Take In The Beauty Of Minnesota Year-Round With These 12 Scenic Drives
Minnesota is truly a state for all seasons, and there’s no better way to see what the Land of 10,000 Lakes has to offer than to get out and explore – and we’ve got just the way to help you do it. We picked a dozen scenic drives in Minnesota that showcase different parts of the state at different times of the year, so you can take one each month.
January - Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway
Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway, MN-11, Warroad, MN 56763, USA
Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway traces Minnesota's border with Canada, past Lake of the Woods, along the Rainy River, to Rainy Lake (or vice versa). Since winter is one of the best times of year to see the northern lights, this is the perfect scenic drive to take in January.
February - Minnesota 169
Minnesota 169, MN-169, Ely, MN, USA
Minnesota 169 runs between Virginia and Ely. It crosses the Laurentian divide, passes two state parks - Soudan Underground Mine-Lake Vermillion and Bearhead Lake - and slices through the Superior National Forest. If you go in February, you'll experience winter in the North Woods and learn how to celebrate it at the
Ely Winter Festival.
March - Otter Trail Scenic Byway
Otter Trail Scenic Byway, Fergus Falls, MN, USA
As winter begins to loosen its grip, head to west central Minnesota and explore the Otter Trail Scenic Byway. You'll encounter dozens of lakes, as well as Maplewood and Glendalough State Parks, and plenty of Minnesota history on the way. Don't pass up a visit to Inspiration Peak State Wayside, whose namesake rises 400 feet above the surrounding country and affords panoramic views of the landscape.
April - Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway
Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway, Historic Bluff Country Scenic Bywy, Houston, MN, USA
To experience any of Minnesota's famously short spring season, it's best to head to the southern part of the state. A drive along the Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway will take you through some of Minnesota's most scenic landscapes, where you may be lucky enough to spot the region's wildflowers as they start to emerge. You will definitely pass
several fine breweries
that are worthy of a stop.
May - Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway
Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway, 116 W Hwy 61 #205, Grand Marais, MN 55604, USA
May is a fantastic time to head up the
Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway,
which runs from Grand Marais, through the Superior National Forest, to Gull Lake on the Canadian border. In May, the foliage is starting to come in, but it's not yet full, making it ideal for spotting migrating warblers, which nest in the forest, as well as moose, whose babies are just beginning to explore the world.
June - Lady Slipper Scenic Byway
Lady Slipper Scenic Byway Interpretive and Rest Areas, Scenic Hwy NE, Blackduck, MN 56630, USA
The state flower, the showy lady slipper - as well as other types of lady slippers and wildflowers - tinges northern forests with color in the month of June. A drive along the
Lady Slipper Scenic Byway
is one your best opportunities for finding these rare beauties at their peak.
July - Highway 75 King of Trails Scenic Byway
75 King of Trails, Pipestone, MN 56164, USA
Historic U.S. Route 75, once ran from Galveston, Texas, to Winnipeg, Manitoba. It still stretches along the entire length of Minnesota and traces the state's western border with the Dakotas. A July mosey along the Highway 75 King of Trails Scenic Byway is an awesome way to explore what there is to experience in western Minnesota, including Blue Mounds State Park, Pipestone National Monument, the historic Argyle bridge, and much more.
August - Avenue of Pines Scenic Byway
State Highway 46, State Hwy 46, Minnesota, USA
In August, tour some of the best of what the Chippewa National Forest has to offer with a drive along Avenue of the Pines. You'll pass Lake Winnibigoshish, one of the state's largest, several trailheads, and many mature stands of old growth pines. Be sure to pay a visit to
the Lost 40
, which is just a few miles off the byway.
September - Superior National Forest Scenic Byway
Superior National Forest Scenic Byway, Superior Nat'l Forest Scenic Bywy, Hoyt Lakes, MN, USA
Take a trip down the
Superior National Forest Scenic Byway
in September, and you may spot some early-turning foliage, like aspens, birch, or tamaracks. Moose also start to rut at this time of year, so you may be fortunate enough to encounter one of these giants of the north.
October - U.S. Route 61
U.S. 61, Wabasha, MN, USA
For a full-blown foliage foray, head down
U.S. Route 61
, between Hastings and the Iowa border, for some of the state's best fall colors. The hardwood-forested bluffs above the Mississippi valley explode with color on both sides of the river. The three state parks along the route - Frontenac, John Latsch, and Great River Bluffs - make for excellent rest stops and photo opportunities.
November - North Shore Scenic Drive
North Shore Scenic Drive, N Shore Scenic Dr, Two Harbors, MN 55616, USA
Although a trip along the
North Shore Scenic Drive
is stunning anytime of year, it can be particularly dramatic when the "gales of November" visit Lake Superior. Check the weather before you go, then head for the big lake's rocky shorelines for a spectacular show of wind and water. Depending on how far away from Duluth you drive, you could visit as many as eight state parks and four state waysides on your route.
December - St. Croix Scenic Byway
St Croix Scenic Byway, 25156 St Croix Trail N, Shafer, MN 55074, USA
A December drive along the
St. Croix Scenic Byway
will delight both nature lovers and holiday enthusiasts. The relatively short segment from Douglas Point to just beyond Taylors Falls passes four state parks, a state wayside, and tracks the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. You'll also pass through the charming towns of Afton, Lakeland, Stillwater, and Taylors Falls on the way, which bedeck themselves for the holidays - as do the towns of Hudson, Osceola, and St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin on the other side of the river. You'll also pass no fewer than three ski areas if you have time for a few runs down the slopes.
Any of these drives are beautiful any time of the year – we just think that certain seasons highlight their beauty even more. Have you explored any of these scenic routes? Do you have a favorite seasonal drive? Let us know in the comments.
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