Vacations are about relaxing and getting away from normal life, and a big part of that is a change of scenery. If you’re going on a trip, you probably want to see some new and beautiful sights along the way. Whether you’re visiting Minnesota for the city lights, the Northern Lights, or just to get away, we’ve got a list here for you of the most breathtaking views in Minnesota throughout the seasons.
Best Summer Beach Views in Minnesota
Park Point Beach
If you’re on the hunt for a family-friendly beach view, check out Park Point Beach and its six-mile-long shore. With a gorgeous view of Lake Superior before you and some trees behind, you can sink your toes into the sand and watch the water meet the sky all day. Kids can play in the sand, adults can relax on the shore, and everyone can enjoy the waves rolling in and out. Beach pavilions are available for rent if you want to limit your view to your loved ones and get a little more space from the other beachgoers.
Affectionately referred to as “the Black Beach” by Minnesota’s North Shore residents, thanks to the black sand on its shores, Onyx Beach is part of Silver Bay lining Lake Superior. The combination of coal-colored sand, craggy cliffs, and jutting rock formations suggest that this beach might have dropped right out of a science fiction novel. The red hues of the cliffs and the black sand backed with the rich blue skyline will leave you in awe of the sight.
Itaska State Park Beach
Itaska State Park Beach is where the Mississippi River meets the oldest state park in Minnesota. Have you ever seen the beginning of a river? This beach is the very spot where the Mississippi River begins its journey down to Mexico.
This beach features fine, powdery sand and shallow water (up to an adult’s knees) along the whole shore, making it an excellent beach for toddlers to safely play in while you enjoy the view of deep blue sky, large river rocks, and your kids playing safely in the soft sand. The enormous pine trees lining the background are a pretty sight as well. For a scenic view from the river itself, there’s a dock for canoes and kayaks, though you’ll have to bring your own.
Best Snowy Winter Views in Minnesota
The Gunflint Trail
As you drive up the fifty-seven-mile national scenic byway in the winter, you may spot dog sleds or cross-country skiers racing along the side of the road. In the first couple of miles, the Gunflint Trail climbs six-hundred feet to a ridge lined with maple trees called the Pincushion Mountain Overlook. At several other points along the trail, you’ll find shops, fishing spots, nature centers, and little side trails to explore. Blanketed in white, all the scenes along the Gunflint Trail are worth the trek. There’s no beating the many incredible views along the way.
How about a frozen waterfall? Limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in the Minnehaha State Park are home to the fifty-three-foot-tall Minnehaha Falls. Surrounded by oak, elm, silver maple, basswood, hackberry, and cottonwood trees, this waterfall is a view for all the seasons. But frozen and covered in a layer of snow, this area is a breathtaking winter beauty.
Lined with a variety of evergreen and skeletal trees as well as groomed hedges in some places, the view of the shore of Pike River is incredible in the snow. With a layer of white coating the many trees and shrubs and icicles dangling from every surface, it’s a true winter wonderland to behind. Gaze at this gorgeous view from one bank to the other, or enjoy the view from the lake itself in a sturdy boat or canoe.
Best City Lights Views in Minnesota
For an incredible view of Minneapolis’s city lights, visit the Foshay Tower Observation Deck. Located above the Foshay Museum, the observation deck affords a beautiful view of the city from every side. The building is a sight on its own, having been constructed in 1929 and being surrounded by more modern structures. There’s also a hotel on the lower levels of the tower, providing visitors with a comfortable place to sleep after seeing all the sights around.
Witch’s Hat Water Tower
To see the skyline and city lights from a distance, check out the view from the Witches Hat Water Tower located in nearby Prospect Park. One of the few original Minnesota water towers in the Twin Cities area, the Witch’s Hat Water Tower stands 110 feet tall on top of the highest natural land area inside of the city of Minneapolis. It is only occasionally open for observation, but if you can get the chance to see the Minneapolis city lights from this vantage point, you should definitely take the opportunity.
