Minnesota – It’s Not Just Lakes!

Minnesota is a vastly underrated state that doesn’t get enough love from non-Minnesotans. That’s our opinion after spending more than two months crisscrossing the Land of 10,000 Lakes. (And by the way, there are way more than 10,000 lakes. There are literally lakes everywhere! I don’t think there’s a single straight road in the entire state – you have to constantly drive around the lakes to get anywhere!) There is so much more to Minnesota that even two months wasn’t enough to see it all.

How did we land in Minnesota for two months, you might ask? Two reasons. First, despite passing through the state multiple times to and from our home state of Michigan and states out west, we’d never stopped in Minnesota longer than to stretch our legs and fill up the gas tank. Hence, per our “rules” we were missing our Minnesota travel map sticker and wanted to fill it in.

Second, we’d planned to visit Colorado for the summer, but plans fell apart, and we decided to stick close to home. During our stay in Texas in February 2021, we met a couple from Minnesota who told us to stop by if we ever found ourselves in their state.  Well, one thing led to another, and after calling them to get some advice on places to stay in Minnesota, they not only invited us to visit but to stay on their property for a bit. Thus, our trip was born and plans commenced. We spent July living with them, hanging out on their boat, learning to waterski, and going on weekend excursions. August was spent traveling around Minnesota, staying in different cities, and finding new treasures.

One blog post can’t describe nor do justice to all we found to see and do in Minnesota, but this will serve as a brief overview of the uniqueness, variety, and natural wonder that we found during our travels. It truly is a state that’s not to be missed.

Diverse Geography and Geology

When you think of Minnesota, the first thing that comes to mind is lakes, forests, and extreme cold. That is partially true, but there’s so much more. Like the other Great Lakes states, Minnesota’s topography was influenced by glaciers that retreated centuries ago. Those glaciers left behind the many lakes, rivers, gorges, cliffs, potholes, waterfalls, pipestone, and other features that create the geologic and geographic richness of the state. Previous volcanic activity left basalt rock that is highly crucial to the habitats and migration patterns of birds and other animals.

Temperance River State Park

One of Minnesota’s key natural features is the headwaters of the Mississippi River, which starts at Itasca State Park. I can’t recall the last time I thought about where a river began. But visiting the beginning of one of the most well-known rivers, and even getting to wade in, was a very unique experience.

Itasca State Park – Headwaters of the Mississippi River

Most surprising to us is Minnesota’s southern region, which is primarily flat, open prairie – the type of land we stereotypically equate with Iowa or South Dakota. Honestly, we never even gave it any thought, but obviously, geology doesn’t just change immediately when you cross state lines! And due to Minnesota’s location, it does share significant attributes with its neighboring prairie states. In fact, there is a dedicated bison herd roaming the prairie at Blue Mounds State Park in southwestern Minnesota. Who knew you could find bison in Minnesota, a state typically associated with moose and bald eagles?!?

Bison herd at Blue Mounds State Park

Things To Do in Minnesota

What can’t you do in Minnesota?! From hiking to museums, and art galleries to camping, there’s something for everyone. Of course, there’s anything involving water — boating, fishing, kayaking/canoeing, waterskiing/tubing, and swimming. For the truly adventurous, don’t miss the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for a day trip or overnight adventure. There are 75 state parks to enjoy, lots of camping, and plenty of hiking and biking trails around the state. A trip to Minnesota’s North Shore is highly recommended to see waterfalls and lighthouses, or look for agates along Lake Superior. And be sure to stop in Duluth to watch the 1,000ft Great Lakes freighters come into port under the impressive lift-bridge.

Quirky Attractions

Minnesota is home to a significant number of quirky roadside attractions, museums, and statues that pay homage to the state’s history of legends and industry. And they take their statues seriously when it comes to height! Two of the most famous (and picture-must-stops) are the giant Paul Bunyan statues in Bemidji (complete with Babe the Blue Ox) and Akeley (plus Bunyan’s cradle). There’s also Big Ole in Alexandria, the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, and the World’s Largest Boot at the Red Wing Shoe Company store/museum in Red Wing.

And don’t miss the giant blue rooster and giant spoon and cherry in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. And no trip to Minnesota is complete without a trip to the free SPAM Museum in Austin. It details the history of the Hormel company and Spam’s origins and influence on culture and cuisine around the world. And, of course, free samples!

What are you waiting for?

Why are you still reading this? You should be off booking your trip to Minnesota! Whether you spend a day, week, or even months, there are so many options for adventure; you can’t go wrong!

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. We have a playlist dedicated to Minnesota, with some videos published and several others still to come. You can follow us on Instagram, our Facebook page, and Twitter. Plus, you can see each of the places we camp on this interactive Google Map. You also can keep track of our activities on social media with the hashtag #hikecampgo.

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