Take the Scenic Byway Self- Guided Driving Tour!

scenic byway sign

Coronavirus may be shutting down much of the nation, but there's still plenty to do on the Whitefish Chain. Today we want to recommend the self-guided driving tour along the beautiful 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, hop over to the website to pick up a map. Your map will detail all the attractions on the byway as well as area businesses. They’re available for download here.

pequot firetower in the sky 2The first stop on your tour is a history stop. 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 a bit of a hike, but not too long.

The fire tower was built in the 1930s and allowed the forest service to spot fires. Though it was built long ago, the tower was used to spot fires as recently as just a few years ago. You may not be able to climb the tower, but it's still an interesting historic site. Nearby you can find the old foundation of the tower man's house.

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 two is at the Corps of Engineers Crosslake Recreation Area and Campground. You’ll find accessible fishing piers and the Pine River Dam. It's mesmerizing to watch the water flow from the dam, and if you're a fisherman you'll enjoy fishing on either the lake side or the river side of the 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 a take-out 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 near 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.

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