Taking a road trip is a quintessential American vacation. Make it memorable on the best drive in Minnesota, the Scenic North Shore Drive. This picturesque route stretches along the stunning shores of Lake Superior, captivating travelers with its breathtaking views and charming small towns.
From cascading waterfalls to vibrant fall foliage, historic lighthouses to a national monument, the North Shore offers a mesmerizing blend of natural beauty and cultural treasures. Nature lovers will find endless trails throughout the season while foodies can sample local fare or take a brewery tour.
So buckle up, roll down the windows, and get ready to go on a road trip that will leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. Discover the magic of the Minnesota North Shore Scenic Drive.
The Minnesota North Shore Scenic Drive is designated an All-American Road. It starts at the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge in the Canal Park area of Duluth. The bridge raises nearly 140-feet to allow Great Lakes and ocean-bound ships to enter and depart Duluth’s port.
Canal Park has it all! A Maritime Museum, the Duluth Canal, loads of shops, restaurants, a ship to explore and places to stay. Within five miles you’re on Minnesota’s North Shore (the shore continues across Canada). Urban areas disappear and you’ll have lots of opportunities to see the big lake.
Multiple communities offer great stops as you travel the 151-miles to the Canadian border. The first stretch of the road is known as Scenic Highway 61, the original section of road from a century ago. MN Highway 61 is your route along the entire North Shore. Yes, this is the same Highway 61 Bob Dylan immortalized.
Cities pop up every 30 miles or so along your route. Two Harbors – the biggest with a population of 3,621 – is first. Next is the oldest, Beaver Bay, followed by the newest, Silver Bay. Take a small side trip back in time to the tiny town of Finland, or continue through the tri-towns of Schroeder, Tofte and Lutsen. Grand Marais is the second largest town and the starting point of the Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway. Wrap up your travels at Grand Portage, on the international border with Canada, our northern neighbor.
At just 151 miles each way, you could take two days or two weeks. Head out on a cruise and take in the top stops. Or meander through the eight state parks, catch some live local music, hang out by Lake Superior, go for a gondola ride, see a waterfall or six!
This road trip is most often down as a there-and-back drive. Which gives you a second chance for stops and an entirely new view! For some, Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive is the first leg of driving entirely around Lake Superior.
At the border, you enter Canada and drive the entire remainder of the Lake Superior’s North Shore. At Sault Saint Marie – home of the famous Soo Locks – you re-enter the United States. Exploring the south shore takes you through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin. The trip around Lake Superior is 1300 miles and most travelers allot 7-10 days for the trip.
The most popular – and busiest – time to road trip is in the summer. For something a bit quieter, try spring. For color, do an autumn drive. You can drive it in the winter, but with an average of eight to ten feet of snow, leave an extra few days in case of bad weather.
The great American road trip is an ideal getaway. Reserve some lodging, highlight a few stops and leave lots of flex time. The best thing about road trips are the “hey, let’s go there” moments. Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive has a lot of those moments.