It's road trip season!

As summer approaches, the warmth and adventure of the open road is calling, and what better way to start your adventures than on this must-drive scenic byway in Minnesota?

What is a Scenic Byway?

First, let's recap what exactly a scenic byway is. The Minnesota Department of Transportation defines a scenic byway as:

a road corridor that has regionally outstanding scenic, natural, recreational, cultural, historic or archaeological significance. These corridors offer an alternative travel route to our major highways and daily travel patterns, while telling a story about Minnesota’s heritage, recreational activities or beauty.

In Minnesota, there are 22 official scenic byways winding nearly 3,000 miles across the state.

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Minnesota Scenic Byways Map (tap to enlarge)
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Established in 1922, the Minnesota Scenic Byways Program has had a significant economic impact on local communities located along the byways. The University of Minnesota Tourism Center did a study in 2010 that estimated the annual expenditures by travelers visiting the regions of just two scenic byways to be a combined $50.9 million.

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What is the Must-Drive Scenic Byway in Minnesota?

You can't go wrong traveling any of Minnesota's scenic byways, but there's one specific byway that was recently named the most-scenic, must-drive road in the Land of 10,000 Lakes -- The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway.

paul bunyan scenic byway mn
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Named after the larger-than-life lumberjack of American folklore, the 54-mile byway pays homage to Paul Bunyan with numerous attractions and landmarks dedicated to his legend. The driving route is in central Minnesota and passes through two counties, Crow Wing and Cass, and 14 Minnesota towns and Townships:

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  • City of Jenkins
  • Jenkins Township
  • Ideal Township
  • City of Crosslake
  • Mission Township
  • Pelican Township
  • Breezy Township
  • City of Pequot Lakes
  • Wilson Township
  • Timothy Township
  • City of Manhattan Beach
  • Barclay Township
  • Gail Lake Township
  • City of Pine River

The towns along the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway offer "a unique array of antique shops, handicraft markets, bait and tackle suppliers, rustic lodging and leisurely resorts," according to Explore Minnesota.

Map of Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway in Minnesota

The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway has six routes made up entirely of county roads and it's completely free to drive. There are Paul Bunyan signs along the roadside marking the routes.

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Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association
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It will take an estimated 1.5 hours to drive the byway or about 4-6 hours if you want to get out and explore, which you totally should!

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Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway, Minnesota (tap to enlarge)
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The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association has a list of things to see and do along the byway that includes:

The Paul Bunyan State Trail

The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway is also home to the Paul Bunyan State Trail, the longest bike trail in Minnesota at 120 miles and the longest continuously paved rail-trail in the country.

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The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway has been designated both a state and national scenic byway. Keep scrolling to learn about the must-drive roads in every state.

See the Must-Drive Roads in Every State

Gallery Credit: Sarah Jones