Enjoy a daytrip driving tour of the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway
Connecting many of the Lakes Area’s most beautiful cities is the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway, a nationally-recognized byway, and there’s an interesting stop around every corner. Follow our daytrip recommendations and hit a few of the byway’s highlights.
Birding, walking trails, tales from the past, Paul Bunyan lore, parks and more are all abundant on the byway, a 54-mile driving route. Some of the most popular stops are listed below, but you can find a full list of attractions on the byway at the byway website, here.
First stop: a map! Your journey starts in Pequot Lakes, where Paul Bunyan’s bobber (also known as the town’s water tower) sits high above the city. Stop at the kiosk at the Pequot Lakes-Breezy Point information center (in the park, near the stoplights). At the kiosk you can pick up a map, and read a bit about the area’s lore. Each kiosk (there are 12 on the byway) has a different story that combines Paul Bunyan legends with elements of the area’s history.
Your map will detail all the attractions on the byway as well as area businesses. If you’d prefer a digital map, they’re available for download here.
The second stop on your tour is for the thrill-seekers. Make your way east on County Road 11 to the Pequot Lakes Fire Tower. You’ll see it high above the trees on the north side of the road as you approach. The 100-foot tall tower is open to the public for climbing. It’s a bit of a hike to the base of the tower, and from there it’s stair after stair (135, to be exact) all the way to the top. Climbers are rewarded with sweeping views of the area, from Pequot Lakes to Nisswa, Breezy Point to Pine River.
The fire tower was built in the 1930s and allowed the forest service to spot fires. Climb the tower in the early spring or late fall and you’ll find the tower being used for the same purpose. The “tower men” keeping lookout are always willing to chat and answer questions. The tower stays open until conditions become unsafe due to ice.
Continue on County Road 11 to the east, and along the way look for the osprey nest and Chiarella Forest Management Area (a great place for a walk). Once you reach County Road 3, head north and into the town of Crosslake.
Stop three is at the Corps of Engineers Crosslake Recreation Area and Campground. Stop in the main building and check out the exhibit room, full of Paul Bunyan memorabilia and the world’s largest Paul Bunyan ragdoll! Outside you’ll find accessible fishing piers and the Pine River Dam. There’s also a playground for the kids, a public swimming beach for warm weather, and picnic areas.
Keep driving north through Crosslake (you may want to stop at one of the restaurants for lunch along the way) and take a left on County Road 16. A few miles down the road, on the left side, is Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area, a beautiful scenic walking trail that shows the north woods in all their beauty.
As you continue on County Road 16, you’ll pass the Veteran’s Walking Trail on the right- which has trails through the woods. If you stop here, be sure to take the boardwalk over the bog and learn about the unique ecosystem from the informational kiosks along the way.
The final stop on your tour is the A-Pine Restaurant, which has its own big Paul Bunyan statue. Say hello to Paul in person and snap a selfie with the big guy. You’ll also find a S’more bench (a rest stop doubling as an up-north treat) where you can take a load off. You’ve just toured some of the best stops on the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway!
While this tour hits a few of the best-loved locations on the byway, there’s far more to see on the byway’s 54 miles. Peruse your map or check the byway’s website for even more fun attractions.