The scenic route a la Minnesota

The scenic route a la Minnesota

A nice Sunday drive or a walk in the park usually means taking the scenic route and that is always a refreshing change of pace.  Northfield has many trails perfect for hiking, biking, running, and casual walking.  But there’s more to explore in Minnesota if you are willing to go the distance and venture beyond your back door.  Find your favorite scenic route up close and personal on any number of terrains all over the state listed for you at the DNR website or choose from the top twenty most popular trails reviewed at  These are trails that are perfect for a variety of activities, from hiking, biking, and running to horseback riding, backpacking, and canoeing.  They are as close as Red Wing and the Twin Cities and as far as Lutsen and Isabella, taking you to a natural oasis in the center of a city to the edges of the state overlooking bays and lakes.

If you like the wind in your face from the back of a motorcycle or your arm caressing the open window of your car, start closer to home and explore the towns next door.  These three routes begin and end in Northfield and take you on an adventure of another sort.  Enjoy the outdoors, the open country so familiar yet, perhaps, so different.  Go a little slower and take it all in.  What is there about these communities nearby that is unique and special—Warsaw, Le Center, and Elko?  Or, how about New Trier and Red Wing or Millersburg and Elysian?  Each route will give you the opportunity to explore these small towns and communities to find out, to look for more than a gas station stop, and, perhaps, see a different slice of life and make a friend.  If you know these places already and are looking for a scenic adventure by auto that is a little further away and is more in the range of 20 to 150 miles, check out the Best Scenic Drives in Minnesota.  Find out if they make your list of the top twenty scenic drives in the state.

Pretty fall foliage encircling a lakeMinnesota boasts scenic byways, scenic roads, and specially government designated drives.  So, what’s the difference?  A byway is a road or a track less-travelled that does not follow a main route.  A scenic byway or road is one that is specially designated due to the beauty of its natural surroundings or cultural significance.  An All-American Road is a designation granted by the U.S. Department of Transportation because it is a destination itself and is important to the region due to its history, archeology, or culture, or natural, scenic, or recreational qualities.  National Scenic Byways must possess at least one of the aforementioned six qualities.  These national designations are part of a scenic roads program that has roots in the 1960s.  Over time, as states identified roads to develop and preserve, the national government approved funding for roads such as the Great River Road that runs along the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico and is made up of a 3000-mile network of Federal, state, and county roads.  The Great River Road is one of six scenic byways in Minnesota designated as a national Scenic Byway (from 1996-2005) and in 2002, the North Shore Scenic Drive was named an All-American Road.  In 1992 the Minnesota Scenic Byways Commission was established and since then has named 21 byways as state Scenic Byways

If you are looking for something scenic, then Minnesota is the place.  Whether nearby or near the Canadian border, pack your gear, grab a friend, and head out the door.  Adventure is calling.

Photo Credit:  DeannaKlemesrud@pixabay and debrav@pixabay