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Minnesota Lake Loop | Favorite trip

Minnesota Lakes Loop
Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway offers stunning views of downtown Duluth and Lake Superior. Alyssa Hei’s photo.

Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, is ranked 12th among U.S. states in land area but 9th in water within its borders. This favorite ride visits Lake Superior at its largest – and others within 200 miles that start and end in Duluth and have Ely at its northernmost point.

This simple day trip has evolved. I’ve ridden it at least once in the summer for over 30 years, starting with the 1978 BMW R100, then the 1981 BMW R80GS and now the 2007 BMWR1200R. Just as those bikes have changed, the path also.

Minnesota Lakes Loop

Scan the QR code above to see the route on REVER or click here


It’s also not my favorite ride. I don’t have a favorite ride other than the next one. This is because every time I ride, I feel significantly better. To me, there is nothing quite like the calming and clear effect of self-directed movement and riding a motorcycle may be the best delivery system for achieving this benefit ever devised. So riding on the way to work or circling this detour, it’s all the same. Every ride is my favorite trip.

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Minnesota Lakes Loop
Located in Two Harbors, Split Rock Lighthouse opened in 1909 and is perched on a 130-foot cliff overlooking Lake Superior. Paul Vincent’s photo.

Starting in Duluth, at Canal Park, travel along the North Shore of Lake Superior on Highway 61 to Two Harbors. Turn left and start north on District 2 Road. (Alternatively, you can ride ashore further, and a few miles past Silver Bay you’ll come to Illgen City, which isn’t actually a city. It’s just a T intersection, where Highway 1 begins. There, you turn left.)

Minnesota Lakes Loop
The largest of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior covers nearly 32,000 square miles. The ride along the North Shore is the highlight of this route.

The ride is fairly flat along the North Shore, but it climbs inland, and soon you’ll be surrounded by a second-generation forest of norway pines, white birch, alder, and spruce . It’s a forest landscape as remote and empty as you’ll find anywhere in Alaska, Canada, or Siberia.

After traveling 46 miles north, County Road 2 is at a dead end on Route 1. Turn left towards Ely. Wildlife you may encounter include white-tailed deer, elk, wild wolves, black bears, beavers, mastiffs, squirrels, loons, blackbirds, bald eagles and a variety of ducks, geese, partridges and partridge. The human encounters will be loggers driving large trucks, fishermen carrying canoes on the terraces, occasional rickshaws, and a few campers and hiker driven by Subaru. There are also a handful of settlers and a few small roadside bars.

Minnesota Lakes Loop
After turning north at Two Harbors, the route enters a large, empty section of northeastern Minnesota, passing by several of the state’s 10,000 lakes. District 2 Road is mostly straight, but Bang Road 1 winds gracefully through the jungle, where there are many wildlife but few people. Keep your wits about you and prepare for emergencies, because this is a remote area and there are not many services.
Minnesota Lakes Loop

This old Route 1 has evolved. Back in the 1980s, its asphalt surface was shoulderless, rough, narrow, and worn, with lots of tight corners and tightly coupled 15-25 mph, which was a lot of fun. taste when tested at 30-45 mph. It’s like a bumpy, frost-damaged version of Dragon’s Tail, with enough twists, tight corners, and extended overhangs to make any of the bike’s shocks and tires sturdy as well. warmth. Back then, the road was cramped and the distances so long, it was a great training ground for young riders looking to improve their skills. Mature jungle is just a few feet from your elbows and knees, greatly enhancing the sense of speed. Boy, is it ever fun. There is no time to lollygag by peering into narrow flickering ravines or crossing numerous small lakes, streams and ponds, hoping to spot exotic wildlife. No, I’ve never seen a moose up there, or a wolf, but that’s where a pack of them are known to live. Eyes on the road.

Minnesota Lakes Loop
Alyssa Hei’s photo

That funky old stretch of highway doesn’t exist to this day. Most of it has been improved and extended to modern standards for the convenience and safety of loggers, fishermen, tourists and locals. It’s all still nice and curvy, but it’s now dozens of high-speed sweepers that are rhythmically linked and most sides have nice shoulders with matching kinks. Those resilient rocks and trees of the primeval forest are now at least 10 to 12 feet from your elbow. Thank you, MnDOT. Very good. You have turned the paradise of a depraved thug car racer into an exciting experience of a sports and tourist driver.

Minnesota Lakes Loop
Throughout downtown Ely are 19 different murals, including “The End of an Era,” celebrating the town’s mining history.

The site of this detour is the city of Ely, famous partly for its mining but mainly as a jumping-off point for canoeists looking to paddle the endless rivers and lakes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness. and explore Voyageurs National Park. With a little transportation here and there, you could sail all the way to the Rockies, and in the 1700s plenty of hard-working men did it in exchange for the natives for beavers, which were inherent great fashion demand throughout Europe at that time. .

Minnesota Lakes Loop
Ely is a charming little town on the edge of Minnesota’s vast Boundary Sea Canoe Wilderness.

You can buy locally handcrafted deerskin hide mukluk, cutters, custom canoe paddles, and all sorts of artwork and camping gear in the gallery in Ely, so take your time. walking time. There are also parks, theaters, campsites, motels, and cottages if you want to linger overnight. Delicious meals are served at a number of nice restaurants. You can choose from two brands of gasoline and even buy the premium ethanol-free one that most old bikes are most comfortable with. The vibe is the western ski town with no mountains, just an endless wilderness, devoid of the deep lakes and forests you could ever dream of. Or rowing.

Minnesota Lakes Loop
Built in the early 1900s, the Duluth Aerial Lift connects the city of Duluth with Minnesota Point on the south shore of Lake Superior. Alyssa Hei’s photo.

To get back to Duluth, drive West past Ely on 1st Street, turn left (south) on Central Avenue S. (County 21st), and travel about 30 miles to Embarrass. Just head west, turn south again on State Route 135. Follow signs for Aurora past CSAH (County State Aid Expressway) 100, and continue on to District 4 Road, designated called the Vermilion Trail, was first cut as a wagon trail into this canoe country. Along with that were some small worn-out iron mining towns, a few scattered residents, and a few other welcoming pubs. Before you know it, you’re back in the small town of Duluth.

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