When planning your next outdoor adventure, the North Star state might not seem like the obvious choice at first. It’s true that Minnesota is a thousand miles from the closest ocean without a mountain in sight, but that doesn’t mean there are only endless fields of corn and long months of winter. With more than a quarter of the state public land open to exploring and with its location at the intersection of three major biomes, the challenge isn’t finding something worth doing, it’s choosing. So if your only experience in the northland was watching Fargo, it's time to give the land of 10,000 lakes another look.
The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul offer some of the most extensive urban parkland in the country including a national park, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area running right through them. You can see Minnehaha Falls, the source of Longfellow’s famous poem The Song of Hiawatha, look for rare orchids at the Quaking Bog in Theodore Wirth Park, paddleboard the Chain of Lakes, and still be just a short walk away from a cold beer. Don’t forget to check out Nice Ride, the cities’ premier bike share service.
Running 300 miles from Duluth to the Canadian border, the Superior Hiking Trail follows the north shore of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. Hikers pass by dozens of waterfalls, through northern boreal forests, and over the craggy remains of an ancient mountain range. The trail also crosses some of the state’s most iconic state parks including Split Rock Lighthouse and Cascade River. Learn More.
Experience some of the best canoeing in the world by paddling through this pristine wilderness area. Boasting over a thousand lakes and some fifteen hundred miles of canoe routes, the Boundary Waters is home to moose, wolves, black bears, and the abundance of fish that has made the area famous among anglers. Motorboats aren’t allowed and it’s out of the way of any major air route, so the lack of sound pollution on the water is an attraction unto itself. Learn More.
Sculpted by its hundreds of rivers and streams, southeastern Minnesota is a region of rolling hills and plummeting cliffs, including the tallest bluffs on the Mississippi River at Great River Bluffs State Park towering nearly 600 feet over the surface of the river. The area is known for its excellent trout streams, migrating birds, including bald eagles, the birth of waterskiing, and the home of Red Wing Boots. Visit in the autumn for unparalleled fall colors. Learn More.
As much as we love forests and lakes, there is a strange appeal to wide open spaces. As western Minnesota merges into the Dakotas, the trees disappear, the water dries up, and the grasslands extend to the horizon. See herds of bison grazing at Blue Mounds State Park, hike through kettles and kames at Glacial Lakes State Park, or visit the still visible pioneer trails where covered wagons once traversed. Don’t forget to spend a night camping on the prairie - nowhere is the night sky as big as in the Great Plains. Learn More.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.