Paul Bunyan National Scenic Byway

Details

  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2005)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesRecreation
  • LocationMN
  • Length54 miles
Byway Visitor Information
Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association
Statewide Byway Partners
Downloadable Minnesota Byways Map
Explore Minnesota Tourism
Paul Bunyan's Bobber rests at the top of Pequot Lakes' water tower
Rod Nelson Photo

Overview

Like nature's table of contents, the lakes and woods of the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway are chapters filled with many recreational opportunities and adventures, just waiting to be discovered. With the wink and wit of Paul Bunyan lore slipped in for fun, sites and events turn easily into sparkling memories.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

This resort region is rich in history and beauty. This thoroughfare and bike trail are named for the legendary lumberjack whose giant footprints produced the area's abundant lakes, or so the tale goes. The water tower in Pequot Lakes is painted to look like Paul's fishing bobber.

Wide-shouldered, paved county roads offer a scenic drive to bike, hike, walk trails, visit parks, gardens, and playgrounds, and enjoy the wildlife management areas and historical artifacts. What started as an attempt to raise money to improve the shoulders on the roadway and aid in bicycle safety turned into an application to be a National Scenic Byway in 2005. This byway in Northern Minnesota has two themes: the family resort story and the influence of the nationally known tall-tale character of Paul Bunyan.

Step into Paul’s wooden baby boots at the Pine River Information Center and look for Paul Bunyan’s bobber atop the Pequot Lakes’ water tower. The area is a favorite spot for fishing year-round. In winter months ice shacks dot the lakes, and it's common to see horse drawn sleighs or snowmobiles. The many lake-side resorts offer swimming at the many beaches along the route. You can learn more about the area’s logging history and early peoples.

This drive is bursting with options for nature enthusiasts – birding, fishing, biking and hiking – and for golfers or casual day-trippers who prefer the boutiques, galleries and gift shops of Pequot Lakes, Pine River and Crosslake. The Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area has a walking trail through the woods. Before a visit, birders may want to check the byway website for an online guide to birding along the route.

The Paul Bunyan National Scenic Byway is great for recreation year round. Like the intricacies of a good Paul Bunyan tale, Minnesota's Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway weaves together the recreation, logging, resort, geology, early settlers and Native American stories of a well traveled past. Tour in your cars, pedal your bikes, or just put on some good walking shoes. Here's your invite to the lakes and lands that helped give life to the Great Northwoods legend of Paul Bunyan. Recreation comes naturally along Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway.

The legends and tall tales will tickle your funny bone and challenge your imagination. Glistening lakes and lush forests, still home to nature's wildlife and loaded with history, will spark your own desire to Explore the Lore. And the scenic landscapes reveal stories of geologic formations, and offer glimpses of the ever changing small town and rural cultures.

For cycling enthusiasts, part of the road offers wide, smooth paved shoulders, with numerous spots to stop, snack, dine, swim and relax. The Paul Bunyan State Trail has 70 miles of paved trails for biking and in-line skating.

Pelican Lake and the Whitefish Chain of Lakes are popular fishing and boating waters. This vacation destination has dozens of resorts and campgrounds.

Visitors love exploring the many historic sites along the byway, enjoying golf (both Paul Bunyan and minisized), and shopping for antiques and Paul Bunyan memorabilia.

Driving Directions

This byway is shaped like a backwards “E.” One section of the route is Highway 1 east from Pine River to Manhattan Beach, then Highway 66 and 3 takes you on south to Crow Wing State Forest. From there, take Highway 11 back west to Pequot Lakes. The middle route is Highway 16 from Rush Lake back west between Upper and Lower Whitefish Lake and Ideal Corners to just South of Jenkins. Another spur is on Highway 15 from Jenkins, north to catch Highway 1 again.

Points of Interest

  • Lower and Upper Whitefish Lake

    Part of a chain of lakes in Northern Minnesota.

  • Paul Bunyan State Trail

    A 115-mile trail through northern Minnesota through an area once the homeland to Dakota and Ojibwe peoples.

  • Crow Wing State Forest

    14,072 acres of forest and 31,307 acres of managed lands

  • Historic Fire Tower

    On the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Cross Lake Historic Log Village

    Museum with some of Cross Lakes oldest buildings with a stop-and-listen system of information.

  • Pine River (Cross Lake) Dam

    Created for recreational opportunities.

  • Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area

    10 acres with hiking trails, overlooks with benches and wildlife observation blinds.

  • Veterans Hiking Trail Trailhead

    Interpretive panels tell the story of the 1958 forest fire and the subsequent restoration efforts.

  • Rush Lake

    68 ft. deep and 8.34 sq miles. Great fishing year-round.

Itinerary

  • Relax and Unwind in Paul Bunyan Land

    Due to the shape of the Byway, there are options as to which route you will take. Select one of the many lodging or resort options on this Byway and stay a few days. Relax, unwind, and spend time fishing or enjoying the hiking trails, visiting historical sites, and immersing yourself in the Paul Bunyan lore.

    Option 1: Begin at Pine River at the information center and head east on Highway 1 which winds around Upper and Lower Whitefish Lakes to Manhattan Beach. Take Highway 66 to the south to Cross Lakes. Stop to see the Cross Lakes Historic Log Village. Leave town on Highway 3 and turn west on Highway 11 to Breezy Point. Highway 11 travels on the north side of the Crow Wing State Forest. Just before arriving at Pequot Lakes, stop at the Historic Fire Tower. This leg of the Byway ends in Pequot Lakes.

    Option 2: Begin at Pine River at the information center and head east on Highway 1 to Manhattan Beach. Take Highway 66 south and turn west on Highway 16 near Rush Lake. Stop at the Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area to hike and enjoy the overlooks and wildlife viewing blinds. Continue to the Veterans Hiking Trail and learn more about the 1958 forest fire from interpretive panels. This leg ends at the intersection with Highway 371.

    Option 3: Begin at Pine River at the information center. Just out of town, take Highway 15 to the south to Jenkins, going over the Pine River. This leg ends in Jenkins.

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