North Dakota is an incredibly breathtaking place year-round, and the cooler fall temperatures just around the corner are sure to add beauty to the landscape. The state’s prairies, plains, and rolling hills become even more stunning during the autumn months when the foliage is brushed with reds, oranges, golds and yellows. North Dakota Tourism has published a Fall Foliage Guide with incredible locations to take in a kaleidoscope of colorful views. For some of the best views of the season, visitors should plan a road trip in early September through mid-October.
Scenic Byways and Tranquil Back Roads
Follow the same routes traveled by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark; Sakakawea; and Sitting Bull with breathtaking views featuring the Missouri River and rugged scenery. Beginning at the Cannonball River and traveling south along Highways 1806 and 24, travelers can visit the Lewis and Clark Legacy Nature Trails (three one-mile trails overlooking Lake Oahe), Standing Rock Monument, Fort Yates Stockade and the Sitting Bull Visitor Center.
Beginning in Cavalier, ND, and proceeding west on Highways 32 and 55, the Rendezvous Region Backway winds through pristine natural landscapes along the bends of the Pembina River in northwest North Dakota. Visitors ambling through the countryside on this route will take in the panoramic vistas of Pembina Gorge and stop at locations including Icelandic State Park, Tetrault Woods State Forest Lookout (for a stunning look at fall color), the Pembina County Museum and much more.
The tree-lined rolling hills of the Sheyenne River Valley are not to be missed in the fall. The Sheyenne River Valley’s scenic byway, North Dakota’s first to be recognized nationally, is a stunning 63-mile drive starting north of Valley City, ND, and meanders south to Kathryn, Fort Ransom and Lisbon with 40 interpretive stops along the way highlighting the history and culture of the region.
“Tree-mendous” Trails in North Dakota Parks
The Greenway (Grand Forks, ND)
The Greenway consists of 2,200 acres of natural open space lining the Red River and the Red Lake River in the heart of Grand Forks. This picturesque urban space offers countless opportunities to see fall foliage whether you’re hiking, walking, running, rollerblading, biking, birding, canoeing/kayaking, fishing or golfing.
With thousands of miles of trails to explore the breathtaking scenery, fall is a prime time to grab hiking boots or a bike and get outside at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. While leaf-peeping throughout the park, visitors will likely see wild animals such as bison, feral horses, elk, deer, prairie dogs, and much more.
State Capitol Arboretum Trail (Bismarck, ND)
This beautiful nature trail, constructed in 1985 in the middle of Bismarck, North Dakota’s capital city, gives a unique view of the mixing of nature, art, and architecture on the Capitol grounds. Along the west side of the mall, behind the Governor’s residence, the trail meanders through 75 different species of trees and shrubs that turn gorgeous colors in the fall. The trail passes statues and memorials which symbolize the state’s history and heritage.
Southern Red River Valley (Fargo, ND)
Color abounds along the Red River’s southern valley. Visitors can spot the brilliant fall hues in a number of nearby parks and fields. Beyond the reflection of autumnal leaves captured in the Red River, consider strolling through Lindenwood Park or Orchard Glen Park for a full immersion in fall colors.
For more fall favorites including activities from pumpkin picking to tailgating and festivals for harvest season and beyond, check out North Dakota’s Guide to Fall.