motorcycle destinations

Best Motorcycle Roads and Destinations in Minnesota, United States

Best Motorcycle Roads and Destinations in Minnesota, United States

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Referred to as “the North Star State,” Minnesota is an Upper Midwestern state that touches the border between the U.S. and Canada. Filled with rich farmlands, much of this state’s terrain are rolling plains formed by shifting glaciers many years ago. However, the northern region is an exception since the land is more rugged, has rocky ridges, and is dotted by many lakes. Because of the topography, the roads and highways that motorcycles can travel on either rise and fall or wind around the natural landmarks that can be found in Minnesota.

This article will provide a brief summary of Minnesota’s prominent motorcycle roads and destinations along with supplementary information on this state’s motorcycle laws and possible luggage options.

2. Roads and Destinations in Minnesota

2.1 Highway 61 - La Crescent to Red Wing

Distance: 193 miles
Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
Start: La Crescent, MN
End: La Crosse, WI

This route loops around the Mississippi River, hugging close to its riverbank for the entire trip. When you start out in La Crescent, you should check out the River View Vineyard and Winery or Bauer’s Market and Garden Center.

As you head out, you will encounter plenty of twists and turns on the road as you head northwest. If you look to your right, you will see the boats that traverse the Mississippi River along with other bodies of water such as Lake Onalaska and Robinson Lake.

When you make it to Red Wind, you may want to go see the giant boot at the Red Wing Shoe Store & Museum. You can admire older uniforms and rifles at the U.S. military at the Aliveo Military Museum.

While you can end the journey here, many motorcyclists cross over into Wisconsin to ride alongside the opposite side of the Mississippi River. As you head down to La Crosse, you will pass by natural sites including Five-Mile Bluff Prairie State Natural Area, Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, and Perrot State Park.

2.2 The Incredible North Shore Tour

Distance: 151 miles
Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Start: Duluth
End: Grand Portage State Park

This route follows along the coast of Lake Superior all the way up to the U.S.-Canada border. As you continue heading northeast, you will pass by and go through several natural sites including Split Rock Lighthouse, Tettegouche, George H. Crosby Manitou, Cross River State Wayside, Cascade River, and Judge CR Magney State Parks.

When you start out in Duluth, you will get to cross over the Aerial Lift Bridge and spend time at the Great Lakes Museum. You will also come across many laketowns in close proximity to the ocean-like Lake Superior. In Tofte, you can check out the 1910 Split Rock Lighthouse. In Lutsen, you can visit the gold course or the ski area depending on what is in season.

As you draw closer to the state parks, your surroundings will be full of streams, waterfalls, cliffs, and hills with dense forests atop of them.

2.3 The Welch Village Twisties Run

Distance: 21 miles
Time: 32 minutes
Start: Red Wing
End: County 7 Blvd, Welch

Taking you out into the rural area of Minnesota, you will both cross over and circle around the Cannon River. It is recommended you take this route during the fall as the twisting valley road will be surrounded in bright colors.

If you decide to travel during the winter, then you may want to visit Welch if you want to engage in activities at the Welch Village Ski & Snowboard Area. If you prefer staying indoors for a little while, you can try out bowling at the Island Xtreme Bowl.

Due to how remote this road is, you will only be able to find food and gas in the towns of Red Wing or Welch. In Welch, you can eat homely meals at the Tipsy Turtle Bar & Grill and the Cannon River Inn.

2.4 The Waconia to Henderson Run

Distance: 39 miles
Time: 55 minutes
Start: Waconia
End: Henderson

While near Lake Waconia, you will be able to catch sight of boats cruising peacefully in the lake. You can also sample seafood at Lola’s Lakehouse which overlooks the nearby body of water.

Upon arriving at Chaska, head into the spooky Scream Town if you feel brave enough to handle the horrors awaiting you. If you wish to restock on supplies or just grab a souvenir, browse the shelves at the Carver Junk Company.

Continuing on your way, you will pass by the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area. When you make it to Henderson, you can check out the exhibits at the Sibley County Historical Museum if you wish to know the rich history of the region.

2.5 Highway 60 Hardwood Forest Tour

Distance: 40 miles
Time: 55 minutes
Start: Wabasha
End: Zumbrota

Due to its close proximity to the Mississippi River, Wabsha provides boating services and pristine overlooks that allow you to admire the natural scenery both at a distance and up close. If you wish to see the local wildlife, go to the National Eagle Center.

As you travel parallel to the Zumbro River, you will eventually reach the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest. If you wish to stretch your legs, there are plenty of hiking trails for you to climb.

Keeping a westward heading towards Zumbrota, the road curves enough times to keep you focused. However, as you draw closer to your final destination, the route becomes bumpy and uneven. If you need a break from the rough terrain, you can get refreshments at the Neptune Bar in Zumbro Falls.

You will know you are drawing closer to the end after you cross over the metal beams of the Zumbrota Covered Bridge.

2.6 Lake Minnetonka Shoreline Drive

Distance: 23 miles
Time: 38 minutes
Start: Wayzata
End: Wayzata

Beginning your journey in Wayzata, you can get to know the history of this town by traveling the Dakota Rail Regional Trail and the Wayzata Depot.

