When We Say “Getting Here is Half the Fun,” We Mean It

There are so many things to see and do in Cook County, MN you’ll want to make the most of every minute. Visit Cook County is a great place to find road trip ideas, like our national scenic byways and North Shore Scenic Drive.

National Scenic Byways

Cook County, Minnesota has two National Scenic Byways – roads recognized nationally for their scenery and significance. They are the North Shore Scenic Drive (an All-American Road) and the Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway.

North Shore Scenic Drive

You cannot get to Cook County without driving along renowned Highway 61. Beginning in Duluth and winding along Lake Superior’s rugged North Shore to Grand Portage, this road offers stunning scenery at every turn. Lighthouses, waterfalls, and several state parks are among its many allures.

For more information, visit the National Scenic Byway website’s North Shore Scenic Drive section.

Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway

The Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway (Trail) is a two-lane paved road. It meanders from the north shore of Lake Superior through 57 miles of beautiful boreal forest and glacier-dug lakes to the banks of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) at Saganaga Lake.

The Trail and surrounding area have a rich history that includes fur trading (this is voyageur country), Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps, and colorful pioneers.

The Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway is famous for moose sightings and for birding. In fact, the entire Superior National Forest is designated as a Globally Important Birding Area by the American Birding Conservancy.

The Laurentian Divide — the continental divide for water flowage — crosses the Trail. You can hike over some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth.

We’ve selected our Top 8 Fall Color Drives in Cook County MN.

Open the maps in Google Maps for step-by-step directions or contact our information center for printed copies of our fall color tours.

Typical best time for Fall Colors
Visit Typical best time for Fall Colors
Update for fall colors in the Superior National Forest
Visit Update for fall colors in the Superior National Forest

1. Scenic Highway 61 from Duluth to Grand Portage State Park 

  • One of the most scenic stretches of highway in the entire USA. Make sure to stop to explore at least one of the Minnesota State Parks on the drive.
  • Best time to drive: mid September – end of October.
  • Most known for: Maple laden Sawtooth Mountain peaks flanked by Lake Superior.

2. Grand Marais to the end of the Gunflint Trail (Saganaga Lake) 

  • Not just for summer trips into the BWCAW. Best known for optimum access into the Boundary Waters, the Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway begins in Grand Marais and winds 57 paved wilderness miles northwest near the border of Canada.
  • Best time to drive: mid September – mid October.
  • Most known for: Mixed forest with a healthy smattering of tamaracks, aspen, birch, and deciduous undergrowth.

3. Honeymoon Loop  (Route 1 on Fall Color map) | Lutsen/Tofte

  • Get off the beaten path and explore the region beyond the pavement. The aptly named Honeymoon Trail is full of such wonder and beauty, you’ll feel like you are on a second honeymoon.
  • Best time to drive: mid September – early October.
  • Most known for: Maple lover paradise. Set in the midst of a spectacular sugar bush (don’t forget to stock up on locally made maple syrup by swinging through one of the sugar shacks for a tour).

4. Richey Lake Loop | Tofte/Schroeder/Finland

  • Probably the most maple laden loop of them all. You start by driving through the Temperance River State Park (make sure to get out and stretch the legs here) and continue for miles on the backroads.
  • Best time to drive: mid September – early October.
  • Most known for: Through the thick maple trees and backcountry roads you’ll see both the headwaters of the Temperance River as well as the falls that crash into Lake Superior.

5. County Road 60  (Route 3 on Fall Color map) | Grand Marais

  • One drive through the maple tunnel and you’ll understand why this route makes our list. Don’t forget to stop and visit the local dairy farm not only for an incredible Lake Superior view but also for farm fresh milk and other treats.
  • Best time to drive: mid September – early October.

6. Alternate County Road 60 & Bogus Lake Road | Grand Marais/Gunflint Trail

  • Extend your adventure from #5 by driving deeper into the forest and getting a taste of the lower Gunflint Trail region.
  • Best time to drive: mid September – early October.

7. Arrowhead Trail Loop (Route 4 on Fall Color map) | Hovland

  • Take an adventure into the backcountry region of Hovland. Lots of side roads to explore and an abundance of wildlife.
  • Best time to drive: late September – October.

8. Rengo Road Loop | Hovland & Grand Portage

  • Dramatic elevation changes, true off road adventure, spectacular foliage make this drive truly unique.
  • Best time to drive: late September – October.

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Don’t just visit Cook County. Experience it like a pro with the hottest deals in the state. We’ve worked with our local vendors, artisans and owners to curate the best prices and most unique packages for our out-of-town visitors. Check out our hot deals today.

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