours, but on different areas. Our country is long and due to it, landscapes vary depending if being on northern area or southern. This is one of our popular national parks quite in the south. There are rock formations and huge lake:

        Yoga on the peak of the hill of Koli

        This area is just to the north in the middle Finland on eastern side. I think that it shows heavy resemble with the area You showed in this post.

        South of the Arctic Circle 1

        Hiking beyond the Arctic Circle is popular and when we hiked there it happened among free roaming reindeers. It is another story with many posts.

        Yes, I speak those languages. Spanish, I learnt when working I Spain 4½ months. French by translating 10 books with my dictionary in my hands. It was hard and took long time. Now I have about 1500 books in French. We had to cancel our trip to the north due to winter storm. We try tomorrow. Matti

        • I’m sorry in the long delay in replying to your kind comments, Matti — my husband got sick over the weekend and then my car broke down, so I was unexpectedly occupied. (By the way, this sounds like the title of an American country western song: “My husband’s sick and my truck won’t run.” Ha ha. Fortunately the husband is much better now.)
          Anyway … Finland and Minnesota are similar in having distinct geographical regions. The southern part of our state has a lot of river valleys and farms, whereas the north has dense woods. The vegetation is different, too: There is a stand of pine trees along our main route north that announces the beginning of “the north country.” But of course we can’t claim being anywhere near the arctic circle, so Finland wins on that score! 🙂

          How impressive too that you taught yourself French by translating 10 books. That’s remarkable! But how did you learn to speak and pronounce it? It’s not as straightforward in that regard as German, I think — with German, it’s at least pronounced the same way you see it on the page. Ich mag das.

          Lastly, what a pity to hear you had to cancel your trip up north because of a winter storm. I’ll be eager to check your blog soon and see if you posted an update.

          Cheers, and happy Monday!

          • Hello Heide.

            I am sorry when reading about what happened to Your husband and track. I hope that he is better today.

            Well, when young, my hobby was listen to far away radio stations. Officially this has the name DXing. It is only listening and reporting to the station. My favorite countries were in South and Central America, round the world and France. I love music, music which has distinct rhythm and beautiful songs. When I listened to French radio stations, leant to know many French singers. One of them was Johnny Holiday, known as Elvis of France. I especially yet today remember this beautiful romantic song:

            Retiens la nuit (1962)

            So, I have listened to French language in my youth. In 1975 my son started in Helsinki French school and three years later my daughter.

            Our home trip when well, lasting only 8 hours and 45 minutes. My newest post will be tomorrow.

            Have a good day!

          • How lucky you were to grow up with DXing! I used to have a neighbor who enjoyed it too (had a HUGE antenna in his back yard) and it was fun how to hear the distant signals he would pick up sometimes. He never mentioned Johnny Hallyday, though — who unfortunately passed away last year. He was a legend indeed.

            But your trip home. ONLY eight hours and 45 minutes?! That sounds like a very long day, Matti! I hope the weather cooperated and that you’re not too tired today. Hope also that you’re having a good afternoon!

    • Thank you so much for your kind comment — and for joining me on this virtual walk! It’s always a pleasure to have your company. 🙂

  3. Wow, Heide! Such a beautiful fall color journey =) thank you! Hugely appreciate the natural beauty I get to drink in via your photos of home/state. What a gift “) I’m smiling even as we speak from that post. Thank you for the broadening!

    • You are always so welcome, dear Lara … just as I’m always grateful when you stop by. Forgive this dumb question, but do the leaves even change in your corner of the world? I feel kind of stupid not knowing that, but there you go. 🙂

      • Lol =) Not a dumb question at all. CA is very different by region, so depends on where here. Some areas will have leaves changing (where I am here in Nor. Cal), others nothing at all. Such a large state, the northern and southern parts differ a lot: weather, landscape, culture, people, etc. Then also very different coastal to inland areas. When I lived in So. Cal, I really missed rain, trees, and seasonal changes. Now I’m back home in Nor. Cal, I get to experience that again. But I can’t lie, it’s nothing compared to your photos of Minnesota “)

        • Doh … of course you’re right about the vast variation of climates and cultures in California! I forget sometimes just how enormous it is — so thank you for the mini geography lesson. 🙂

          And I won’t lie to you either that few places compare to the season changes we have in Minnesota. It can be a shock sometimes, but at least we’re never bored. 😉

          • Just the photos you share alone amaze me with how strongly different the seasons are from one another! It’s beautiful. I love to read your descriptions of them “) It’s like being taken on a journey. The preparation needed for each season must be a lot; can’t quite imagine. Living with strong seasonal differences must build a lot of community. Have to rely more on one another – and grateful people are there!

