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Great summer, great color?

Fall colors changes in northern Minnesota will be beginning in the next few days. This photo was taken at Maplewood State Park near Pelican Rapids.

This could be a great year for fall color in much of Minnesota.

Thanks to a healthy dose of rain, most of the state is neither abnormally dry nor in drought - a good sign for those hoping for bright yellows, oranges and reds in the trees.

While decreasing daylight largely drives the timing of fall color, hydrology and weather conditions can affect its intensity. Drought, for example, can mute what would otherwise be bright colors.

Along with rain, temperature can play a role in color intensity.

A hard freeze would also have an effect, causing leaves to fall. On the other hand, a light frost could help intensify color.

It's unclear exactly when peak fall color will hit various parts of Minnesota, but it usually begins along the Canadian border in mid- to late-September and ends in southeastern Minnesota in early to mid-October, according to the DNR.

To help travelers plan their fall hikes, bike rides, paddling trips and scenic drives to coincide as closely as possible with peak color, staff at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas will update an online fall color finder every Thursday.

This online trip-planning tool includes a map showing where to find peak color across the state, a link to fall color programs and special events, a slideshow and a photo uploader that provides an easy way for people to share their favorite fall color images.

"Current weather conditions indicate we're on track for a great fall color year," said Patricia Arndt, communications and outreach manager for the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division. "With the exception of dry weather in northeastern Minnesota, most of the state has had close to or above-average precipitation, making for healthy, green trees going into fall. If we continue to have adequate rainfall as nights become longer, the autumn display should be spectacular."

For smartphone and tablet users, the DNR offers fall colors "to go" on a mobile fall color finder integrated with Google maps. To access the mobile version, scan the QR code at mndnr.gov/mobile.

A vehicle permit is required for entrance to Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. Anyone who purchases a $5 one-day permit can exchange it for $5 off a year-round permit later the same day. Year-round permits, $25, provide unlimited access to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for a full year from the month of purchase.

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