Must-see lakes in Minnesota

How can you pick three favorites in the Land of 10,000 Lakes? Well, it’s a tough job…but here’s our suggestions to make your next visit to Minnesota’s great outdoors amazing!

Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, calls out to the wanderlust in all of us, inviting explorers to dive into its myriad of mesmerizing aquatic landscapes. But with such an abundance of choice, where should one begin? In our article, “Must-See Lakes in Minnesota: Three Favorites,” we navigate through this water-laden wonderland to uncover the jewels that truly shine. From the tranquil shores of serene hideaways to the bustling waterways of popular hotspots, each lake tells a story of natural splendor and unique character. Join us as we paddle, sail, and hike our way through Minnesota’s diverse tapestry of lakes, unveiling the must-see destinations that are sure to enchant and inspire. It’s time to immerse yourself in the blue, clear waters of Minnesota and discover the magic these three favored lakes hold.

Discover the Magic of Minnesota

We wanted to share with you three of the most beautiful lakes here in our home state. Have you ever thought of visiting Minnesota in the winter? You might just want to grab your coat and come for a visit!

A lot of people think “winter in Minnesota” and want to run and hide somewhere warm…heck, even the birds like to head south this time of year! We’re here to encourage you to think of things a little differently. Winter is a great time to explore the natural beauty of this northern state. In fact, come to Minnesota in the winter and you might just think you’re in some remote Scandinavian country like Sweden or Norway. No seriously – first time visitors to Minnesota are shocked by the state’s natural beauty.

Winter or summer, here’s our picks for must-see lakes in Minnesota.

Scroll to the bottom of this page or CLICK HERE to watch our travel vlog featuring these beauties!

Must-See Lakes in Minnesota: Lake Harriet

The Most Convenient: Lake Harriet

Would you be surprised to learn that the first lake we suggest visiting is in the heart of the Twin Cities? Yes, that’s right! You can visit Minneapolis and St Paul and get an amazing dose of nature just by visiting lovely Lake Harriet.

Must-See Lakes in Minnesota

Lake Harriet is truly a nature lover’s paradise. A hidden oasis of beauty located in the middle of the city. Plus, Lake Harriet connects with two other lakes forming something they call the “Chain of Lakes”. You can walk, bike or drive these lakes for a peaceful break from hectic city life.

One other nice thing about Lake Harriet…you are never more than five minutes away from a great cup of coffee or an amazing meal at the countless restaurants in the area. All the conveniences of the city…but a nice break from it all.

• Lake Harriet is popular for year-round recreation.
• All year, the walking and bike trails (about 3 miles) are well-maintained.
• In the summer, the lake offers concerts, sailing and two beaches.

The Most Photogenic: Lake Superior

Must-See Lakes in Minnesota: Lake Superior

The next lake we wanted to recommend to you to is a big one. Can you guess what it is? We’ll give you a clue…you drive north on historic Highway 61…through Duluth and straight on up towards Canada…

That’s right! We’re talking about Lake Superior! If we had to pick just one, this is the definition of a must-see lake in Minnesota.

Now, don’t be nervous about driving in remote parts of Minnesota…most roads are very well maintained all throughout the state. Especially during the winter. One benefit of winter driving is – unless you’re in the Twin Cities – you’ll probably never experience any road construction. Hehe.

There are tons of cool towns to stop in along the drive from Minneapolis to Lake Superior. Everyone stops in Duluth – and for good reason, it’s a beautiful and fun town – but we recommend driving even further north to a town called Grand Marias. Before it was settled by French Canadians and long before Minnesota’s statehood, it was inhabited by the Ojibwe.

Today Grand Marais is a quirky, artsy community with a population of around 1,300. But don’t let the size fool you…there’s plenty to do. In addition to taking in the splendor of the lake, there are great restaurants, art galleries and even a folk school.

• Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area.
• It holds 10% of the world’s surface fresh water.
• The Ojibwe name for the lake is “gichi-gami”, which translates to “great sea”.

Must-See Lakes in Minnesota: Bear Head Lake

The Most Remote: Bear Head Lake

Must-See Lakes in Minnesota

If you are looking for true fun in the wilderness, we recommend renting a small cabin at Bear Head Lake State Park. Located near Ely, this is one of the most beautiful parts of Minnesota.

Native American archaeological sites have been found near the park dating back to 4000 BCE.

Must-See Lakes in Minnesota

You are in for a spectacular show if you simply hike a short distance to watch the sunrise or sunset on the lake. Be sure to bring a camera…and dress warm.

It was very cold when we were there making our vlog. By the way, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you never miss a single travel vlog like this one…if you are planning a trip to Minnesota we have an entire series of videos featuring insider tips and local recommendations. Add this playlist to your bookmarks:

• The park provides easy access to the boundary waters region.
• Cabins comfortably sleep 6 people and can be rented for around $90 USD. Contact the Minnesota DNR for info and reservations.
• Be on the lookout for black bears…this is Bear Head Lake, after all!


Whew! Aren’t those some pretty lakes? These are our suggestions for must-see lakes in Minnesota. What do you think? Year-round outdoor adventure awaits here in Minnesota. Would you ever consider visiting Minnesota in the winter…or would you rather plan on a summer trip? Now that you know our picks for three of the most beautiful lakes here in Minnesota…what’s your fave lake?

Be sure to leave a comment to let us know…maybe we’ll visit your fave lake in a future vlog or blog!

As our journey through Minnesota’s exceptional trio of lakes comes to an end, one thing is abundantly clear: the allure of this state’s waterways is as diverse as it is captivating. Whether you’re drawn to the tranquil solitude of hidden retreats, the bustling energy of popular hotspots, or the scenic splendor of natural paradises, these must-see lakes offer a unique encounter with the very soul of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. While we’ve spotlighted three favorites, remember that each of Minnesota’s lakes has its own enchanting tale to tell. So whether you’re an avid adventurer or a peaceful wanderer, pack your bags, grab your map, and get ready to chart your own course through the blue, clear waters of Minnesota. Your next lakeside journey awaits.

Have a super day!

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About the Authors
Jack and Kitty Norton are Emmy Award winning travel experts. They have spent a lifetime on the road: as traveling musicians, documentary filmmakers and television producers. They now focus on writing for their travel blog ( and making fun videos for their YouTube channel. Jack and Kitty offer travelers fun and quirky things to do in Minnesota, the Midwest and beyond. High school sweethearts turned married soulmates, the couple lives in the small college town of Winona, Minnesota and would love to have you over for some hotdish.

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