Feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin and the wind whistling through your hair is just the start of a great day of motorcycle riding. True bikers know it’s not just a method of transportation; it’s a way of life. Get out on the open road and explore somewhere new on one of these 11 best motorcycle rides in Minnesota.
1. Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway
The best motorcycle rides in Minnesota take you to places you’ve never been before. And we can guarantee that many people have not been to the northernmost scenic byway in the entire state. We’re talking so far north, it’s nearly Canada.
Beginning at Voyageurs National Park, just on this side of the USA/Canada border, you’ll travel west along the Rainy River to International Falls. When you reach Baudette, the scenery changes to lady slippers and wildflowers. At Warroad, you’ll enter a section of the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail. If you drive any of these 229 miles during the night, you might just see the aurora borealis, or “dancing sky” that this byway is named after.
2. Otter Trail Scenic Byway
For a nice loop through north central Minnesota, the Otter Trail Scenic Byway takes you past 1,000 lakes, wetlands filled with wildlife, flour mills from the 1800s, and some pretty unique roadside sculptures. Take your time and stop to explore the many historic sites and informational markers that showcase the area’s natural and cultural history.
Take a ride by tribal hunting grounds and battle sites of Native Americans. Follow the routes of fur traders and early explorers. Learn about the first permanent white settlement in the area, a Mormon colony. See how railroads and European immigrants helped develop the region. This land of scenic lakes and lush forests make for the perfect vacation destination.
3. The North Shore Ride
Minnesota’s North Shore is a top destination for visitors of all types. For one of the best motorcycle rides in Minnesota, travel along Highway 61 with the banks of Lake Superior on one side, and stunning pine tree forests on your other side. Before you gear up, map out some prime places to stop for a break.
There are many overlooks available to pull over and take in the beauty of the Northwoods. And don’t miss the unique lighthouses and cliff sides of Palisade Head. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to refuel at one of the cities along the way. Stop in Grand Marais, Silver Bay, Two Harbors, or Duluth for a tasty bite to eat.
4. Skyline Parkway
If you really want to make a trip out of your North Shore ride, spend the night in Duluth and take in all this port city has to offer. From restaurants and shopping in Canal Park to museums and beaches, there really is something for everyone. Once you’ve seen it all, hop back on your bike and continue heading south.
Following Skyline Drive will allow you to see a bird’s eye view of the harbor and endless horizon of Lake Superior. Along the way, you’ll be connected to the Duluth Traverse Trail which is a great stop for a quick run or hike to loosen up those legs and capture the beauty of this area from a scenic overlook.
5. Lake Minnetonka Shoreline Drive
Keeping things closer to the Twin Cities metro area, take a ride around Lake Minnetonka’s shoreline and get yourself a little lost among all its bays. This is the ideal route for the rider looking for a quick run or the one who has trouble sitting still for too long.
Traveling along the lakeside of this wealthy suburb, you’ll also get to see some incredible homes and there’s plenty to do and see in the area. If you haven’t already, you must visit Lord Fletcher’s Old Lake Lodge for live music and great food. Of course, you can also get your hands on any other cuisine you like from sushi to steak and everything in between.
6. Red Wing Adrenaline Ride
Starting near the Minnesota/Wisconsin border in Red Wing, this ride will take you west through rural Minnesota and across the Cannon River. As you ride, the scenery is likely to make you feel like you’re in a mountain valley far away. We highly recommend taking this ride in late September or early October when the leaves start changing color.
This route comes with several tight corners, especially during the Country 7 Boulevard section, so your ride is sure to be interesting! Since you’ll be driving through a lot of rural farmland, make sure to fill up on food and gas before you leave Red Wing. Once you arrive, visit The Bleu Dog Cafe or Cannon River Inn for a refreshing drink and dinner.
7. Waconia to Henderson
Add a little variety to your ride by navigating the hills and valleys from Waconia to Henderson. Start the experience just outside the southwest corner of the MSP metro area, and fill up on seafood and lake views at Lola’s Lakehouse. Dine on the outdoor patio and you’ll be able to watch the boats float by.
Hop on your bike and ride through the scenic countryside. Near Belle Plaine, you’ll turn and start following the twists and turns of the Minnesota River all the way to Henderson. Once you arrive, stretch your legs at Bender Park, the hummingbird garden, or one of the nature trails. Before you leave, stop for a sweet treat in the downtown area at Toody’s.
8. Great River Road
Although this road follows the entire length of the Mississippi River, a more manageable portion in southeast Minnesota is the stretch of Highway 61 between Red Wing and LaCrescent. You’ll get beautiful views of the Mighty Mississippi and incredible landscape features.
Before you leave town, visit Red Wing’s historic downtown and stop by the flagship Red Wing shoe store for some new boots. Along the way, make a pit stop in Winona to refuel at Bloedow’s Bakery. When you reach LaCrescent, ask around for the best burger in town. To head back, follow the same route and see it from a new angle, or cross over into Wisconsin and take Highway 53 north. You can also try an alternate route back north called Apple Blossom Drive. Learn more about that ride below.
9. Historic Bluff Country
Next on the list of best motorcycle rides in Minnesota is the historic bluff country. If you’re looking to extend your trip after traveling on the Great River Road, pick up where you left off in La Crescent and head west along the Root River Valley to see lush, forested hills and sky-high bluffs. The route is primarily dotted by small towns, so there will be plenty of opportunity for unique sights, shopping, and cuisine.
Stop at one of the three state parks in the area to explore the beauty on foot. Learn more about the landscape, wildlife, and history of the region at the Eagle Bluff Learning Center, Houston Nature Center, Rushford Southeastern Minnesota Railroad Museum, and Peterson Depot Museum. Just be sure to watch out for any Amish buggies on these rural country roads!
10. Apple Blossom Drive
For an alternate route north from Le Crescent, take the Apple Blossom Drive Scenic Byway. This route takes you through rolling farmland, past high bluffs, and gives you great views of the Mississippi River and the state of Wisconsin beyond it. If you get hungry, make a pit stop at Great River Bluffs State Park. This park has easy, short trails that lead to scenic overlooks for a great photo opportunity.
Of course, it’s not called Apple Blossom Drive for nothing! This area is full of apple orchards so you can be sure to snag some of the finest fresh apples, apple cider, and other apple-based treats. When combined with the changing colors, this makes it the perfect ride for fall.
11. Shooting Star Scenic Byway
If you love seeing wild blooms along the best motorcycle rides in Minnesota, then head to the southeastern corner of the state. Here you’ll find one of Minnesota’s first designated wildflower routes. The Minnesota Department of Transportation works together with the Department of Natural Resources to manage the wildflowers and native grasses you’ll see.
Ride along Highway 56 for a 32-mile drive through small rural towns with rich agriculture and historic buildings. Stop and take a rest at a quaint bed and breakfast, work on your swing at the golf course, or cool off during summer at the swimming pool. You’ll also be driving right past Lake Louise State Park so feel free to hop off and explore some of the 1,683 acres of prairie and forests!
When’s the Best Time for Motorcycle Rides in Minnesota?
Maybe not in the winter, but the spring will have fresh flowers blooming. In summer all the forests are lush and green. In Autumn, the changing colors of the leaves are spectacular to see. Leave a comment below and let us know your favorite place to ride a motorcycle in Minnesota!