Stream flowing through the valley in Minnesota.

8 Most Scenic Road Trips to take in Minnesota

Embrace your inner adventurer and take a quest through Minnesota's splendor, highlighted by eight breathtaking road trips awaiting exploration. Traverse the rugged shores of Lake Superior, delve into a wonderland of rolling hills, and meander through serene river valleys. Each trek offers a unique window into the heart of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Minnesota road trips weave together diverse landscapes, enchanting towns, and iconic landmarks that show just how beautiful the state can be.

The serene experience offered through a Minnesota road trip is unparalleled. Thanks to the exquisite blend of exploration and relaxation, there is a route that caters to every traveler's whim. Whether your heart yearns for the tranquility of shimmering lakeshores, the mystery of dense forests, or the iconic culture of this international landmark state, a path to tranquility awaits. Minnesota's scenic byways promise a rich tapestry that can offer highly sought-after serenity. So, buckle up and let the wonders of Minnesota guide you on a journey to your inner serenity.

North Shore Scenic Drive

Gooseberry Falls on Minnesota's North Shore Drive.
Gooseberry Falls on Minnesota's North Shore Drive.

Kickstart your magical Minnesota road trip along the iconic North Shore Scenic Drive in Minnesota. This zone covers approximately 154 miles along the stunning shoreline of Lake Superior. Starting in Duluth, the drive offers inspiring views of the largest freshwater lake in the world. Tour Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, and Tettegouche State Park, where you can hike to scenic overlooks and witness nature's raw majesty in its waterfalls.

As you head further north, explore the quaint towns of Grand Marais and Lutsen, known for their art scene, cozy lodges, and outdoor excursions like kayaking and canoeing. The North perfectly blends a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and serene landscapes, making it a must-do road trip in Minnesota. This is a must-travel venture for a road trip that focuses both on nature and the neighborly culture of small towns in the state.

Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway

The renovated Stillater Lift Bridge at dusk in Stillwater, Minnesota.
The renovated Stillwater Lift Bridge at dusk in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Undertake a thrilling travel experience along the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway, stretching approximately 287 miles through the beautiful Minnesota River Valley. Starting in Belle Plaine, the route takes you through charming river towns like New Ulm, Redwood Falls, and Granite Falls. Take the opportunity to wander through Minnesota State Park, home to genuinely one-of-a-kind waterfalls and bison herds.

A quick visit to the Lower Sioux Agency State Historic Site to learn the region's history and culture does just the trick for road-trippers. As you travel further along the river, enjoy picturesque views of bluffs, valleys, and wildlife. The Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway perfectly blends serenity in nature and prideful history. It's ideal for lifelong learners and those willing to take the time to truly get the Minnesota feel. 

Great River Road

Red Wing is a Community in Southern Minnesota on the Mississippi River.
Red Wing is a small town in Southern Minnesota on the Mississippi River.

Travel along the Great River Road, a scenic byway stretching approximately 575 miles along the Mississippi River. Starting in La Crescent, the path takes you through picturesque river towns like Red Wing and Stillwater, each offering unique attractions and historical sites. Dart over to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha to observe these majestic birds up close and make unforgettable memories by interacting with North America's unique fauna.

It's one of the oldest towns founded in the state. Explore the historic Afton State Park and enjoy panoramic river views alongside the aptly named Great River Road. It provides a quirky mix of river views and charming communities for a quick stop and shop. The whole trip provides insight into the skyscape ruled by the eagle, a creature iconic of authentic Americana.

Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway

Canoe with paddle on shore of beautiful lake with island in northern Minnesota at sunrise.
Canoe with a paddle on the shore of a beautiful lake in northern Minnesota at sunrise.

Experience the legend of Paul Bunyan on the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway, a delightful road trip spanning approximately 54 miles through the Brainerd Lakes area in one direction. It's ideal for a day trip on the road, especially for anyone who enjoys spending a serene trip daydreaming. Begin in Brainerd, and follow the road to experience a quaint mix of outdoor scenery, replete with grassy noles and forest-dense areas to stop for a quick pic. 

Explore the Crow Wing State Park and wander about the historic town of Pequot Lakes, known for its top and friendly atmosphere. Stop at the famous Paul Bunyan Land amusement park to meet the legendary lumberjack in person. The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway is a family-friendly road trip that celebrates the tall tales of the Northwoods while providing access to the region's natural beauty. The Bunyan legend makes the trip ideal for a multigenerational road trip adventure.

