Follow the Minnesota River Valley

By Explore Minnesota

OompVisitors are embraced with old-fashioned hospitality along this nationally designated route. Scenery includes rolling farmland, small towns, and historic sites. Several spots focus on Dakota Indian heritage and tell the tragic story of the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War. Downtowns boast antique shops and mom-and-pop eateries. The route offers numerous birding hotspots. Other great ways to experience the route are by bike or canoe.

DAY 1 Big Stone Lake to Montevideo

Big Stone Lake State Park provides spectacular scenery, with sandy beaches and clear water ideal for fishing and swimming. The 18-hole Ortonville Golf Course is situated on the bluffs overlooking Big Stone Lake. History buffs will be interested in the Lac qui Parle Mission, a fur trading post that was established in 1826 near a wide portion of the river called Lac qui Parle. For more history, stroll the boardwalks of Historic Chippewa City in Montevideo, a unique 23-building turn-of-the-century village. Or, plan a late afternoon hike, as 18 miles of hiking trails await at Upper Sioux Agency State Park.

DAY 2 Redwood Falls to New Ulm

In Redwood Falls, plan a stop at Alexander Ramsey Park to view the picture-worthy Ramsey Falls. There’s an 18-hole championship golf course at the nearby Dacotah Ridge Golf Club, considered among the best courses in Minnesota. The Lower Sioux Agency explores the story of the Dakota people before and after they were moved to reservations in the 1860s, while the remains of an 1853 military outpost can be seen at Fort Ridgely State Park and Historic Site. For a true taste of German heritage, New Ulm has a downtown glockenspiel, German restaurants and specialty shops—and plays host to a popular Oktoberfest celebration every fall. Tour the grounds and facilities of the August Schell Brewery, founded in 1860. In the countryside between New Ulm and Mankato, Morgan Creek Vineyards & Winery specializes in German, French and American style wines and features a tasting room, gift shop and seasonal events.

DAY 3 Mankato to Belle Plaine

Mankato is a university town with casual college hangouts as well as a symphony orchestra, ballet company, and art galleries. Visit the Heritage Center for local history and tour the 1871 Hubbard House. Bikers will want to ride the 39-mile Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail that runs from Mankato east to Faribault. In St. Peter, visit the Hillstrom Museum of Art at Gustavus Adolphus College, or see the Pharmacy Museum at the Soderlund Village Drug. Learn more about the area’s rich Dakota history at the Traverse des Sioux Treaty Site History Center. In Le Sueur, tour the first home built by Dr. W.W. Mayo, co-founder of Rochester’s famous Mayo Clinic. Stop for coffee and a little shopping in friendly Henderson on your way to Belle Plaine, home to Emma Krumbee’s Apple Orchard. Depending on the season, you can pick your own strawberries, apples or pumpkins; shop at the farm market, or take the kids on wagon, pony and camel rides.