The Great River Road Scenic Byway Route
The Great River Road follows the mighty Mississippi along its entire length, nearly 2,100 miles in all. This segment, which runs about 225–250 miles round trip, is centered on U.S. 61 from Red Wing to the Minnesota border, although we took side loops along the way to work in a few extra sets of curves. (In fact, you'll find some great loops all along this Byway, each offering its own flavor of two-wheeled nirvana. We call out a few, but highly encourage you to "roll your own" as well.)
After meeting in Hastings, we took 316 south to 61, then headed east two miles to County Road 7 south and our first side loop. County 7, which goes through Welch Village and over the Cannon River, features some sweet curves and views to match -- a great warm-up for the day. We headed east on 19 into Red Wing, where we rejoined 61 and turned south for a relaxed cruise to picturesque Lake City and on to Wabasha.
Further south, wind your way up to Garvin Heights Overlook in Winona for a superb view of the town, then head down to Bloedow's Bakery for a donut. Watch for County Road 3 about 10 miles out of Wabasha: head east here for a great ride into La Crescent that lets you bypass the section where 61 overlaps with I-90. Both the road and the views are superb as you wind up and along the ridge, then swoop down into La Crescent.
La Crescent is where most traffic crosses the river, missing what may be the hidden gem of the whole route: highway 26 south. This tree-lined two lane skirts the river in a series of nice curves and very little traffic. If you head west on #14, like we did, you'll get some great twisties up to the plateau, then a nice run into Caledonia. Take #3 back to Brownsville to complete the loop.
On the way north, we stopped at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. It's an ideal spot to get off the bikes and walk along the river. In fact, almost every town along this ride is loaded with history and scenery, and would make a destination in its own right for dinner or even an overnight stay, making the Great River Road Scenic Byway both a great ride and a great destination.