River Bluffs Scenic Byway

Winona, Minnesota USA October 12, 2022 Houseboats on Latsch Island in the backwaters of the Mississippi River on an autumn morning, taken from the Latsch Island Bridge in Winona, Minnesota USA.
Winona, Minnesota USA October 12, 2022 Houseboats on Latsch Island in the backwaters of the Mississippi River on an autumn morning, taken from the Latsch Island Bridge in Winona, Minnesota, USA. Editorial Credit: Linda McKusick via Shutterstock.

Discover the beauty of southeastern Minnesota on the River Bluffs Scenic Byway, covering approximately 250 miles of picturesque landscape that includes thousands of species of unique flora. Watch from the window as the woods and waters flow into each other, creating a serene panorama. Starting in Red Wing, the drive looks at the Mississippi River and the surrounding bluffs. Visit Frontenac State Park for hiking, birdwatching (and maybe a picnic).

It's worth bringing a set of binoculars to absorb all the fine details of the local flora and the birds twittering around. Next on the journey, take a wander through the town of Winona, renowned for its picturesque landscape. Indulge your inner artist by window shopping or hitting one of its local museums; as with most attractions, aim for a weekday if you plan to hit museums or shops. Next, follow the road south to Lanesboro, known for its historic downtown and the renowned Commonweal Theatre. The River Bluffs Scenic Byway engenders serenity through the wonder of river valleys, bluffs, and forested beauty. 

Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway

The sun setting over a small opening to a secluded lake located in Itasca County Minnesota within the Chippewa National Forest.
The sun is setting over a small opening to a secluded lake located in Itasca County, Minnesota, within the Chippewa National Forest.

Begin an exciting trek along the Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway, covering approximately 47 miles through the Chippewa National Forest. It's particularly lively during the summer (when the roads are ideal). The route in Grand Rapids offers access to pristine lakes, dense forests, and abundant wildlife.

Meander over to the Joyce Estate, a historic mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens and trails. If your road-trip timing works out, check out the Bigfork River Canoe Trail, where you can paddle through peaceful waters and enjoy the tranquility of the wilderness. The Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway is a wildlife lover's paradise, providing outdoor activities while remaining relatively remote and under the radar.

Lake Country Scenic Byway

Panoramic autumn overlook on scenic Huntington mine lake, in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area of northern Minnesota.
Panoramic autumn overlook on scenic Huntington mine lake in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area of northern Minnesota.

See central Minnesota at its finest with a road trip along the Lake Country Scenic Byway. The one-way route spans 88 miles as the crow flies. It loops around the Gull Lake area with twists and turns, making it perfect for a weekend trip. Starting in Nisswa, the drive takes you through unique lake communities like Pequot Lakes and Crosslake. There are a plethora of Bed and Breakfasts and Airbnbs.

This lets you extend the road trip and really soak in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, known for its mountain biking trails and scenic mine pits. Travel over to the Paul Bunyan Trail, a popular destination for hiking, biking, and winter sports. The Lake Country Scenic Byway offers a beautiful mix of outdoor activities, lake views, and small-town charm, making it a delightful road trip in the heart of Minnesota. It allows visitors a chance to focus on the state's claim to fame: its wondrous lakes. This road trip stands out for those looking to hit the road in any season; it's beautiful at any time of year.

Boundary Waters Scenic Byway

Fishing dock in Ely, Minnesota.
Fishing dock in Ely, Minnesota.

Embark on a journey to embrace the wilderness of northeastern Minnesota on the Boundary Waters Scenic Byway. It leads you through around 150 miles of the Gunflint Trail and Highway 1. Kick off the venture Grand Marais; this path offers access to the pristine wilderness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Take some time to stop and appreciate the Grand Portage National Monument and learn about the region's fur trading history. For a true drink from the well of serenity, the picturesque town of Ely is an idyllic stop for canoeing, fishing, and hiking. The Boundary Waters Scenic Byway provides the chance to connect with nature and reconnect with your natural self through the beauty of Minnesota's Northwoods.

Final Notes

Minnesota's scenic road trips are a gateway to discovering the state's intriguing topography and awe-inspiring beauty. From the majestic shores of Lake Superior to the picturesque vistas of river valleys, each journey unfolds its own story. There are options for picnickers, bird-watchers, fans of the forest, and lovers of lakes.

Regardless of whether you seek serenity through a peaceful ride in the passenger seat or want to roll through a historical area, Minnesota has something special to offer. Minnesota is truly special because it offers the driver and the passengers a chance to experience the desired serenity. With options for any group, this northern state is a wonderland in the winter and an oasis in the summer. Happy exploring!


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