Minnesotans love to go up north. That phrase “up north” conjures all kinds of images of relaxation, excitement, and adventure. We have great golf, beautiful deep woods and lakes, ranging from the western border to Lake Superior, and plenty of activities to help put together a memorable northern Minnesota vacation.
Here is a handy checklist to help plan the perfect trip “up north.”
- A good portion of northern Minnesota is known as the Iron Range, because it has been the source of iron ore for steel mills to ship off in the Great Lakes to the eastern United States. The countryside still has the scars from deep pit mining of decades past and the Iron Range Research Center in Chisholm, Minn., is the place to start if you want to learn about the history of the region.
- One of the golf courses in the area was carved out of the vast iron range countryside near Biwabik. The Quarry at Giants Ridge has arresting beauty as it winds through iron country — with Hole No. 18 finishing aside a large, abandoned iron mine that is now filled with clear blue water. The course is challenging and requires your attention, but the rugged beauty is captivating and the solitude invigorating.
- Quiet beauty similarly marks the companion course at Giants Ridge, The Legend, which is a little more open but every bit the challenge. From the iconic giant’s footprint-shaped sand trap on No. 3 to the incredible tee shot across Sabin Lake on 17, The Legend offers a round you won’t soon forget.
- The two courses were designed by Texas Architect Jeffrey Brauer, who also designed The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, just down the road in Tower. Woods, water, and northern beauty are hazardous distractions for your round at this award-winning track.
- If you aren’t heading all the way north to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, where unparalleled high adventure awaits in this unique and pristine wilderness, check out some hiking in the Superior National Forest. You can summit the Laurentian Divide by hiking all the way to Lookout Mountain for an amazing view of the Superior National Forest from this north-south watershed. The trailhead is just four miles north of Virginia on Hwy 53.
- Looking to cover more miles quickly, try biking the Mesabi Bicycle Trail, Minnesota’s premier paved bike trail. You will pedal past lakes, through woods, over bogs, and even past a taconite mine and other historical sites of the region.
- If you are interested in popular culture, the childhood homes of Bob Dylan and Judy Garland can be found along the way. Garland was born in Grand Rapids, and the town has dedicated a museum to the memory of the entertainer and star of “The Wizard of Oz” and other movies. While Dylan (who was born in Duluth and grew up in Hibbing) is a little more elusive when it comes to his northern Minnesota legacy (or anything else about him, really) there are some spots worth checking out in Hibbing — which is also the boyhood home of NBA Hall of Famer Kevin McHale and former Governor Rudy Perpich.
- Every northern Minnesota vacation should find its way to Duluth, which sits on the edge of Laker Superior — the largest freshwater lake in the world. The views are spectacular and the town, built into the hillside stretching west from the lake, is unique and diverse with a great arts community. More hiking and sightseeing abound in the incredible landscape of this region.
- All that activity can certainly work up a thirst, and Duluth and the surrounding area is home to some of the best local craft beer in the state. From Fitger’s, Bent Paddle, and Canal Park breweries in Duluth to Castle Danger in Two Harbors, you won’t go wanting for a unique and thirst-quenching brew.
- Finally, the drive back from northern Minnesota is not complete without one more round of golf at Black Bear Golf Course in Carlton, 20 miles down the road back to the Twin Cities from Duluth. The beautiful and challenging Black Bear course carved out of secluded northern woods is also home to an iconic bunker in the shape of bear’s paw and is adjacent to Black Bear Casino and Hotel. Here’s hoping you can escape both without paying too much of a cost.
There are many places to start your northern Minnesota vacation, but you may have trouble finding the time to take it all in.