          • You betcha, the preparation for the seasons can be quite extensive. Before we rebuilt our old house we had to put plastic film over the windows every fall to cut down on the drafts — and then there was the raking, and the cleaning out of the gutters, emptying the ponds, and putting antifreeze in the outdoor pipes. But now that we’re enjoying the condo life it’s gotten much easier: We just grab a heavier coat! I’m not sure if all of that fuss builds community, though. People do pitch in and help push their neighbors’ cars out of ditches and up hills after the big snowstorms, but for the rest of it I think it’s “every Minnesotan for themselves.” Perhaps because we’re used to it? That said, I’ve never gotten used to the kindness of strangers who have come give my bumper a push when I’ve gotten stuck. 🙂

          • The condo life definitely sounds better! I was imagining a lot of arduous prep of the home (and wardrobe) for seasonal changes and inclement weather. Owning a home is always far more time and work than realized, it seems. And as you said, since everyone has to take care of their own, inclement weather won’t necessarily add to community. But love to hear that the kindness of strangers continues on “) Grateful for the generosity of any and all human spirits out there –

          • Amen to that: “Grateful for the generosity of any and all human spirits out there.” You should put that on a holiday card, Lara. You’d make a mint! 😉

    • Merci infiniment, Myriam ! J’oublie parfois moi-même la beauté de Minnesota, mais ce voyage a eté vraiment inoubliable. Je te remercie ta visite !

  4. I tried posting this just a second ago and was treated to some sort of error message. I just want to thank you for sharing these glorious colors and views. Uta is sure a great friend to have leading the way–tell her thank you too.

    • Sorry about the strange error message, Patti … but thank you so much for being persistent! Your kind comments always warm my heart and make my day.

    • PS: I will pass on your thanks to Uta! I’m writing her a belated thank you card right now, so I’ll be sure to mention that my faithful blog-friend Patti Ross enjoyed the trip as well. 🙂

  5. Gorgeous! I always do Oberg Mountain when I am “up north” as it is one of my favorites! Last time I added Leaveaux Trail and that was lovely too. I’ve never checked out the nature center and was curious what that was like so will do next time. Looks like you timed the colors perfectly! So incredibly beautiful! 🙂

    • You’re right that we really lucked out on the timing — especially considering that this trip was two years in the making, lol. It’s good to know that Leveaux Trail is worthwhile too! Next year … (because you always have to save something for next year, don’t you?). Thank you so much for stopping by!

  6. There is so much intensity of colour and crisp detail in these photos, Heide. I have always had a special fondness for the rugged views of Lake Superior as we drove along them from Minneapolis back to Toronto one year. Your hike made me feel like visiting a gallery from the group of Seven!

    • I am so pleased to bring back some happy memories for you! I had forgotten myself how beautiful it was up there … but I assure you it won’t be too long before I return with more photos of your route from Minneapolis to Toronto. 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by.

  7. America is mind-blowingly vast and varied, especially to someone who lives on such a small island ;). Thankyou for taking such beautiful photos to share with us and doing all the walking on our behalf :).

  8. Heide, gorgeous colours, I’d love to be there. The efficient blogger in me is saying with all these images and visits you could have got three or four posts though. I think it’s Jim Grey’s influence! : )

    • A lot of bloggers could benefit from Jim Grey’s influence, couldn’t they? 🙂 I actually did think about holding back on the photos — because even by my standards the post was getting a bit long. But ultimately I decided to just pile everything together so my friend would have a digital photo album from our weekend. Fortunately, she’s used to my prattling on, ha ha. Thank you for stopping by!

      • Heide, I think plenty of bloggers DO benefit from his influence! Has felt strange the last few weeks while he’s been on hiatus.

        I have a certain threshold with viewing pictures and once I see perhaps more than five or six on one batch I switch off a bit. I know many people are happy to swipe through dozens at a time though!

    • Thank you so much — I really appreciate your kind words! And I hope you have an equally lovely fall in your corner of the country.

