Ranked 21st in area, Minnesota is one of the largest states in the United States. Because of the state’s size, it is home to more than a few beautiful places. Dozens of state parks – and even one national park – are found within the borders of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. So why not go out and explore it? If you’ve never seen these 11 breathtaking Minnesota spots, this is the year to finally cross them off your bucket list.
1. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
As one of the last true wildernesses in the United States - let alone Minnesota - this part of Minnesota is one that anyone is lucky to visit. Over one million acres make up its area, which is filled with remote lakes - more than 1,000, in fact - and thick woods. It's an amazing place to get in touch with Mother Nature - and maybe do some fishing, too.
2. Pipestone National Monument
Located in southwestern Minnesota, Pipestone National Monument is a bit of a drive for most Minnesotans. But if you're ever in the area, it's well worth a visit. This monument is home to quarries used by Plains Indians to collect stone for ceremonial pipes. The quarries go back centuries, and they are still sacred to many groups today. The park is also incredibly beautiful, with Winnewissa Falls a definite highlight. You can view this waterfall from above and below. Either way, it's gorgeous.
3. Banning State Park
Banning State Park may just be the highlight of Sandstone, Minnesota. With the Kettle River rushing through it, the park is home to many trails that offer views of this beautiful sight. Other than that, low waterfalls and quick rapids make Banning a popular spot for kayakers and sightseers alike.
4. Gooseberry Falls
As one of Minnesota's most popular state parks, this is a mandatory stop for anyone who truly wants to explore Minnesota. The falls are the main attraction, but there are many miles of hiking trails through the area surrounding the park, which includes both forest and lake views. But if you're only up for a short hike, you'll be happy to know that the main event is only a short walk from the parking lot!
5. Voyageurs National Park
Minnesota's only national park, Voyageurs is one of the most awe-inspiring places in the entire state. Its 218,000 acres are mostly water, so you'll probably want to have a boat if you plan to visit. But if you do, you'll be treated to some of the best boating, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing you'll ever have. The park is perfect for those who want to experience true peace and quiet.
6. Gooseberry Falls
It may be a popular spot, but there are still many people who haven't seen the crown jewel of Minneapolis. This 53-foot waterfall is a must-see sight for anyone in the Twin Cities. Above, views of the rushing waters of Minnehaha Creek are amazing. And if you follow the winding staircase to the base of the falls, you'll be treated with a misty, magical sight. This spot is truly beautiful.
7. Blue Mounds State Park
Just a few miles south of Pipestone National Monument, Blue Mounds State Park is unlike any other place in Minnesota. The centerpiece of this gorgeous park is a tall ridge of pink quartzite cliffs that rise above the surrounding prairie. Lovely hiking trails and a nice campground make this park well worth a visit. As an added bonus, you may even see buffalo!
8. Great River Bluffs State Park
In Winona, Minnesota, this state park stands tall over the Mississippi River. Stepp, 500-foot bluffs rise over the landscape, offering stunning views for anyone who climbs to the top. It's an incredible way to see the Mississippi River from above, especially when the leaves start to change in the fall.
9. Itasca State Park
As Minnesota's first state park, Itasca is a classic trip that Minnesotans have taken for generations. In addition to the sparkling waters of Lake Itasca, thick northern forests, and plenty of hiking trails, the park also offers a classic Minnesota activity. Walk across the stone path that leads across the Mississippi River's headwaters for a one-of-a-kind experience that you can only do in Minnesota.
10. Tettegouche State Park
One of the most gorgeous spots on the North Shore, Tettegouche State Park is not to be missed. Aside from the miles of hiking trails through pristine north woods, the park is also home to four waterfalls, the most impressive being the High Falls of the Baptism River. If that's not enough incredible views over Lake Superior include Palisade Head and Shovel Point. You will not regret your trip to this park.
11. Split Rock Lighthouse
Here's another of Minnesota's most popular state parks that cannot be missed. The beautiful lighthouse, which dates back to 1910, is an icon of the North Shore. It stands on a 130-foot cliff above Lake Superior that is best viewed from afar. But if you do visit the park, make sure you climb up the 54-foot lighthouse for a breathtaking view you'll never forget.
Have you visited any of these breathtaking spots? Would you add any others to the list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!