America's Scenic Byways

Lake Country Scenic Byway

88 miles - Allow approximately two hours to tour this byway.

The Lake Country Scenic Byway promises a legendary getaway. Early explorers came to search for the headwaters of the Mississippi River and discovered pristine lakes and tall pine forests. The remarkable beauty of this place still draws visitors to the mighty river’s source in Itasca State Park. Itasca is not only Minnesota’s first state park, but is the only major park available at the source of the Mississippi, one of the world’s four greatest rivers. At Lake Itasca you can walk across the Mississippi headwaters and imagine how this tiny stream becomes miles wide as it enters the Gulf of Mexico.

As a source of inspiration, romance, heroism and mystery unsurpassed in American history, the Mississippi is a magnificent symbol of our country. Waters leaving Lake Itasca eventually join with snow from the Rocky Mountains, the thunderstorms of the Great Plains and Appalachian rains, gathering size, power and magnificence on the journey to the ocean.

In addition to the infant Mississippi and other significant rivers, over a thousand crystal clear lakes along are among the most pristine of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. The Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, Chippewa National Forest, six state forests, two paved state bicycle trails and the North Country National Scenic Trail border the 88-mile byway as well.

Fishing, canoeing, sailing, water skiing, swimming, kayaking, tubing, ATV riding, horseback riding, biking, inline skating, hiking, bird watching, golf and other recreational activities engage visitors with the landscape. The all-American Bald Eagle and Trumpeter Swan have made a comeback here and it is very likely visitors will see at least one along the way. Other wildlife, including white-tail deer, and black bear abound. Agriculture tours add another dimension to your visit, with possibilities including stops at a buffalo ranch and winery. You will find it is easy to pursue adventure here on the Lake Country Scenic Byway.