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The Great River Road

The Great River Road in Minnesota

The Great River Road begins in Itasca State Park and stair-steps along occasionally unpaved but well-graded backcountry roads through a mix of northern boreal forest, tree farms, and hayfields, all the while staying as close to its namesake as possible.

By Grand Rapids, only 130 mi (209 km) from its source, the Mississippi has been transformed from a grassy brook barely deep enough to canoe to an industry-sustaining river fed by a half-dozen of the state’s 10,000 lakes.

Farther south, the red and white pines, paper birch, and big-tooth aspen give way to more farms while the route breaks from the surveyor’s section lines to curve with the river across the glacially flattened state.

By St. Cloud, the GRR enters an increasingly developed corridor that culminates in the hugely sprawling Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, south of which the road slips into rural Wisconsin.

Notable Sights Along the Great River Road in Minnesota

  • Lake Itasca State Park – Explore old-growth pine forest and outdoorsy amenities
  • Bemidji – The lakefront community offers endless opportunities for water-skiing, canoeing, fishing, ice-fishing, and autumnal leaf-peeping
  • Judy Garland Museum — Pay a visit to the “World’s Largest Collection of Judy Garland Memorabilia”
  • Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – Peruse 60 works of art, including pieces from Henry Moore and Claes Oldenburg

Minnesota Travel Maps

Map of the Great River Road through Northern Minnesota.
Map of the Great River Road through Northern Minnesota.
Map of the Great River Road through Southern Minnesota.
Map of the Great River Road through Southern Minnesota.

Related Travel Guides for The Great River Road