Minnesotans take much pride in enduring long, harsh winters - one of the few places in the US where mercury routinely plunges below - 40 degrees C/F every winter. So spring and summer days are even more precious and rejoiced. Road-tripping ranks high among the many activities in the summer Minnesotans look forward to.
Right in the midst of Minnesota Northwoods lie a scenic drive for a perfect weekend adventure. Designated by the US government in 1996 as a National Scenic Byway, Edge of the Wilderness is a 47-mile drive in Northern Minnesota from Grand Rapids to Effie.
The byway curves around some of the most beautiful sights of Northern Minnesota - hundreds of lakes, national forests and wildlife.
Markers like this direct you to points of interest along the scenic byway - from the historic site of the largest iron ore range in Minnesota, to white birch trees along the road, or scenic overlooks over many lakes dotted along the route.
Download the official map of the scenic byway, and hit all fourteen points of interest, or go off-script and make your own adventure. You will be delighted either way.
Lakefront Log Cabin at Arcadia Lodge
The scenic byway starts in Grand Rapids, Minnesota about three hours away from the Twin Cities; while the scenic highway alone is less than 50 miles long, there are a number of lodges and resorts along the way to make that mystical Minnesota cabin life getaway a reality. A fishing trip, a family reunion, or just a personal retreat, these accommodations serve all.
Many of these lodges include lakefront log cabins, offering canoes, kayaks, pontoons in tranquil surroundings.
With its pristine lakes (Coon and Sandwick) and an abundance of vegetation (birch, red and white pine trees) this small but oft-neglected state park just miles off the scenic byway is one option for boat-in, or drive-in campsite instead of lodges.
Pro-tip: I recommend camping east-facing lakefront campsite for a stunning sunrise view without leaving your tent. Be prepared to wake up to a medley of birdcalls.
Coon Lake at Scenic State Park
A symbol of Finnish heritage of Minnesota’s Northwoods, Suomi Hills Recreation Area - Suomi refers to all things Finnish in the Finnish language – offers miles of rolling hills and clear lakes.
With off-the-script scenes like this along the byway, it is impossible to drive Edge of The Wilderness byway without stopping every few miles.
Apart from the natural beauty of lakes, trees and wildlife, the route is dotted with roadside signs of Americana, like this family-owned auto-repair shop.
Pro-tip: They are well-stocked to replace the headlight of your vehicle if you suddenly find yourself in need of replacing it.
Gorgeous turquoise-colored lakes, like this Caribou Lake, and picnic grounds nestled are easy stops along the route.
Pro-tip: When you get to the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway in Effie, Minnesota, stop in at Effie Café, you will not regret it. On a recent Monday morning, the friendly server served massive serving of biscuits and gravy, and omelet to two loggers who were getting ready to start their day, and looked at us - and without skipping a beat - in a motherly way, declared us hungry campers, and fed until we could eat no more. Effie Café is the kind of place that stirs a desire to write screenplays based on what all you overhear on a single visit.
For all of you photo-lovers, roadside log-piles make for a great portrait backdrop (bottomground in this case?). I encourage you to slow down, stop safely, and take in the views in the moment - and for latergrams - along the Edge of the Wilderness highway.
- Waqar -