Great River Road Byway

State: Minnesota
Length: 575 miles / 925.4 km
Time to Allow: The byway can be explored on short excursions or extended multi-day vacations.

The Great River Road Byway starts in Minnesota but travels down to the ocean following ten different states. If you decide to take the entire byway, you will need to plan a week as the river flows for 3,000 miles! Taking the entire byway can take a full 36 hours of straight driving by two weeks would be a lot more comfortable to see the highlights along the way.

In the Minnesota portion, the road spans 565 miles through 20 counties, tribes, unique destinations, and gorgeous scenery. Begin your journey in Bemidji, the first city on the Mississippi. Capture a photo of Paul Bunyan and his faithful pet, Babe. The town also offers tons of outdoor sports, fishing, and biking. Downtown visit the Headwaters Science Center and the Historical Society. Also, take the sculpture walk to see a variety of art.

Continue to follow the river through smaller towns, including Cass, Winnebigoshish, and Pokegama. The river moves toward Wisconsin and stops in Grand Rapids. The larger city offers something for everyone from nightlife, fishing, shopping, camping, art, and much more. It’s close to the Chippewa National Forest, perfect for summer outdoor activities. Kids will love the town too, with tons of options for activities.

Along the route heading south, stop Aitkin, Cuyung Range, Brainerd, and Little Falls for fishing, bird watching, or to find your own personal haven out in nature. The river provides the Wild and Scenic River area, perfect for canoeing, picnicking, fishing, and biking. The area also has iconic main street architecture, museums, and the home of Charles Lindbergh. In addition, find farmer’s markets, farmscapes, and even gorgeous gardens.

The Great River Road Goes through two other major cities, including Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minneapolis has its own byway, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, circling the major city. Take a day or two on this byway to fully see the city and sculptures.

Plan to stay in Saint Paul for a day or two and take a cruise on the river. The town offers tons of museums, art, theaters, and more. Like in Minneapolis, the town offers an art crawl. Snap some pictures of the Cathedral of Saint. Paul and the Historic Fort Snelling. Stop on Summit Avenue for a large stretch of Victorian mansions and a courthouse too.

St Paul offers the Como Zoo filled with wildlife and a couple of parks too. Take the kids to Mears Park in the winter for a wonderland of trees and lights. Find tours and outdoor recreation, too, with many options for fishing, kayaking, boating, and the cities favorite sport, golfing. Next, follow the river down through charming town, watch the riverboats, and so much more as you move toward Wisconsin and Iowa. Find campgrounds along the way or RV parks. No other road offers as much opportunity and adventure, especially if you are willing to keep going all the way down to the shore.

More Minnesota Byways

You can check out additional Byways in Minnesota by clicking on the list of byways below, or by going to the Minnesota Byways home section. To find even more of scenic byways in the United States, visit our scenic byways map.