Best Scenic Motorcycle Rides of Northern Minnesota
What makes a great scenic motorcycle ride? In our opinion, some are better than other’s. Any day that you can ride is a good day – much better than a day in the office indoors. Grand Rapids, Minnesota is perfectly positioned among some of the most scenic up north motorcycle ride destinations. Of course, we are biased!
If you love curves, hills, tall pines and hardwoods forests, and stunning lakes, then we are your scenic ride destination for northern Minnesota. Grand Rapids is the start of the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway. Minnesota’s first nationally designated scenic byway is highway 38. It is a 47 mile route that starts in Grand Rapids and heads north to Effie, Minnesota. We feel that this is the start of a 200 round trip ride that should be on every motorcyclists bucket list.
The Edge of the Wilderness (EOW) Scenic Byway under went a major resurfacing construction project in 2018. That project is now complete and the road is awesome to ride! The best part of this project was several artery county roads received upgrades as well. This allows for great spur rides off of this main artery to connect to other northern Minnesota scenic highways. Here are our top three motorcycle scenic rides we suggest – the main scenic ride is EOW, and then you can decide which ride you would like to continue back to Grand Rapids on:
Edge of the Wilderness (EOW) Scenic Byway (47 miles) – this scenic byway is very scenic and offers curvy corners and hills to enjoy. The speed on this route is approx. 45 mph so don’t expect for a fast ride. Relax and enjoy the ride and the views. The beginning of the byway is not as scenic as the second part, so hang in there. There will be more residential and commercial property from city of Grand Rapids up to County Road 19, but from this point north you can expect very scenic. This scenic byway is located within the Chippewa National Forest. Along this ride you will have several opportunities to pull off and rest, enjoy the scenery, stop to get gas, access to public restroom facilities and places to eat and drink. A couple of places to pull off are: Pug Hole Lake (scenic lake overlook and fishing pier), Laurentian Divide (public restrooms, picnic area and a short hiking trail), Suomi Hills Trail (if you would like to stretch your legs on a walking trail), and Edge of the Wilderness Discovery Center (environmental learning center, visitors center, and gift shop). The EOW Discovery Center is definately worth the drive to Marcell. They offer FREE naturalist programs every Thursday-Saturday throughout the summer months. Inside their interpretive center you will find wildlife mounts that are native to northern Minnesota (loon, fox, bear, otter, deer with velvet antlers, and many others). The staff is very friendly and informative. Make sure you stop at The Pine Cone Restaurant for pie and ice cream. You can continue on EOW Scenic Byway into Bigfork and then north to Effie (total of 47 miles) or you can take one of these scenic rides back into Grand Rapids.
Avenue of Pines (68 miles)- Another nationally designated scenic byway is Avenue of Pines. Off of the EOW Scenic Byway you can head west on several county roads and ride back to Grand Rapids on the Avenue of Pines. One route we suggest is take Highway 286 west in Marcell. This will take you to the intersection of Highway 6, and the oldest bar in Minnesota: HayslipsCorner in Talmoon (which is a bar/grill). Continue heading west onto County Road 4 which connects you to Hoghway 46 (aka Avenue of Pines) in Squaw Lake. Additional places you will find to stop along this route is Fish Tales, Max C-Store. The Avenue of Pines is just what the name says, tall, hundred year old pine trees that are located within the Chippewa National Forest. This ride is going to be less curves and hills than EOW Scenic Byway, but the stunning tall pines are worth the ride. Along this route you will find additional places to stop and stretch your legs, grab food and beverages, and find public restrooms. We suggest stopping at Gosh Dam Place on Avenue of Pines. Continue south on Highway 46 to Highway 2 which will take you into Deer River where you will find Northern Star Co-op Cenex in Deer River. Highway 2 takes you back into Grand Rapids. This ride is 68 miles from Hwy 38 at Marcell to Hwy 2 in Grand Rapids. See Directions Via Google Map HERE.
Scenic 7 – (57 miles) This is not nationally designated but is also a very scenic route to ride back into Grand Rapids. Ride north out of Marcell on Hwy 38 (EOW Scenic Byway) to Bigfork, and then take County Road 7. This will take you east and south into the iron range communities of Balsam, Taconite, Coleraine, Bovey and back into Grand Rapids on Highway 169. This ride have a few more curves and hills than Avenue of Pines, and have more lakes that you will ride along side of and in between. At the beginning of this ride is Scenic State Park which a Minnesota State Park sticker is required for entrance (you can purchase at the gate), but worth the stop. This is a very scenic area where you can rent a kayak, stretch your legs for a little hike and the views are stunning at lake Sandwick. Continue on County Road 7 in Balsam and we suggest Balsam Store and Balsam Cafe to stop grab gas, a bite to eat, and public restrooms. Then continue until Highway 169 which will take you through Taconite, Coleraine and Bovey. Some stops here are Annabella’s Antique Mall, Nana Chelle’s Restaurant in Bovey, and then head west back into Grand Rapids on Highway 169. This is a 57 mile ride from Hwy 38 in Bigfork to Hwy 169 in Grand Rapids. See Directions Via Google Map HERE.