Itasca State Park – Autumn Leaves Begin to Fall

Coffee Break Lake as viewed from Deer Lake Trail

Park Rapids, MN

In late July, my wife, Lynn and I met friends at Park Rapids and went to visit Itasca State Park. You can read about that trip here. Itasca, most famously known as the location of the headwaters of the Mississippi River, has miles of hiking trails. The trails are open for hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. As we left the park on that beautiful summer day, we vowed to return in the fall when autumn leaves turn to red and gold, and there is a distinct chill in the air.

Lately our local news started showing the fall color maps on the evening weather program, and a friend who was visiting northern Minnesota called, indicating timing might be good for this upcoming weekend. Another friend on Facebook posted a photo taken at Maplewood State Park, trees showing their best fall finery. As it would happen, this week we would have two windows of opportunity, Thursday or Sunday. Though we thought Sunday might be the better choice for fall colors, the weather didn’t look good. Thursday’s forecast was mostly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of rain. Sunday wasn’t much different, except a strong storm with 40-plus mph (60-plus km/h) winds and heavy rain on Friday and Saturday might just do their best to strip the trees of their leaves.

Ozawindib Trail winds through the forest at Itasca…

… and meanders along the west shore of Mary Lake.

We opted for Thursday, cloudy and cool as it was. As it turned out, our fall color trip was a bit premature. Probably only 25 percent of the trees were showing their fall colors. No matter, we were ready for a nice leisurely hike through the woods. The state park ranger at the information booth recommended Ozawindib Trail with three options, 2.8 miles one way with a return on the same trail, or Ozawindib to Deer Trail via either of two crossover trails making a nice loop back to our car. We opted for the more lengthy of the two crossovers giving us about a 3.8 mile (6.1 km) hike.

All in all, I shot about 75 photos and we took our time, a little over two hours, or about 35 minutes per mile. Our normal hiking pace on an easy trail such as this would be better than 20 minutes per mile. Though there were small hills and valleys, the overall elevation change on the walk amounted to only 177 feet according to Map My Walk, my GPS-enabled smart phone app.

It is interesting to see the color change pattern on this small tree’s leaves.

As the afternoon wore on, the few patches of blue sky were replaced by overcast. Our plan to stay in the park until sunset changed when we realized that there would be no visible sunset this evening. Traversing the crossover, we eventually intersected Deer Lake Trail. Several small lakes lie on either side of Deer Lake Trail and we generally found it more picturesque than Ozawindib Trail.

The crossover trail is a short hike linking Deer Lake and Ozawindib Trails.

Myrtle Lake photo taken somewhere along Deer Lake Trail.

Though the fall colors were not optimal, we enjoyed beautiful scenery none the less, and the hike provided a nice and easy introduction to our hiking season beginning for us in a few weeks in Arizona. Have a great Autumn!

John Steiner

6 thoughts on “Itasca State Park – Autumn Leaves Begin to Fall

  1. Pingback: Pelican Lake – One in Ten Thousand | Journeys with Johnbo

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