Missing Minnesota, 14 Outdoor Adventurist Must See Destinations!
Missing Minnesota seemed an appropriate part of the title for this article since I can’t help but miss everything this state has to offer. I’ve always said I would never ever in a million years leave Minnesota! With all its lush green scenery and well over 10,000 lakes, it’s an outdoor adventurist dream! But here I am, writing about Missing Minnesota! I’ve since moved to England and don’t get me wrong there is much to envy about how beautiful it is! There is plenty of green lusciousness here and gardens that rival anywhere else in the world, but somehow it’s still not the same as home! Missing Minnesota, 14 Outdoor Adventurist Must See Destinations, is a tale of my favourite places in Minnesota!
Bit of Minnesota background!
Minnesota is one of the few places you can experience the extreme heat of the summer reaching well into the 90’s F with 100% humidity and the freezing temperatures of the winter. I’ve seen temps as low at -40° F! All four seasons distinct and equally beautiful! Pick your pleasure! You will never run out of anything to do rain, snow or sunshine!
Carved out of the force of Glaciers thousands of years ago, the landscape of this state is an amazing site to see! I only wish I could have foreseen myself writing and taking more pictures!
1. Superior National Forest
Located in on the north-eastern border between Minnesota and Canada Superior National forest covers millions of acres. You couldn’t possibly see everything this forest has to offer in one trip. There are plenty of places for canoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping, fishing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing etc. There are thousands of trails and waterways to explore, all with their own unique beauty!
One of my favourite Hiking and Camping experiences are at Divide Lake Campground but there are so many how can I choose. It’s very small and very secluded due to only 3 actual camping sites. It’s a great little treasure if you really want to get away from it all! The unique aspect of this particular campground and most noteworthy, is that it sits on the Laurentian Divide. The rivers on the Laurentian Divide splits how the rivers flow. The rivers on the North side flow North and the Rivers on the South side flow South!
Best time to go: All year Round
2. Boundary Waters
It’s impossible to pick just one favourite spot in MN, however I do have to say the Boundary Waters are special and at the top of the list! I could go on for hours about the Boundary Waters, furthermore for the sake of trying not to bore anyone, I’ll try and keep it short and sweet!
The Boundary Waters (BWCA) is well over a million acres in size and sits on the boarder of Northern Minnesota and Canada. The BWCA has well over 2,000 lakes and hundreds of rivers, streams and waterfalls! BWCA is federally protected wilderness and is one of the largest pristine watersheds in the world. You are required to have a quota permit in order to enter the BWCA because the area has very strict rules on keeping its preservation. If you have never been, you may also be required to sit in a class for a couple of hours to learn the rules.
I’ve been to the BWCA several times. There are many entry points and my favourites are from the Gunflint Trail out of Grand Marias and Fall Lake from Ely. Both areas are equally beautiful and no matter where you enter expect to be dazzled by nature and be truly at piece! There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world and I cannot even begin to explain how it takes your breath away!
Be prepared to rough it, the camp sites are very primitive and toilette's are off the beaten trail in the middle of the forest. You can only get into the boundary waters via canoe or by foot around the perimeter. Ah, just thinking about it makes me want to go back!
Not into roughing it, take a page out the Kiwi Camper book on Van Life!
Best time to go: May through Early September
3. Gooseberry Falls
Gooseberry Falls has never ending hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails. Which is mostly how my time was spent at this gorgeous state park, along with picnics by the falls. You can camp, but I actually never have. Gooseberry Falls is very unique consisting of 5 water falls separated by the upper falls and the lower falls.
At the top of the upper falls the water is so very shallow it’s a novelty for visitors to walk the falls edge and bask in all its beauty! There is something so uniquely serene about Gooseberry Falls and it attracts thousands of visitors every year and is one the most visited parks in Minnesota. It’s located on the North Shore of Lake Superior close to Duluth!
Best time to go: Open year round and every season is stunning!
4. Itaska State Park
Itaska State Park is the second oldest parks in the U.S behind Niagara Falls and spans out over 32,000 acres! To be honest I have no spent much time here but thought noteworthy because this is the home of the source of the Mississippi River which is the 4th longest river in the world!
I’ve been to the Park on a couple of occasions just for the novelty of stepping across the source of the Mississippi. I felt like a kindergartener thinking, well how can this be that a tiny little puddle can span into such a large river system sucking water out of 31 states along its way down to the Gulf of Mexico?
