Autumn Photography on the North Shore of Lake Superior
Autumn Photography on the North Shore of Lake Superior Minnesota
Over the last several years I had seeing some spectacular images coming out of northern Minnesota during the peak color weeks of autumn. I knew I had to get up there at some point and explore as many of the best locations as possible. I decided that this was finally going to be the year. I would do whatever it takes to free up my schedule to be there during peak color time.
There are some really great resources on the internet that will help you track when the peak colors are coming to a particular region and they help you to better schedule your trip for the exact moments of peak colors.
It turns out that the Lutsen Mountain Resort area is a perfect area to have as a hub for all of your day trips for several days. That location gives you easy access to Lake Superior, several great waterfalls, the superior hiking trail which has some of the most stunning views in the country and you have access to the gondola on Lutsen Mountain for more spectacular views.
During peak color watching season lodging rates can go through the roof in this region. For this particular trip we were not looking for super high end accommodations. We were mostly looking for a place to sleep so that we could be well rested for all of our adventures during this long weekend. We found a wonderful place called “The Mountain Inn” halfway up the hill to Lutsen Mountain. It was perfect for our needs with very comfortable accommodations, a Jacuzzi and access to a great breakfast at the Lutsen Resort right down on Lake Superior and the rates were quite reasonable. (See it on Street View)
One of the most stunning pictures that I had seen during my research of this region was a scene from Oberg Mountain from Dan Anderson, a great Minnesota-based photographer. I knew I wanted to capture sunrise on the top of Oberg Mountain. What we decided to do was to get up well before sunrise. We drove over to the parking area for the hiking trail of Oberg Mountain and then we proceeded to hike up the mountain in the dark so we would be at a perfect place for the sunrise viewing (This is why you always carry a flashlight in your photography bag). This particular morning it happened to be basically cloudless so I knew I wouldn’t be getting any incredible pinks and purple hues from a sunrise but I would be getting early morning golden hues from the sunrise and I was going to take extra advantage of that.
Autumn Sunrise Oberg Mountain Overlook
When we got to the lookout point at Oberg Mountain, my jaw dropped. I was hoping to see Peak colors but I always have that doubt in in my mind that something will go wrong, that I had missed peak or it was going to be too hazy or foggy or whatever and I just wouldn’t be able to see the colors. Well this particular morning I was able to see the colors incredibly well and the vista was more than I expected.
I think this shot is the best of my shots of that morning. I wish there were some clouds in the sky to reflect the pinks and purple hues of sunrise back for our viewing pleasure, but in the world of photography you take what you can get and I would gladly take this.
Beautiful Falls colors of the Superior Hiking Trail Oberg Mountain
As we continue to hike around the Oberg Mountain trail area there were so many exquisite scenes of light exploding through the brightly colored canopy. You have to work exceedingly hard at watching your step to make sure you’re not tripping and falling with all your camera gear and at the same time pay attention to all the incredible views around you. Hew, it really is hard work.
View of Lake Superior from Oberg Mountain
Cascade River State Park
After coming back from my morning hike and having an incredible breakfast at the Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior, we decided to head a little further north east of Highway 61 and explorer the Cascade Falls at Cascade River State Park.
Cascade River State Park
The one thing I was most surprised with in this area was how high and fast the water was. We are in late fall and this time of year is generally dry and the water levels are generally low. But due to our mild and moist summer here in Minnesota the water was raging and frankly it made for some great photo ops.
Cascade River State Park
In the later afternoon we continued our exploring inland a bit and we continued looking for gorgeous landscapes and gorgeous colors. There were plenty of both to be seen and appreciated.
Inland Region around Cascade River State Park
We had a wonderful dinner at Moguls Grill and Tap Room on Lutsen Mountain. One of the special surprises at dinner time was a delicious shot of limoncello!