This route travels across and by several bodies of water which allows you to admire the reflection off their pristine surfaces. Besides Lake Minnetonka, the other sights worth seeing include Browns Bay, Crystal Bay, West Arm, and Langdon Lake.

Because you mainly stay close to the urban areas, much of what you will see aside from the bodies of water will be marinas, lakeside houses, and small patches of dense forest. If you want to enjoy some tranquility after spending so much time on the road, hang out at the Noerenberg Memorial Gardens.

2.7 The St. Croix Trail

Distance: 27 miles
Time: 39 minutes
Start: Hastings
End: Stillwater

After you leave Hastings, you will begin heading northward while the St. Croix River runs alongside you on the right. You can admire the natural scenery at Afton State Park and Vermillion Falls. If you and your motorcycle brave the winter, you can head up to the peaks of the Afton Alps to engage in skiing or snowboarding.

As you draw closer to Stillwater, you may start to notice the smell of fruit and the large fields surrounding you. If you are interested in sampling the local food and drink, pull over at either Saint Croix Vineyards, the Blueberry Fields of Stillwater, or Aamodt’s Apple Orchard.

After you have crossed over the Stillwater Lift Bridge, you have finally reached Stillwater and have successfully completed this route.

2.8 Northwoods Scenic Byway to Scenic State Park

Distance: 40 miles
Time: 47 minutes
Start: Grand Rapids
End: Bigfork

When you begin your journey in Grand Rapids, you should take the opportunity to buy a souvenir or gather supplies. You can browse the fresh produce at the Grand Rapids Farmers Market or try the quaint retail corner store known as the Red Willow.

As you head up to Bigfork, you will pass by plenty of lakefronts and hiking trails. You can admire the views of McKinnery, Prairie, Shoal, Plug Hole, Johnson, Caribou, North Star, and Horseshoe Lakes.

Much of your surroundings will include dense forests of oak, aspen, birch, and white pine trees. Many of the white pine trees towering over you will be over 200 years old. Look out for local wildlife as well such as whitetail deer, black bears, geese, duck, bald eagles, beaver, and osprey.

2.9 Glacier Ridge Run

Distance: 62 miles
Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Start: Glenwood
End: Glenwood

From Glenwood, you should have access to an overlook that will allow you to see Lake Minnewaska and Pelican Lake in the distance. As you press on to Starbuck, you can head up the hiking trails that are in Glacial Lakes State Park.

Continuing on your way, you will eventually enter Pope County which is blessed with natural scenery in the form of glacial lakes, glacial moraines, and drumlin hills. When you finally get to the Ordway Prairie, a landscape that has been restored to its natural state before European settlement.

This route will pass through diverse terrain as the landscape will change from lakeshores, rolling plains, and wetlands the farther you head out as you loop back around to Glenwood.

2.10 Bluff Country Run

Distance: 42 miles
Time: 57 minutes
Start: Mabel
End: Lanesboro

Heading out of Mabel, the route will head northward with plenty of twists, turns and sudden sweepers to keep you on your toes. Most of the excitement for this part of the journey is navigating the smoothly paved highway up towards Rushford. You can take a short break at Tawney Wayside Park if you feel inclined, but you will not find many roadside attractions at this point.

When you reach Rushford, you can find some food and drink at the Shawnees Bar & Grill. If you wish to learn about this town’s history, you can take a look at the exhibits at the Rushford Area Historical Society & Depot Museum.

As you head towards Lanesboro, you can take some pictures of the rushing Root River or do some sightseeing at the Bluffscape Amish Tours. When you reach the town itself, you can check out the Lanesboro Arts or the Lanesboro Historical Museum.

2.11 Otter Trail Scenic Byway

Distance: 153 miles
Time: 2 hours 58 minutes
Start: Battle Lake
End: Battle Lake

While this scenic byway loops around Otter Tail Lake, it also travels alongside more than 1,000 lakes which leaves no shortage of beautiful lakefronts and natural scenery to behold. When you start at Battle Lake, you will find the statue of Chief Wenonga of the Ojibwe who fought a legendary battle against the Sioux.

When you get to Pelican Rapids, you should be able to see the statue known as Pelican Pete which vigilantly watches over the Pelican Rapids Dam. Continuing on to Phelps, you should be able to tour a 19th-century flour mill and see how the machinery works.

After you pass Fergus Falls, you will notice off to the side of Adams Park there is a huge concrete statue of Otto the Otter. Made to be a mascot and marker, seeing this attraction means that you have nearly completed the entire loop.

2.12 Wheat to Iron Highway

Distance: 333 miles
Time: 6 hours 10 minutes
Start: Oslo
End: Illgen City

Arguably the longest motorcycle route in Minnesota, you start at the border between Minnesota and North Dakota then head eastward until you eventually reach Lake Superior. Embarking from Oslo, this part of the trip takes you through rolling plains and farmlands which should make for a leisurely ride.