Best time to go: May through October
5. Taylors Falls
Only 45 minutes from Minneapolis, Taylors Falls offers everything the State Parks offer at a closer proximity to the City! It’s perfect for day trips and long weekends! It’s heavily toured and for good reason, the spectacular sites and endless things to do here make it a great destination to put on your list if you’re in Minnesota!
I’ve been to Taylors Falls hundreds of times and probably done just about everything this historical quaint little town has to offer. So many cute little restaurants and pubs for the foodie at heart, serving up old fashion yum yums and treats!
My favourite part of Taylors Falls is hitting the St. Croix River Valley that separates Minnesota on one side and Wisconsin on the other! Endless things do from hiking, riverboat cruise’s from the falls to Stillwater Minnesota, camping, rock climbing, kayaking etc.
I love the River boat cruise’s they are so much fun and proper rock climbing is one of the best experiences I have ever had there, besides cliff diving! Which I don’t recommend because I was young and stupid and it’s very dangerous. Many people have lost their lives doing it. To really experience a full day of beauty my favourite road trip is to start in Stillwater, another fabulous place to visit and take the drive up highway 95 to Taylors falls. This is best done in the fall when the trees are spectacular display of every colour of the rainbow!
Just North of Taylors Falls
Another goody to check out for the sport in you is Wild Mountain! The ski hills are great for a family outing. For some adventure the Alpine Slides are truly amazing! Just keep your arms tucked in or you’ll end up with scraped up elbows!
Best time to Go: Spring, Summer and Fall
6. Crosby Mines
Home, home on the range! The Cuyuna Range in Crosby is not only historical but it’s magical! I’ve camped there a few times and have never been disappointed. I can’t say for sure how many mines there are because I’ve only been to a couple of significant larger mines.
The mines were dug pre-world war I and couldn’t say exactly how old they are. You’ve most probably heard me say Minnesota has over 10,000 lakes a million times, however you can imagine with all the water in this state, mining can be a little tricky in some areas! The Crosby mines are about 300 feet deep and some places more. When they were digging, all hell broke loose and the mines were flooded.
It's a popular place for divers because underneath the water lays all the machinery and working equipment that was lost when the mines filled in. I love it and find it magical because the old oak trees still stand and you can see them just feed under the water, which is so clear. The visibility is fantastic and the DNR stocks the mines with all kinds of fish and the swimming experience is amazing and magical. Especially for kids, and I’m one big kid. I love day dreaming with my snorkel gear as I swim amongst the fishies in the tree tops!
Best time to go: May - September
I most likely could write a book and continue on and on. Since you didn’t come here to read a novel about State Parks or Minnesota Lakes, I will leave you with a short list of some other top places that are equally spectacular for the outdoor adventurist.
7. Duluth – Historical Harbour City on the Shores of Lake Superior
8. Split Rock Light house – Historical National Landmark – Twin Harbours Lake Superior
9. Lake of the woods – Boarder Waters with MN and Canada, Great for house boating over 15,000 islands to camp on! Breath-taking!
10. Vermillion lake – feels like hundreds of lakes all in one with dozens of islands to camp. Also plenty of cabins and resorts to stay at.
11. Whitefish Chain of Lakes Brainerd – Not into Camping this is the place for you! A resort heaven for a weekend getaway.
12. Soo Line – hundreds of miles of trails from the old Soo Line Railroad. Pick your pleasure from the country or through the city. Plenty of trails for 4-wheeling, biking, hiking, running, snowmobiling etc.
13. Niagara Caves, Mystery Cave and Wabasha Caves - Each location unique but Niagara Caves is the best experience of underground excitement and 60 ft. waterfalls!
14. Minnehaha Falls – Sweet little park off the Mississippi River in the heart of Minneapolis
There are so many more parks and recreation places, literally thousands. These 14 locations are by far some of the best and my favourites! I absolutely miss my weekend getaways, but most of all at the end of the day, I miss my family and friends the most!
I’ll leave you with this, Minnesota is not often considered for large tourism and is mostly sunny all year round. It’s a remarkable place to visit. Beside all the parks and whatnot there is literally thousands of things to do and see!
Father Hennepin Park - Mille Lacs Lake - Home of the White Blue Eyed Deer!