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Minnesota’s great northwest region offers some great touring opportunities. Scenic byways and drives make for the perfect routed trip, with many communities to visit and activities to do in the surrounding areas.
At the top of Minnesota, you’ll find the Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway. It’s a great touring route that takes you to areas along the Canadian border traveling on Minnesota Highway 11. In the Lake of the Woods area, just east of Baudette, the road travels along the Rainy River and provides windy turns and spectacular views of rapids and connecting streams. Plan a day or two in this area to enjoy some great fishing. No need bring your boat; there are charter fishing services available at area resorts.
Heading west on Highway 11 until you reach Highway 32, travel south to Thief River Falls where you’ll find a regional hub surrounded by scenic highways. It’s known for its small town charm with big city amenities. Take some time to tour Arctic Cat, internationally known for manufacturing snowmobiles and ATVs.
Continue on Highway 32 until you reach Highway 2, which crosses Minnesota from Duluth to Grand Forks, N.D., and beyond. Taking the highway east to the first city on the Mississippi, you’ll find yourself in Bemidji. A bustling regional center, its claim to Paul Bunyan and Babe is well known. Stop at the visitors center for a photo with the legendary duo. You’ll find some great dining and lodging options, too.
When you continue east, take a side trip along the Lady Slipper Scenic Byway. This byway meanders through the Chippewa National Forest, and usually in June, you can see the namesake state flower blooming along the way.
From Bemidji south on Highway 371, follow the road that leads to the Lake Country Scenic Byway. The anchor town here is Walker, along the shore of Leech Lake, where visitors can enjoy the charming downtown area. The town is home to a famous family outdoor store and many specialty shops. Find easy parking just off the main street.
The byway then heads west through quaint towns and lake areas. Park Rapids centers the byway, with a vibrant downtown. You’ll be surprised to find dining options that range from soda fountains to fine restaurants. The area is also known for its family resorts.
Don’t miss one of the gems of Minnesota, Itasca State Park, where you can wet your feet crossing the headwaters of the Mississippi River. There are beautiful scenic drives within the park. On the way back, take a little detour on one of the area’s favorite motorcycle routes—Highway 113. With its twists and turns through lake country, it’s a great way to tour the area.
These fun drives and so much more give motorcyclists plenty of reasons to explore Minnesota’s great northwest region.
Click here to download the new Northwest and Central motorcycle touring map.