Get outdoors in Minnesota

Minnesota is an al-fresco adventurer’s paradise. The North Star State’s wild patchwork of lakes, forests and craggy cliffs beg to be explored…

Team Wanderlust
26 May 2023
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Lush and bucolic, beautiful yet rugged, Minnesota’s nickname as the North Star State is for good reason, its location next to the Canadian border. Lake Superior and Wisconsin lie to its east while North and South Dakota are to the west. Daily direct flights with Delta Air Lines from London Heathrow to Minneapolis/St. Paul mean this adventure lover’s paradise is closer for British visitors than ever before. Here’s what to expect…

Urban adventure

Enjoy skyline views on a bike ride along Minneapolis’ waterside (Explore Minnesota)

Vibrant Minneapolis, along with its neighbour St. Paul, the state’s capital, are known jointly as the twin cities. These gateways to the state are ranked among the most liveable and attractive urban areas in the US and famous for their varied culinary, culture and craft beer scenes. You’ll also find Sealife Adventure here featuring shark and rescued sea turtle exhibits. Just under 32km away is Paisley Park, the former residence and studio of musician Prince.

The land of 10,000 lakes

Hike Pipestone National Monument to see a waterfall, more than 500 plant species, some 100 types of bird and more (Explore Minnesota)

Water. This ample resource defines the state known as the land of 10,000lakes. An example is the Chippewa National Forest with 1,300 lakes,1,500km of streams and 1,600hectares of wetlands. Lake Superior, one of five enormous Great Lakes and the largest lake by surface area in the world, makes up nearly 600kmof Minnesota’s western border. Get out on the water by shipwreck diving, lake surfing, kiteboarding, parasailing and flyboarding. In the north of the state, remote Voyageurs National Park is a dream destination for boat lovers. The Kabetogama Peninsula lies entirely within the park and is only accessible by water-going vessels with numerous boat ramps on the park’s periphery. To the east lies the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with pristine landscapes covering 4,400sqkm and made up of glacial lakes, streams, rivers, and forest. In the far south of the state, the Bluff Country, also known as the Driftless Area, is unique for having ‘coulees’ formed by flowing water. The Whitewater State Park, one of seven state parks in this region, is bisected by the Whitewater River where you can go trout fishing, birding and wildflower spotting.

Meander the Mississippi

Cruise the Mississippi River in St. Paul and look out for bald eagles, herons, eagles and falcons (Explore Minnesota)

The majestic Mississippi River begins its lengthy journey to Louisiana at Itasca State Park flowing 3,770km south before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. The Choctaw people named this river Mich sha Suppukui, which was pronounced Mish sha sippi and translates as ‘river beyond any age’. Lake Itasca is not only where the river begins but also its narrowest stretch while the widest part at Lake Winnibigoshish near Bena exceeds17km. The Mississippi River creates a question mark shape as it carves a staggering 1,080km through the state. Many find canoeing this mighty waterway the optimum way to get to know its oxbows, channels, islands and byways. As you paddle along there is the bonus of seeing wildlife such as otter, beaver, turtle, and birds that live among the willow forests.

Kayaking is an equally exciting way to discover the river’s surface. Pedalling on the Mississippi River Trail is another enjoyable option for taking in the scenery this wild landscape offers. The first leg of this 4,800kmbicycle trail system uses bike-friendly roads and multi-use pathways not only for biking but for hiking as well. A road trip that follows the shoreline, with stops at sites of interest, is also a relaxing way to experience the river.

Explore Minnesota’s forests

Voyageurs National Park is certified as an International Dark Sky Park (Explore Minnesota)

The incredible dark sky preserves of Minnesota have to be seen to be believed. Voyageurs National Park in the north of the state is unmatched for its transcendent stargazing and dark night skies while visitors to the north shore of Lake Superior are in the optimum location to see the Milky Way or the Aurora Borealis.

There are endless outdoor activities in Minnesota to get enthusiasts into the forest including mountain biking. Cycling across glaciated ridges and through forest glens is hugely popular with trails around the adventure-rich Duluth region or the Minneopa Bike Trail in Minneopa State Park particularly inspiring. Camping in the vast pine forests of this state is also a surefire way to get back to nature. For those looking for a perfect location, the quiet, beautiful Bluff Country isa fine choice with Saint Croix Bluffs State Park a favourite among the outdoor set. Wildlife buffs should head to the vast Chippewa National Forest to see one of the largest breeding areas of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. This forest covers650,000 hectares and shares 2,000miles of boundary with the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. The eagles are often seen soaring over larger lakes while other predator species such as osprey and great grey owl also make this forest their home. Wildlife viewing also includes white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, and a whole variety of waterfowl, so you’re in for some real natural drama during your Minnesota adventure.

Feeling inspired?

For more inspiration, head over to the official Explore Minnesota website.

Make it happen

Get under the skin of Minnesota with the experts at Bon Voyage on their Minnesota – Land of 10,000 Lakes trip. Seven days from £1,995 per person (including international flights).

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