North to south, east to west, Minnesota is an astonishingly gorgeous place. We have just about every kind of landscape you can imagine: prairies, forests, rivers, and – of course – our famous lakes. While there is beauty in every region, there’s one particular part of Minnesota that has captured the hearts of many locals and out-of-towners alike. Northern Minnesota has endless that everyone should try to see at least once. Here are our 11 favorite destinations way up north in Minnesota that are so worth the drive.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Boundary Waters
The Boundary Waters is one of the most beautiful places in the entire United States. With over 1 million acres of pristine northern wilderness, it's the perfect place to get away from it all. Get up early and watch the sun come up. Then, paddle through still waters, spotting magnificent wildlife up close. At night, pitch a tent by the lake and enjoy he stunningly beautiful night sky. It's the adventure of a lifetime.
2. Savanna Portage State Park
This little-known state park near McGregor, Minnesota, is well worth going out of your way for. It's made up of more than 15,000 acres of marshes, forests, and more. The park is intended to preserve a difficult portage between the Mississippi River and Lake Superior. It has been used by Native Americans, European fur traders, and missionaries for centuries. You can still hike the portage today - with or without a canoe.
3. Iona's Beach
Right off of Highway 61, Iona's Beach is a Minnesota treasure. Instead of sand, this little beach is made up of small pink pebbles. As if this weren't interesting enough on its own, this beach has another surprise. When the waves of Lake Superior wash against the pebbles, they tinkle together, making an otherworldly chiming sound. Next time you're on the North Shore, this is a must-stop spot!
4. Itasca State Park
Did you know Itasca was Minnesota's first state park? It was established in 1891 and has been a popular camping spot for generations of Minnesotans ever since. If you haven't yet walked across the headwaters of the Mississippi River, this 32,000-acre state park should move to the top of your bucket list.
5. Tettegouche State Park
Tettegouche State Park is a ruggedly beautiful spot on the North Shore that any waterfall lover must visit after they've had their fill of nearby Gooseberry Falls. Why? Because Tettegouche is home to the tallest waterfall entirely within Minnesota. Not only that, but it contains miles of hiking trails, stunning forests, and wonderful campsites for those who want to spend the night.
6. Zippel Bay State Park
When another North Shore vacation just won't do, you may want to consider booking a campsite at Zippel Bay State Park. This little-known spot is located right on the banks of Lake of the Woods. It features a forest containing many types of trees, gorgeous lake views, plentiful wildlife, and even a white sand beach!
7. Big Bog State Recreation Area
Big Bog is a lesser known spot near Wakish Township in Beltrami, Minnesota. Though it is not as often visited as some other entries on this list, it is still one of Minnesota's most fascinating places. Made up mostly of swamps and bogs dotted with common types of trees, it is also home to some of Minnesota's strangest plants. Carnivorous sundews and pitcher plants make homes here, along with deer, bears, and other animals. The boardwalk through the bog will provide an interesting look at a little-known part of Minnesota's landscape.
8. Black Beach
Here's another North Shore beach that is well worth the drive. Black Beach is, as the name suggests, a beach made up of black pebbles. Though not naturally occurring - the color is a result of nearby mining - it is a beautiful spot along Lake Superior. There's a large, jagged cliff that provides a stark contrast to the black with its orange-red coloring. This beach is unlike anything else in Minnesota, and that makes it worthy of a stop.
9. Grand Portage State Park
Remember how we said the waterfall at Tettegouche is the tallest waterfall
entirely within Minnesota? It earns that distinction because the High Falls of the Pigeon River is partly in Canada. That's how far north you'll have to drive if you want to see this stunning sight. But trust us - it's worth it. The stunningly beautiful scenery of this state park, in combination with its long human history, makes this attraction stand out.
10. Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park
Dating all the way back to 1900, Minnesota's newest state park is actually full of history. It's the site of Minnesota's oldest and deepest iron mine. It's a fascinating spot that tells the history of mining in Minnesota's Iron Range. Visitors can even take a tour of the underground facilities!
11. Schoolcraft State Park
Near Grand Rapids, Minnesota, one of Minnesota's least known state parks is also one of the prettiest places in the northern half of the state. Trails lead hikers through virgin forest that includes some 300-year-old pines. After your hike, launch a kayak or canoe onto the tranquil waters of the Mississippi River. Whatever your favorite activity, this gorgeous park will provide the peace and quiet you need.
What are your favorite places to visit in northern Minnesota? Let us know in the comments below!