Don’t just scroll, subscribe!

BuzzTrail’s unique web-stories are the cure for boredom you’ve been waiting for.

The 8 Most Stunningly Scenic Drives in Minnesota

Minnesota, often referred to as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the United States. From rolling prairies to dense forests and sparkling lakes, Minnesota offers diverse scenery that makes for unforgettable road trips. Whether you’re a local looking to explore more of your home state or a visitor eager to experience the natural beauty of the Midwest, these eight scenic drives showcase the best of what Minnesota has to offer.

1. North Shore Scenic Drive

The North Shore Scenic Drive, officially known as Highway 61, stretches along the shore of Lake Superior from Duluth to Grand Portage. This 154-mile route is renowned for its stunning vistas of the lake, dramatic cliffs, and dense forests. Along the way, you’ll encounter charming towns like Two Harbors and Grand Marais, each offering unique attractions and dining options.

Key highlights include:

  • Gooseberry Falls State Park: Famous for its cascading waterfalls and scenic trails.
  • Split Rock Lighthouse: One of Minnesota’s most iconic landmarks, offering panoramic views of Lake Superior.
  • Tettegouche State Park: Known for its rugged cliffs and serene inland lakes.

The North Shore Scenic Drive is especially beautiful in the fall when the foliage turns vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow.

2. Great River Road

The Great River Road follows the course of the Mississippi River from its headwaters at Lake Itasca all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The Minnesota section of this national scenic byway offers 575 miles of picturesque views and historic sites.

Key highlights include:

  • Itasca State Park: The starting point of the Mississippi River and home to beautiful lakes and old-growth forests.
  • Wabasha: A charming river town with the National Eagle Center, where you can learn about and view eagles up close.
  • Red Wing: Known for its historic downtown and the stunning Barn Bluff offering panoramic views of the river valley.

The Great River Road is perfect for those interested in both natural beauty and the rich history of the Mississippi River.

3. Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway

This 287-mile route winds through the heart of southern Minnesota, showcasing the lush river valleys and rolling hills of the Minnesota River. The drive takes you through historic towns and past numerous parks and wildlife refuges.

Key highlights include:

  • Fort Ridgely State Park: A historic site offering insights into the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
  • Minneopa State Park: Known for its stunning waterfalls and bison range.
  • New Ulm: A town with a strong German heritage, featuring unique architecture and festivals.

The Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway is ideal for history buffs and nature lovers alike, offering a peaceful and scenic escape.

4. Gunflint Trail

The Gunflint Trail, or County Road 12, stretches 57 miles from Grand Marais to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). This drive takes you deep into the Northwoods, where you can experience the pristine wilderness and abundant wildlife.

Key highlights include:

  • Pincushion Mountain Overlook: Offers panoramic views of Lake Superior and the surrounding forest.
  • Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center: Provides insights into the history and ecology of the Gunflint Trail area.
  • BWCAW: One of the most famous wilderness areas in the U.S., perfect for canoeing, hiking, and wildlife viewing.

The Gunflint Trail is a true escape into nature, providing a sense of solitude and adventure.

Don’t just scroll, subscribe!

BuzzTrail’s unique web-stories are the cure for boredom you’ve been waiting for.

5. Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway

Named after the legendary lumberjack, the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway offers 54 miles of charming scenery in central Minnesota. The route loops through the heart of the state’s lake country, passing by numerous lakes, forests, and small towns.

Key highlights include:

  • Paul Bunyan Land: A theme park featuring a giant talking Paul Bunyan statue and various rides.
  • Crosslake: A lovely town on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes, offering water activities and quaint shops.
  • Deacon’s Lodge Golf Course: One of the premier golf courses in Minnesota, set amidst beautiful natural surroundings.

The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway is perfect for families and those looking to enjoy Minnesota’s quintessential lake country.

6. Highway 23: Scenic Byway of the Glacial Ridge Trail

Highway 23, also known as the Glacial Ridge Trail Scenic Byway, offers a journey through the unique glacial landscapes of west-central Minnesota. The 220-mile route showcases rolling prairies, glacial lakes, and rich farmland.

Key highlights include:

  • Sibley State Park: Offers beautiful hiking trails, including a climb to Mount Tom, the highest point in the area.
  • Glacial Lakes State Park: Known for its clear lakes and rolling hills, ideal for hiking, swimming, and fishing.
  • Spicer: A charming town on Green Lake, perfect for boating and relaxing by the water.

This drive is a wonderful way to explore the less-traveled but equally beautiful parts of Minnesota.

7. Superior National Forest Scenic Byway

The Superior National Forest Scenic Byway, also known as Forest Highway 11, runs for 61 miles from Silver Bay to Aurora. This drive takes you through the heart of the Superior National Forest, offering spectacular views of forests, lakes, and wildlife.

Key highlights include:

  • Tettegouche State Park: Known for its dramatic cliffs and waterfalls.
  • Superior National Forest: Offers endless opportunities for hiking, camping, and fishing.
  • The Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway: Connects with this route and provides additional scenic drives through the forest.

This byway is perfect for those seeking a deep immersion in nature and outdoor activities.

8. Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway

The Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway, also known as Highway 38, stretches 47 miles from Grand Rapids to Effie. This route offers a serene journey through the Chippewa National Forest, past numerous lakes and dense forests.

Key highlights include:

  • Forest History Center: Offers interactive exhibits and historical insights into Minnesota’s logging history.
  • Marcell Experimental Forest: A research area focusing on forest ecology and hydrology.
  • Scenic overlooks: Numerous points along the route offer breathtaking views of the surrounding wilderness.

The Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway is ideal for those looking to experience the tranquility and natural beauty of northern Minnesota.

Minnesota’s scenic drives offer a diverse array of landscapes and experiences, from the shores of Lake Superior to the rolling prairies and dense forests. Each route provides a unique glimpse into the state’s natural beauty and cultural heritage, making them perfect for day trips, weekend getaways, or extended explorations. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a deeper connection with nature, these eight stunning drives will leave you in awe of Minnesota’s scenic splendor. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and discover the breathtaking beauty that awaits around every bend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *