As the icy grip of winter loosens and the first whispers of spring echo across the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota transforms into a roadtripper’s paradise. It’s a season of renewal, where wildlife emerges from winter slumber, waterfalls roar back to life, and wildflowers carpet the landscapes. There’s a certain charm in the air – a call to venture outdoors, to explore the breathtaking beauty that makes Minnesota road trips unique.
From the scenic shores of Lake Superior to the bustling heart of Minneapolis, our state offers an array of Minnesota road trips that capture this springtime magic. Whether you’re seeking solitude in the wilderness, a journey back in time, or the charm of small-town life, Minnesota’s roads will lead you there. So, dust off your travel gear, tune up your vehicle, and let’s embark on five of the most enchanting Minnesota roadtrips that spring has to offer. Buckle up, it’s going to be an unforgettable ride!
1. Chasing Waterfalls: The North Shore Scenic Drive
As the frost retreats, and the spring sun comes out to play, there’s no better place to kickstart your Minnesota road trips than the North Shore Scenic Drive. This picturesque route, skirting the edge of Lake Superior, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Start your journey in Duluth, a vibrant city filled with craft breweries and historic architecture. From there, the route snakes northward, hugging the shoreline, revealing an array of jaw-dropping waterfalls like Gooseberry Falls and the High Falls of the Pigeon River. Don’t forget to pack a picnic basket – these scenic spots are perfect for a leisurely lunch amidst the beauty of springtime Minnesota.
Place to eat: Betty’s Pies
Betty’s Pies is an adorable, long-standing tradition on this drive. Always busy, order ahead from their website, so that when you arrive your food is ready and everyone will wonder how you got your food so quick! A tradition since 1957, choose a Beef or Chicken Pasty as your maindish and then split a piece of Bumbleberry or Great Lakes Crunch Pie. Yum!
Place to stay: Lutsen Lodge
From their website, “Lutsen Resort is Minnesota’s oldest resort. Established in 1885, the rugged natural beauty of Lake Superior’s North Shore prompted Charles Axel Nelson, a young Swedish immigrant, to establish his homestead overlooking the lake.” What I know is that there is just something special for every season at Lutsen Lodge and its a place where our family has amazing memories!
2. Small Town Charm: The Great River Road
Next on our list of Minnesota roadtrips is the Great River Road, tracing the mighty Mississippi from its headwaters at Itasca State Park all the way to the Iowa border. This route is a delightful mix of picturesque small towns, rugged landscapes, and rich history, making it a must-visit for any roadtripper.
Begin your trip at Itasca State Park, where you can walk across the headwaters of the Mississippi. As you head south, take in the charming towns of Brainerd, Little Falls, and St. Cloud, each offering unique attractions. As spring blooms, the river banks are adorned with a riot of colors, making for an unforgettable drive.
3. Pristine Wilderness: The Gunflint Trail
If you’re a fan of unspoiled wilderness and crave a sense of adventure, then the Gunflint Trail is the Minnesota road trip for you. This 57-mile drive winds through the heart of the Superior National Forest, offering spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities and access to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Start in Grand Marais, a quaint harbor town known for its art scene and the World’s Best Donuts shop. The trail then plunges into the forest, leading you past pristine lakes and towering pines. Whether you’re an angler looking for your next big catch or a birdwatcher hoping to spot a rare species, the Gunflint Trail has something to offer every outdoor enthusiast.
Place to eat: World’s Best Donuts
Family owned and operated since 1969, this cute little red and white donut shop offers some unique offerings — like skizzles and donut kebabs! So fun! And of course their cake donuts are to die for. My favorite is the skizzle and the humble chocolate-dipped cake donut.
4. A Journey Through Time: The Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway
The Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway, a journey through time, is our next highlight for Minnesota road trips. This route, winding through the state’s southeast corner, is a patchwork of idyllic farms, historic towns, and towering bluffs, offering a peek into Minnesota’s past.
Your trip begins in the charming town of Harmony, known for its Amish communities and the fascinating Niagara Cave. As you drive, take time to explore the Root River State Bike Trail, the Mystery Cave State Park, and the historic town of Lanesboro, often dubbed the “bed and breakfast capital of Minnesota.” The fresh scent of blooming wildflowers and the song of returning birds will make this spring roadtrip a sensory delight.
5. An Artful Excursion: The Grand Rounds Scenic Byway
Finally, we have the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, a unique city-based route located right in Minneapolis. This Minnesota road trip is perfect for those who love the outdoors but still want to stay close to urban amenities.
Start at the Chain of Lakes, where you can rent a paddleboard or bike and enjoy the vibrant springtime scenery. Then, head towards the Mississippi River, exploring the historic St. Anthony Falls area and the Stone Arch Bridge.
As your journey continues, be sure to visit the beautiful Minnehaha Falls, especially stunning as the winter ice melts into a torrent of spring water. From there, circle back to Theodore Wirth Park, a slice of wilderness in the heart of the city. The Grand Rounds is not just a road trip; it’s a celebration of nature amidst the urban hustle, and a fitting conclusion to our Minnesota roadtrips guide.
Before we wrap up, remember that each of these Minnesota road trips can be tailored to fit your interests and pace. Whether you’re a passionate history buff, a nature enthusiast, or a small-town lover, there’s a road trip in Minnesota waiting for you. As you embark on these journeys, you’ll discover that the Land of 10,000 Lakes is teeming with adventures, stories, and scenic beauty that goes beyond the ordinary.
Spring in Minnesota is a time of renewal, and these roadtrips are a perfect way to witness this transformation. So, pack your bags, rev up your engines, and get ready to explore Minnesota like never before. Safe travels and happy adventures!