Indian Mounds Regional Park
This piece of Native American history is the home to several Native American burial mounds. The Indian Mounds Regional Park is a reverent place of deep significance for the Native American community, so a visit to this area should not be taken lightly. But there are some bluffs skirting the edge of the area facing St. Paul. You can choose a bench to sit on and watch the sunset skyline become a beautiful display of city lights.
Best Fall Foliage Views in Minnesota
Lake Superior North Shore Backroads
One of only fifteen routes in the country to be designated an “All-American Drive,” the back roads around the northern side of Lake Superior are packed with a variety of gorgeous trees. The assortment of colors from the different species combine to create an incredible autumn rainbow of rustic shades. Maples near the shoreline burst into vibrant shades of crimson while aspen and birch turn shades of ocher and lemon. And not only are the leaves alone worth the trip, but you can also enjoy glimpses of the lake itself from time to time. Don’t hesitate to pull over for a few pictures and to enjoy the sights as much as you can.
Minnesota River Drive
Lake Superior isn’t the only significant body of water in Minnesota. The Mississippi River runs through it as well, and the Minnesota River Drive follows the Mississippi where many hardwood trees flourish. These trees tend to be mostly yellow and gold like an early morning sunburst, and you can get an even better look at them in New Ulm. Here there are bluffs from which you can gaze down at the changing leaves from above rather than just from the same level.
Route: Take Co. Rd. 6 to HWY. 93. Take 93 to HWY. 169. Take 169 to Mankato. From there, hop on HWY. 68 to the bluffs at New Ulm.
Best Spring Forrest Views in Minnesota
Eagle Mountain in Superior National Forrest
Standing at 2,301 feet above sea level is Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota. You can take a trail at the base to hike the 3.5 miles to the summit. This is a rugged trail, so be ready to make it up as you go, and don’t expect a clear and easy trail to be in place. But once you reach the top, you can see the winding Lake Superior sprawling through the national forest. The variety of trees in the area provides an assortment of green shades that look beautiful together, especially from such a great height.
Split Rock Lighthouse
Another Lake Superior site, the Split Rock Lighthouse was built in 1910 to make the passage across Lake Superior safer for iron ore transporters. Visitors are allowed limited access to the lighthouse itself, but the silhouette of the lighthouse on the cliff with the horizon in the background is breathtaking. And there are several beautiful vantage points throughout the rest of the adjacent state park where you can see not only the lighthouse at different angles but also the other historic buildings and various parts of the lake.
Best Northern Lights View in Minnesota
Did you know that you don’t have to travel to the artic to see the Northern Lights? That’s right–the Northern Lights are commonly visible in certain parts of Minnesota. Lutsen, Minnesota is one of those places. Visiting in July or August will increase your chances of seeing the Perseid meteor shower that sometimes happens before the Northern Lights show up. You can also aim to visit in October when the lights tend to be brighter.
A mere thirty-minute drive from the Canadian border, Hallock, Minnesota is far enough away from the bright lights of the Twin Cities to afford an unencumbered view of the Northern Lights. The nearby Pine to Prarie Birding Trail is a good place for a woodsy view of the lights. If you’d rather not have any tree branches blocking your view of the sky, then watching from the porch of a rental cabin is a great idea. Be sure to bring some coffee or hot chocolate along as it will get chillier in the evening and you may need to wait well past 9:00 PM for the lights to make an appearance.
Time to Enjoy the Minnesota Views!
Which one of these places sounds the most exciting and beautiful to you? Are you going to travel there for your next vacation? Have you had an amazing experience there before? Let us know in the comments!
Love spending time outside? Then discover the Minnesota Outdoors to continue learning new ways to reconnect with nature!
Ready for more Minnesota advice, info, and guides? Whether you’re a local or a passerby, discover the best of Minnesota that our great state has to offer!
Looking for Minnesota winter inspiration? Check out our Minnesota winter guide for activity ideas, winter apparel suggestion, and endless ways to enjoy the snow!
Looking for some warm weather recommendations? Discover spring and summer in Minnesota for best destinations, travel recommendations, small (and big!) town events, and more!
Looking for more autumnal activities? Then visit our Minnesota Fall page to find inspiration for sweater weather fun!
- About the Author
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Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.