Ride the Gondola at Lutsen Mountain
The next day we were a little bit tired from all of our hiking excursions the day before, so we slept in a bit and allowed our old bones to recover a little bit. We knew that for this day we wanted to get up the gondola on Lutsen Mountain. It opened up at 10 a.m. and we decided to be there slightly before opening just because we knew we had so much to do that day. What we figured out is that we were very lucky to have gotten started early because by the time we were coming down the gondola, it appeared as if there was a two or three hour line of people waiting to get up the gondola. So travel tip for you, get up and get going early to avoid the crowds.
View after Gondola Ride at Lutsen Mountain
The views on top of the mountain where the gondola took you were spectacular. You were given a 360 degree view of the entire region from Lake Superior to inland viewing lakes and rivers. It was certainly enchanting. You could have stood there and gazed at the beauty for hours. There was a bit of a haze that morning so the pictures were not ideal but I will have to allow my memory to be the better tool to capture the beauty there.
We realize that later in the afternoon the gondola was going to be closed for a wedding that was going to be happening on the top of the Mountain. What an amazing location for a wedding and I’m sure it was a joy to behold the great event with such a breathtaking view.
Back Country at Lutsen Resort in the Autumn
After the gondola ride, we decided to hike in that area right on Lutsen Mountain to see what else we could discover. It’s quite remarkable to be on ski hills in the summertime. The views are so completely different than what you remember from winter skiing.
Temperance River State Park
After the morning adventures it was time to get to Temperance River State Park and explore the rushing falls there. One of the things that surprised me of this region is that the rocks here are actually volcanic rocks. I did not recall that the northern Minnesota region had been a volcanic region. Frankly it blew me away.
Rushing Waters of Temperance River
The river again was high and roaring which was also surprising this time of year but a great treat indeed.
The colors around this park are somewhat different than what we had seen on Lutsen Mountain because we were in more of a pine forest so there was a combination of some trees and shrubs that were changing color but you’re still surrounded by deep greens also. It was quite beautiful to behold.
Autumn Sunset Lutsen Resort
That night we were mesmerized by an amazing autumn sunset on Lutsen Mountain. There is something especially beautiful about fall light as the angles of the Sun are lower coming through all the particles in the air producing such incredible colors. This particular sunset was even more than we had hoped for.
Tettegouche State Park
On day three we were going to be heading to the expansive area known as Tettegouche State Park.
The Colors of Tettegouche State Park
This area is packed with lakes and vistas and hiking trails that are beyond the imagination. Frankly I was just unaware of the huge treasure that is in this region.
Have a Seat at Tettegouche Lake
For the main idea of this day we took an extensive hike to Tettegouche Lake and to a rustic campsite at Mic Mac Lake. The views again were of course stunning with the rich blue sky the incredible colors of the trees and foliage.
View of Tettegouche Lake
The idea that kept hitting me while on this hike was the reminder of how important it is to get off the beaten path so that you can see the truly remarkable places that we have access to here in Minnesota.
Stunning View of Mic Mack Lake Tettegouche State Park
We finished off this hike with a glorious view over Lax Lake.
Overlooking Lax Lake Tettegouche State Park
Reasons to Get Away
If you live in the Twin Cities area it is easy to become a bit numb to the vast nature reserves that we have available to us here in Minnesota. While this particular journey left me tired from all of the strenuous hiking, at the same exact time I was invigorated and refreshed by spending time in nature.
One of the highlights of our trip was while we were on the trail a friendly hiker that we bumped into asked us if we wanted our picture taken. While neither my lovely wife nor myself are much for being people in front of the camera I must say it is quite a joy to have this treasured portrait of us as a memory of our almost 30 years together and also as a memory of this particular adventure.
Almost 30 years of wedded bliss Anne and Wayne Moran
This is for me another reminder of how important it is to get away from the normal Monday routine things that we do in life and get out into God’s creation to renew and refresh our minds. Both my wife and I came away from this trip tired and refreshed and already considering our next adventure.
Hope this article helps give you some examples of all the great places that you can see here in the States and in the Upper Midwest. I hope you enjoy the images that we have captured. Many of these images will be Available For Purchase Here.
And until next time, get out and capture the adventure!Written by Wayne Moran - Visit Website