As you head further east, the land will begin to become rougher as you become surrounded by forests and lakefronts. Many of the natural sites you will come across will include Finland, Bear Island, Kabetogama, and Koochiching State Forests.

Because this is a cross-state trip, it is recommended that you fill up on gas and provisions while still in Oslo. You should also consider taking a few short rests in small towns along the way. Due to how the terrain changes as you progress, it is not recommended you attempt this route during the winter.

3. Motorcycle Laws in Minnesota

3.1 Motorcycle Helmet Laws

It is illegal for motorcyclists under the age of 18 to operate a motorcycle in Minnesota without wearing an approved motorcycle helmet. Adults who are over the age restriction have the option of riding without a motorcycle helmet. But considering that motorcycle helmets have saved many lives thanks to the protection they provide to the head and neck, it is best to have protective headgear on at all times.

An approved motorcycle helmet must have been made by the Snell Memorial Foundation and satisfies the safety standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The two types of motorcycle helmets that follow this criterion are three-quarter and full-face helmets.

Listed below are the requirement and features you should look for in a motorcycle helmet that is accepted as legal within the state of Minnesota:

  • Has a Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker
  • Can be fitted around your head snugly
  • No visible signs of damage
  • Has a face shield with no scratches (Full-face helmet only)
  • Requires separate eye protection with no scratches (Three-quarter helmet only)
  • Has a hard and durable outer shell that is shatter-resistant
  • Gives you a clear, peripheral view
  • Can be fastened with a neck- or chin-strap
  • Allows airflow without fogging up
  • Can allow you to wear sunglasses or goggles underneath

3.2 Motorcycle Passenger Laws

Before you can legally transport another person in Minnesota, your motorcycle must have equipment specifically designed to suit the needs of the passenger. Thus, your motorcycle must have a designated passenger seat and adjustable footrests. The passenger seat can either be the back part of a large driver’s seat, a separate saddle situated towards the rear, or fixed to the side as a sidecar.

Because Minnesota lacks a minimum age requirement for motorcycle passengers, you have to be discerning when determining who is suited to be seated with you. If your passenger is under the age of 18, he/she must wear an approved motorcycle helmet at all times. Your passenger must also be tall enough to reach the footrests without issue. Finally, your passenger has to be able to comprehend and follow your instructions promptly.

3.3 Required Safety Features

While your motorcycle is safely parked in a garage, you usually tend to leave it alone until the next time you may need it again. However, rather than leaving it alone to gather dust, you should set aside time to conduct inspections from time to time. You never know when the tires have punctures or debris has accumulated in the machinery. Spending time providing maintenance and fixing up your motorcycle now will save you having to go to the repair shop later.

In Minnesota, a motorcycle must be outfitted with the following equipment so that you are visible to other drivers and can react quickly to danger:

  • Horn
  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Handlebars
  • Brake system
  • Controls
  • Headlight
  • Tail light (Red or Yellow)
  • Stop lamp (Red or Yellow)
  • Reflector
  • Exhaust system
  • Muffler
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Turn signals

3.4 Lane Splitting Laws

Lane splitting is considered an illegal practice for motorcyclists in Minnesota. You cannot ride on top of the dividing lines between lanes, ride in between adjacent rows of vehicles that are stopped, and overtake a vehicle ahead of you in the same lane.

Motorcyclists are allowed to lane share if two motorcycles are side-by-side and stay apart at a distance of at least two abreast. Both riders must consent to lane sharing beforehand. So long as they do not disrupt the flow of traffic, motorcyclists can make full use of the space within the lane they are currently in.

4. Motorcycle Luggage for Minnesota Motorcycle Tour

When you are riding your motorcycle down Minnesota’s highways, your attention is solely focused on keeping your eyes on the road. For moments when you are off your ride, you should check the route on the map, rehydrate yourself, and take out warmer clothing if need be. Because you never know what you may encounter during your extended motorcycle tour through Minnesota, you should pack the essentials in a reliable form of baggage.

Listed below are examples of motorcycle luggage that can be easily mounted, provide ample storage space, and are weather-resistant. As they function more or less the same, you should pick the version with the right size, color, and design for you:

5. Parting Words

Considering that most scenic byways and routes through Minnesota can stretch for hundreds of miles, you might be surprised what other attractions you might stumble across that were not covered in this article. There may be lesser known natural parks with magnificent formations or smaller communities full of historical monuments. Keep an open mind when you scan the sides of the road for any sights that may catch your eye.

Regardless of which region of Minnesota you pass through, always be mindful of your surroundings. Depending on which route you take, there could be constant traffic or you could be alone with your motorcycle. The road can be broken and uneven due to the constant use whether you head to the plains or the rugged areas. And be ready to act if a wild animal attempts to cross the road since you may have to react when the local wildlife cannot.

As you plan out your Minnesota motorcycle trip, try to familiarize yourself with the paths and locations you intend to visit. Knowing how to get where you are going will guarantee your time is used efficiently and helps make it easier to reach your final stop. Above all else, try to make the most of your riding experience. Enjoy exploring new places and engaging in fun activities as you spend time with your prized two-wheel chariot. Venture forth and see all that Minnesota has to offer you!

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