Explore Minnesota by Motorcycle

By Explore Minnesota

Motorcycle rider
Photo courtesy of RoadRUNNER

Few things are as intoxicating and alluring as the open road. For those who love to travel by motorcycle, there are 21 scenic byways and myriad scenic loop routes in Minnesota that offer some of the state's most beautiful, interesting and enjoyable rides.

Motorcycle riders will find several great regions for motorcycle roads within the North Star State. The northeast region, sometimes referred to as the Arrowhead, is home to the shores of magnificent Lake Superior, as well as numerous lakes and rapids-bearing rivers. The central and northwest regions are where the Midwest prairies meet the north woods, home to Minnesota's largest lakes and a paradise for outdoor lovers. The southern region shares its scenery between the Mississippi River Valley and the start of prairie land that dominates the Dakota states to the west.

Duluth offers big city fun with a seaport flavor, while nearby smaller towns have some interesting finds. From heritage museums to art galleries, delve into the rich ethnic tapestry that has made northeast Minnesota what it is. Overlooking the lovely port city of Duluth, the Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway offers travelers a rewarding, bird’s-eye view of the harbor and the endless shoreline of Lake Superior. There's plenty to see in Duluth, including the Aerial Lift Bridge, Great Lakes Aquarium and the old Depot, home to a train museum and several arts groups.

North Shore Scenic BywayThe spectacular scenery of the North Shore of Superior, including seven state parks, has earned the North Shore Scenic Byway a national designation as an "All-American Road." Experience the history of the shore at the 1910 Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors, the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum in Tofte, the scenic Superior National Golf Course at Lutsen, the friendly harbor village of Grand Marais and the Grand Portage National Monument fur-trading post.

Winding through 57 paved wilderness miles from Grand Marais to Seagull Lake, the Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway is a gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, named one of the world’s “50 places of a lifetime” by National Geographic.

Biwabik is the gateway to the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway, which takes travelers on a relaxing, wooded 61-mile drive from the North Shore to the communities of the Iron Range. Much of the 47-mile drive that connects Grand Rapids to Effie, also known as the Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway, was reconstructed in recent years, promising a smooth ride and spectacular scenery—from historic sites and lumberjack-influenced small towns to bald eagles and balsam firs. Along the way you will find lots of rest areas, places to grab a beverage and a burger, pit stops for gas, scenic overpasses, and lodging options with stunning views.

Minnesota's northernmost scenic drive, Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway, travels from Voyageurs National Park along the Canadian border. Ideal for anglers, boaters, hikers, birders and wildflower lovers, the 229-mile route runs along the Rainy River from International Falls to Baudette, through fields of lady's slippers from Baudette to Warroad, and along the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail west of Warroad.

motorcycles cropApproximately 3.5 hours north of the Twin Cities, the 88-mile Lake Country Scenic Byway travels a segment of Minnesota's Pine to Prairie Birding Trail, and also connects three "anchor" towns: Walker, Park Rapids and Detroit Lakes. Home to the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park, Park Rapids has hundreds of pristine lakes and offers unique shops and restaurants.

Fergus Falls is located just off Interstate 94 in central Minnesota. It is the entry point to Otter Tail County, home of 1,048 lakes, two state parks and the Otter Trail Scenic Byway. The serene drive in pastoral Otter Tail County visits the forests and lakes of Maplewood State Park and Glendalough State Park, a scenic overlook at Inspiration Peak, and the 1889 Phelps Mill and millpond. Hills, curves, lakes and prairie make this a scenic and fun place to ride.

Lanesboro, named in Fodor’s "Top 10 Most Charming Towns to Visit in 2014 in the Midwest,” is on the Great River Road Scenic Byway, which follows the bends and curves of the Root River as it winds through 300-foot towering limestone bluffs and flows into the Mississippi River. Proclaiming itself the “Bed & Breakfast Capital of Minnesota,” with a vibrant arts community, flourishing old-order Amish community, 60 miles of paved bicycle trails, an abundance of outdoor activities, shopping and dining options galore, Lanesboro is the perfect base for cloverleaf rides and day trips.

Open roadThe Historic Bluff County, Shooting Star and Apple Blossom scenic byways in the southern region also feature a variety of scenes, including a bluff-top route that travels high above the Mississippi River, offering dazzling views of the river valley below. Others wind through what feels like a landscape painting of woodsy hills and dramatic dolomite bluffs, marked with the tranquil silhouette of a lone Amish buggy. Some pass through rich agricultural regions of rolling farmlands and small rural towns with historic buildings of national significance, bed-and-breakfasts, golf, swimming pools and city parks.

There is no shortage of things to see and do while on the open road in Minnesota. Start making your plans now to embark on a unique motorcycle adventure!

For more information, visit the scenic byways page, or download or order motorcycle maps for the Northwest & Central and Arrowhead regions.