The 88-mile Minnesota Lake Country Scenic Byway was awarded Minnesota’s state byway designation in 1999. The route includes a 67-mile stretch of Highway 34 from Detroit Lakes, through Park Rapids to Walker, with a 21-mile spur extending from Park Rapids north to Itasca State Park along US Highway 71. Communities on the Minnesota Lake Country Scenic Byway are Detroit Lakes, Snellman, Osage, Park Rapids, Nevis, Akeley and Walker. (Itasca State Park is a community of park staff, visitors and the area’s natural inhabitants) Other communities, located near the Byway – Dorset, Frazee, Lake George, Menahga, Ponsford/Pine Point, Two Inlets, and Wolf Lake – are well worth your time to visit, too. In these communities on the Minnesota Lake Country Scenic Byway , you will discover Main Street charm, quaint shops and more. Most of these towns host summer celebrations as well, so be sure to check their websites and Facebook pages.
Natural & Cultural History
Minnesota’s Lake Country Scenic Byway reveals diverse history and culture in pristine natural settings. On their website you can connect with ways to plan a day, week or longer along the byway. If you’re looking to Minnesota’s Lake Country for a family retreat, find the perfect spot to stay at one of our many lodging establishments, like The Lodge on Lake Detroit at the west end of the byway.
Habitat & Wildlife
Traveling the Minnesota Lake Country Scenic Byway, you will witness remarkable changes in vegetation in a relatively short distance as you drive through prairie grasslands, deciduous forests and coniferous forests along the byway. Each change of scenery provides unique combinations of wildlife interacting the specific habitat that supports it. Main Byway attractions like the Chippewa National Forest, Itasca State Park and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge offer history lessons, family fun, wildlife viewing, places of solitude and a host of ways to enjoy the outdoors.
The many lakes and rivers, public forests and parks, recreational and hiking trails, golf courses and more offer outdoor adventures that show you why the area is so often called the Playground of the North. Take a few extra minutes as you traverse the Byway to also discover the natural and cultural history that has left a legacy in Lake Country. Visitors traveling the byway can visit local landmarks and learn the area’s unique stories.
- Six state forests along the Byway offer remote places to explore. Detailed maps are available at Chamber Visitor Centers. State forests provide an undisturbed view of local flora and fauna. The Deep Portage Learning Center south of Walker offers opportunities to find out more about woods, water and wildlife.
- The Heartland and Paul Bunyan state multi-use trails are among the brightest stars in our galaxy. Bikers and snowmobilers give them rave reviews. The North Country National Scenic Trail crosses seven states between New York State and North Dakota. Hikers can find miles of completed trail in this neck of the woods. Other trails thread through state forests and the Byway. Birders will delight in spotting great numbers of woodland warblers, prairie sparrows and vast numbers of shorebirds along the Pine to Prairie International Birding Trail.
- Enjoy the tranquil call of the Common Loon as you cast a line into the lake early in the morning or as the sun sets. Hundreds of sparkling blue waters offer the thrill of catching pan or game fish, including trophy-size muskie. Fish from shore, off a pier or rent a boat from a marina.
- For a night on the town, discover three casinos: Northern Lights Casino in Walker, Palace Casino & Hotel in Cass Lake and Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen (north of Detroit Lakes). Or take a daytime stroll at our two wineries (Forestedge and Richwood).
- Families may want to head to local movie theaters, live theater performances or museums or play some miniature golf. Byway communities also have shady, green parks with a variety of amenities: public beaches, courts for tennis, sand volleyball and skateboarding, disc golf, walking paths, children’s playground equipment and, of course, picnic tables and shelters, and more.
- Or just find a blanket and stare up into the twinkling night sky away from urban light pollution. You may find the Milky Way or even see Northern Lights dancing across the horizon.
Seasonal Byway Pursuits
Summer’s traditional pursuits include golf courses, beautiful picnic areas, pristine lakes and sandy beaches, trails for biking and hiking.
Fall brings hunting seasons for waterfowl and big game (and Fall Colors touring by car), along a bicycle trail or on foot. Look for information on the Lake Country Scenic Byway’s annual Fall Color Tour with stops at interesting places off the beaten path.
In winter, many of the same trails and miles and miles more attract snowmobilers and cross country skiers, with many great places for ice skating, and snowshoeing.
Springtime birding is favorite as species in bright mating plumage migrate to their northern homes. As the terrain changes from prairie to wooded forests plus thousands of acres of wetlands, lakes and rivers, you can see more than 275 species of birds. For a birding adventure, stop at any of the 68 sites along the 500-mile Pine to Prairie International Birding Trail south of Detroit Lakes to north of Winnipeg, Manitoba to view hundreds of sought-after species.
For those looking for more adventurous activity, try tubing down a river, paddleboarding or parasailing on a lake (or SCUBA diving under the lake), or explore the forest on an ATV!
- Lake Country Scenic Byway Association | Website
- Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce | Tel: (218) 847-9202 or (800) 542-3992 | Website
- Leech Lake Area Chamber of Commerce | Tel: (218) 547-1313 or(800) 833-1118 | Website
- Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce | Tel: (218) 732-4111 or (800) 247-0054 | Website
Detroit Lakes Parks & Trails
The Detroit Lakes area abounds with beautiful parks, lakes, rivers, hiking & biking trails and more. Detroit Lakes, Becker County, and the surrounding area offers so many recreational and outdoor activities that it is difficult to fit them into one visit. With over 400 lakes within a 25-mile radius, and with beautiful rivers and streams (not to mention the Mississippi Headwaters), many parks and trails have been created to provide public access.
Parks, such as the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, provide cross-country and snow mobiling trails in the winter– and even more trails for hiking and biking during the spring, summer and fall months. You can also enjoy the natural beauty from your car. The Lake Country Scenic Byway is an 88-mile corridor that follows Highways 34 and 71. Along its route, the Byway uniquely spans three different types of geographic terrain.
View Detroit Lakes Parks & Trails Guide