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Scenic Fall Colors Day Trip Northern Minnesota

A perfect safe social distance opportunity right now is a scenic fall colors day trip in northern Minnesota that includes the cities of Grand Rapids, Marcell, Bigfork and Effie. A Scenic Drive up the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway is 47 miles. This blog will feature a day long adventure up the first Minnesota Scenic Byway that is perfect for all ages. Click to view a couple of Scenic Fall Colors Tours you can take to get off the beaten path and enjoy stunning fall colors.

Edge of Wilderness Fall Color Tour

Grand Rapids Scenic Fall Colors Tour

Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway

Enjoy the 47-mile Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway that meanders from Grand Rapids, MN north to Effie, MN on Minnesota’s State Highway 38. The region is studded with lakes and thick with aspen, birch, pine and maple trees that pop with color in the fall season. The road winds around 36 lakes, and through state and national forest. The Chippewa National Forest is home to the largest population of bald eagles in the continental United States. Keep your eyes on the sky to see them soaring above the byway. White tailed deer also are known to graze in the fresh grasses along the side of the road.

Along The Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway, there are selected Discovery Sites where you can explore the hidden natural and cultural history of northern Minnesota. As you drive the Byway, look on the east side of the road for green reference point markers approximately one mile apart. These can assist you in navigating your way along the Byway. Also look for The Edge Byway signs and reference numbers along the roadway alerting you to the next Discovery Site just ahead. Take a few minutes or an entire day to navigate all the sites.

In the byway communities of Grand Rapids, Marcell, Bigfork and Effie you can find shopping and the essential travel services you’ll likely need including unique gift and antique shops, restaurants, fuel, food, lodging, public telephones, restrooms and emergency services.

Grand Rapids, Minnesota

In Grand Rapids you will find a charming small up north town that has locally owned boutique style shops, small cafes and restaurants, two breweries (Klockow Brewing Company and Rapids Brewing Co), and a wine bar (Unwined Up North). You will also find rich history and culture, and local public art downtown and at MacRostie Art Center. There is always weekly live music at the breweries and other bars/grills. The Reif Arts Council brings live entertainment options, and during COVID they are getting creative on outdoor entertainment options. The first stop on this scenic fall colors day trip started at Brewed Awakenings Coffeehouse to grab a hot cup of coffee/tea and a fresh out of the oven scone. Make sure to check out the Grand Rapids Events Calendar for live music, entertainment, and more.


There are many opportunities to pull off of the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway to hike. Here are a few of our favorites:  Suomi Hills Trail has two access points and parking lots. Suomi has 19 miles to hike, bike and cross country ski. You can have your dogs on this trail as long as they are on a leash, but not during the winter. This semi-primitive, non-motorized natural area is located in the Chippewa National Forest that offers rolling hills where you will discover many small lakes and an abundance of Northwoods wildlife. The Laurentian Divide separates the watershed of streams that flow north to the Arctic Ocean from the watershed of streams that flow southeast through the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.  At the Laurentian Divide Picnic Area, the divide is formed by a prominent array of hills known as the Giants Range.  This ridge has been highland for over 2 billion years! This is an easy trail that is approximately 1 mile in length. The Joyce Estates is another place to hike within the Chippewa National Forest. Originally an isolated 4,500 acre resort with 40 buildings including its own golf course, private telephone line and airplane hanger. There are only a couple of buildings that remain, but it is a great 5 mile hike where you will view several small lakes, many native birds and northern Minnesota wildlife. You can paddle into this location by accessing the Trout Lake landing; the pristine blue water of Trout lake is a mirror of the hardwood trees fall colors.

Marcell, Minnesota

Marcell is a small rural up north destination that is located on the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway. This friendly community is located in the heart of the Chippewa National Forest. You will find small, locally owned shops and restaurants. A must stop is the Pine Cone Café for homestyle favorites and baked goods, and the Timberwolf Inn for fresh Chef inspired dishes, and a great place to stay overnight. Marcell also has a great campground, and several Minnesota resorts for cozy lodging. You must make a stop at the Edge of the Wilderness Discovery Center where you will find over 20 native Northwoods animal mounts that showcase them in their natural habitats. The EOW Discovery Center also has a charming gift shop that sells local art, honey, wild rice, and Northwoods décor clothing and jewelry.

Bigfork, Minnesota

In Bigfork you will find several locally owned small shops, restaurants and gas stations. The City Hall is a historic building that was just renovated; it is a great place to stop and get a photo with the lumberjack statue. You have to stop at the Bigfork Park at the Bigfork River bridge. Here you will find history panels, a wanigan exhibit and lumberjack statue. There are several recreational trails between Marcell and Bigfork as well as north of Bigfork to hike, ATV, snowmobile and snowshoe. Bigfork is also home to the Edge Center For The Arts, due to COVID-19 it is closed, but keep it on the list for future visits. Bigfork is a welcoming community that boost with small town charm.

Effie, Minnesota

Effie is one of those up north destinations that has thousands of acres of undiscovered, unspoiled, undeveloped natural beauty…access to hundreds of clear, pristine lakes… vast forests full of a variety of trees and wildlife species. The heart of the town is located right on the Edge of The Wilderness Scenic Byway. The Effie Country Store is a gas station and convenience store to get gas, use the public rest room, and pick up snacks for your continued journey. You will want to stop at the Effie Café for homestyle meals and homemade pie. The EOW interpretive kiosk shares the history of town, and features two giant statues to stop and take photos at: a giant mosquito and a bucking rodeo. Effie is known for its annual rodeo. Located just north of Effie is the Little American Falls which is worth the drive. At this remote site you will walk down a rustic stairway to a gorgeous view of the falls. There are primitive campsites and picnic areas at the Little American Falls as well.


Grand Rapids, MN area: Visit Grand Rapids

Marcell, Bigfork & Effie, MN area: Edge of the Wilderness Lodging Association


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