  9. Amazing, splendid, breath-taking, exhilarating and many more superlatives I’ve not got at the tip of my tongue. Geez-Louise, what a fun trip. Wandering with a friend that knows the way, camera in hand and a doggie to keep you good company, how perfect could it get ?!
    Have I told you how totally rubbish I am at directions ? I might still be wandering. My plan would be to follow the water’s edge, sooner or later I’d come by a cottage or townsite. But considering it’s the largest fresh water lake on Earth, that could take days. By then I’d be bear food I’m sure. Or so nutty, I’d be making friends with the one squirrel in the woods. He’d be my ‘Wilson’, ha! Dang, he’s so cute.
    It looked like a cool day. Then again, you were near Canada 😀 You do live in a beautiful state my dear! Lake shores, colourful foliage and raging streams at every turn. My gosh, no wonder you’re out and about (or a-boot if you want to speak the local language, ha). Uta’s backyard is beyond beautiful ! Cheers dears xK

    • I do indeed know how to keep good company, dear K! Though it sounds like you and I would be hopeless if we wandered off into the woods together, eh? (Because it hadn’t even occurred to me that the old “stay by the water” adage would be an absolute DISASTER along Lake Superior, ha ha!) Your idea of befriending the one lone squirrel — and naming him Wilson — also made me laugh. I’m so relieved I’m not the only one who entertains these silly ideas! 😀 Alas, I think we were up there on the last nice weekend because now everything is barren and gray. Sigh. How a-boot in your neck of the woods? I imagine you’re well into the winter blahs there as well? xoxo

      • Dear directionally challenged (and also silly) friend, I think we might have some excellent selfies the first couple of days before we perished, haha Would you eat bugs? I think I’d start with leaves instead. Jim and I actually got turned around in London. Couldn’t find our way back to our hotel, so hopped into a Handsome Cab (the guys who peddle a basket cart). I was ok to just wander, he was less amused (tired I think). All turned out ok, adventure ride, through traffic, followed by a night-cap in the bar. When life hands you lemons….yada yada
        Oh yah, your question was about our neck of the woods, I do get off track. We’re actually having a couple of mild days in a row. Could be 9 C (48 F) tomorrow! It’s snowed and melted a number of times. What I really notice since the clocks changed is the darkness. I spend a lot of time in the craft room these days, so no blahs yet. 😀 xk

        • The idea of getting lost in the woods with you does have a certain appeal, if only because I know we’d be laughing nonstop for the first couple of days. Until we perished, of course, which would suck. And would I eat bugs, you ask? Depends. Are the bugs coated in chocolate or sprinkled with Sriracha sauce? OH MY YES. Otherwise, OH HELLS NO. 🙂

          BTW, your story about you and Jim in London reminded me very much of me and my beau in Edinburgh: We got off the train, wandered around for about 20 minutes, and finally accepted that we would never find the hotel without help. When we hopped in the taxi the fellow laughed and said it was only two blocks away, but we asked him to please just drive there anyway. Because when you’re cold and tired, two blocks can seem like two miles, am I right?

          Glad to hear the craft room is keeping you entertained and keeping those winter blahs at bay, by the way. Happy hands make for a happy heart, after all …

          • I propose we take a pic-a-nic basket to the forest. Like Yogi and Booboo 😀 Probably a satellite cell phone too. I tend to get sugar lows quickly. It’s really an addiction I suppose, so I’d be crawling through the forest by the end of day two. I authorize you to carry on and save yourself. LOL

          • “TAKE THE SNICKERS AND SAVE YOURSELF!” Haha! I’m afraid I’d be right there with you, curled up in the fetal position amid the moss and fallen leaves, when I crashed from all of the sugar. In which case I would authorize you to carry on and save yourself as well. LOL!

  10. What a beautiful post, with stunning photography, as usual. Minnesota in autumn looks like a place I should visit. Chicago and Toronto in November didn’t have much colour. But I’d want to avoid any serious snow if that’s possible.

    • So sorry for the (inexcusably) belated response, Mr. Draco! But heartfelt thanks all the same for your kind words. I do indeed recommend Minnesota as a fall-color destination, both because of the variety of trees we have by region and because of the huge tracts of unspoiled wilderness one can still find here. Alas, I can’t make any guarantees about the snow. 🙂

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