We ‘found’ a new part of Minnesota which checks all of our boxes: decent hiking, great, views, reasonable cost, decent amenities and it’s not too far from the twin cities!
The area is called ‘The Driftless’ because it remained unglaciated during the last ice age and has some very unique scenery, animal life, and geographical features – like an utter lack of lakes. I had heard about the area but only heard about the bike trail through the Lanesboro area, I had no idea the Driftless extended to Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. We explored the Rushford, Houston, Lanesboro and surrounding area and had a blast.
The surprises were many: the hiking in Great River Bluffs State Park was wonderful, the Amish desserts / baked items sold on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere was wonderful, there are at least two very fun caves to visit, and the restaurants were halfway decent too!
We visited Niagara Cave (narrow and tall) and Mystery Cave (wide and short) – both were awesome for different reasons. It was neat to learn how the water run off made the caves in the area.
We visited the Driftless because the fall colors were completely missing on the north shore. We were still a bit early for the fall colors in southern Minnesota but we did see some fall colors and it was delightful.
The best part of the entire trip was the utter lack of people and low cost of lodging, food, and activities. We go to the North Shore every year and it’s usually wonderful! Since COVID kicked off the North Shore has remained stunningly beautiful and wonderful to visit but lodging, food, and activities have become super expensive and 100% not worth it. It’s now more economical to fly somewhere cool for a short weekend then go to the North Shore. I think I’m sensitive to ripping off tourists simply because I grew up in a tourist trap that offered a terrible deal for a tourist’s money – this year was the year where I finally gave up on paying North Shore rates – we did not get 40% more enjoyment out of the lodging costing 40% more this year versus last.
We are beyond excited to find a new place to explore. Next year we plan on exploring some of the Wisconsin Driftless.
Enjoy the photos!