Edge of Wilderness National Scenic Byway


  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (1996)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesNatural
  • LocationMN
  • Length47 miles
Byway Visitor Information
Edge of WIlderness Lodging Association in Northern Minnesota
Statewide Byway Partners
Downloadable Minnesota Byways Map
Explore Minnesota Tourism
Edge of Wilderness National Scenic Byway
Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway Photo


Travel this spectacular, winding byway by many pristine lakes, forests, swamps, rolling hills, and other unique features. Outdoor recreation, interpretive sites, and other exciting opportunities await the traveler. During fall, the northwoods is adorned with the brilliant colors of red sugar maples, bronze oak trees and glowing gold aspen and birch.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

The Edge of Wilderness National Scenic Byway, in northern Minnesota, is the rustic slice of the state with more than 1,000 lakes and the mighty Mississippi River nearby that passes through the Chippewa National Forest. The landscape offers remarkable beauty as it is studded with lakes and thick with aspen, birch, pine, and maple trees that burst with color in the fall season. The area offers some of Minnesota’s finest fishing, hunting, camping, trail, winter sports, and resort opportunities. The Edge of Wilderness Discovery Center in Marcell, MN includes area information, gift shop, environmental education room, outdoor amphitheater, interpretive trail fishing/wildlife-watching pier, and offers free naturalist programs throughout the summer.

The "Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway" helps people discover the hidden natural and cultural history of northern Minnesota. The Byway meanders 47 miles north from Grand Rapids to Effie, Minnesota. It offers some of Minnesota's most popular fishing, hunting, camping, trail, winter sports and resort opportunities. During fall, the northwoods are adorned with the brilliant colors of red sugar maples, bronze oak trees and glowing gold aspen and birch.The fishing here is unmatched. Fishers will be able to catch muskie, smallmouth bass, and walleye alongside northern largemouth bass, lake trout, crappie, bluegill, perch and sunfish. Visitors can also find a number of swimming areas within the park near the byway such as Cass Lake, Leech Lake, or Lake Winnibigoshish.

Find numerous resorts and campgrounds around Marcell, where the ranger station for the Chippewa National Forest is located, and Grand Rapids, and the neighboring lakes. There are several hiking trails, including one that leads to the old Joyce Estate, once a millionaire's vacation hideaway.

Grand Rapids is home to the Judy Garland Museum and Judy's childhood home. Although there are thousands of items housed at the museum, one of the most popular items permanently on display is the Wizard of Oz Carriage, which carried Dorothy and her friends on the final leg to see the Wizard. President Abe Lincoln also was a passenger in the famous carriage. At the Forest History Center, you can tour a reconstructed 1900 logging camp and learn about forestry. Visitors will experience the stories of the north woods and learn about the lumberjacks who called these forests home. Check for concerts or plays at the Myles Reif Performing Arts Center. Completed in 1981, the Reif Center is also dedicated to providing dance instruction to both the serious dance student and the recreational student.

This route was once used by voyageurs and loggers through the Chippewa National Forest, over rolling hills, and past bogs and fishing lakes. Much of the 47-mile drive that connects Grand Rapids to Effie was reconstructed in recent years, promising a smooth ride and spectacular scenery - from historic sites and lumberjack-influenced small towns to bald eagles and balsam firs.

From 1890 to 1908, people depended on horses to travel from Deer River to Northome. The first Ranger in the Cut Foot Sioux area traveled with a 2-hitch team when venturing out on the Forest. In 1910, Sam Simpson was successful in obtaining a large contract for logging pine from the Cut Foot Sioux area for the Northland Pine Lumber Company. Simpson's logging crew utilized horsepower to pull pine logs out of the woods. Records show that the logging camp employed 60 men and 30 horses. Even today, horses are used to pull logs out of non-motorized areas of the Forest. Recreational trail users will find opportunities for horseback riding at the Cut Foot Sioux Horse Camp past the Cut Foot Sioux Visitor Center. The Cut Foot trails will lead you through the Cut Foot Experimental Forest. The Forest is an outdoor laboratory for studying pine forest management.

Driving Directions

Highway 38 from Grand Rapids, north through the Chippewa Falls National Forest to Effie and Highway 1.

Points of Interest

  • Pughole Lake

    A 152-acre lake, 23 feet deep, and managed for Northern Pike and Panfish.

  • Chippewa National Forest

    Established in 1908, it is the first National Forest east of the Mississippi River and is the home to more lakes and wetlands than any other National Forest.

  • Big Fork, MN

    Interpretive kiosk, population 446.

  • Prairie Lake

    A 794-acre lake, 47 feet deep. Anglers can catch a variety of fish including Bullhead, Blue Gill, Large Mouth Bass, Northern Pike, Walleye and Yellow Perch.

  • North Star Lake

    A 832-acre lake, 90 foot deep. Anglers can catch a variety of fish.

  • Turtle Lake

    Boat ramp, shore fishing. Great for catching Large Mouth Bass.

  • Edge of Wilderness Discovery Center

    In Marcell, MN with area information, gift shop, and free naturalist programs in the summer.


  • Fish, Fish, and More Fish

    Begin at Grand Rapids on Highway 38 traveling north through the Chippewa Falls National Forest. There are more wetlands and lakes in this forest than in any other National Forest. The choice of what lake to stop and fish depends on the species. Pack a lunch and catch supper. The first, geographically, is Prairie Lake- known for bullhead, bass, pike, walleye, and perch. Further up Highway 38 is Pughole Lake for pike and panfish and North Star Lake for a variety of species. Stop in the Edge of Wilderness Discovery Center just north of Marcell to learn more about the area. If you are looking for bass, continue to Turtle Lake. In Big Fork, stop to stretch your legs and enjoy the interpretive kiosk. Continue to Effie where the byway ends. If you are traveling in the early fall, the area will be ablaze with color as the tree leaves change color. In any season, the views as you wind through the forest, along pristine lakes, is one you will remember.

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