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The Perfect Road Trip on the King of Trails Scenic Byway

By Cinnamon Janzer

Sep 28, 2021

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Make a pit stop to canoe the Red Lake River with help from Oliver’s Canoe Outfitters.

Courtesy of Oliver’s Canoe Outfitters

Make a pit stop to canoe the Red Lake River with help from Oliver’s Canoe Outfitters.

Discover breathtaking nature, charming small towns, and even some great art on this route through western Minnesota.

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Running a whopping 414 miles along Minnesota’s western border, the King of Trails Scenic Byway, or Highway 75, makes for the ideal road trip through a lesser-seen part of the North Star State. In addition to outdoor activities like canoeing, golfing, and hiking, the route features cultural attractions like galleries, theaters, and a nonprofit dedicated to Native American artists that are all worthy additions to your drive. You could even pop into North Dakota or Canada along the way.

Below, we’ve rounded up the best stops along the byway to ensure the ultimate road trip, from an outfitter in Crookston who makes it easy to get out on the water, to an arts center in Luverne with top-notch exhibits. Pick a few and then hit the road. 

Oliver’s Canoe Outfitters

Crookston

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A trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes wouldn’t be complete without a paddle at some point, and for all your equipment needs there’s Oliver’s Canoe Outfitters. Located along the Red Lake River in the town of Crookston, the company rents canoes, kayaks, life vests, and everything else you’ll need for exploring the river. They’ll even drop off canoes at your desired starting point, help you get in the water, and pick up the gear when you’re done, making for an entirely hassle-free day. If you can, plan your time in Crookston around the town’s Ox Cart Days event, held annually during the third week of August. For just $5, you’ll enjoy entry to the entire week’s festivities, which include local music, log-rolling competitions, plenty of food, and special activities for children.

Located in Moorhead, Theatre B brings big ideas to a small-town stage.

Theatre B

Moorhead

Founded in 2003 by a small group of self-described “displaced professionals,” Theatre B has since grown to an ensemble of 14 people, all committed to intimate, transformative storytelling. Working with both experienced and emerging artists, the group puts on shows that encourage civic conversation, helping to foster a healthy cultural community in the process. Past performances have included everything from a collaboration with the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra to readings of plays in development by artists at all stages of their careers. Make a stop at this small-town theater on the border of Minnesota and North Dakota and you’re sure to leave with some big ideas—or at least a few new talking points.

With a casual clubhouse and friendly vibe, Hendricks Golf Club is fun for the whole family.

Hendricks Golf Club

Hendricks

While there are several golf courses along Highway 75, Hendricks is the best for families. A round here is more of a relaxed affair, though you can certainly play a competitive 18 holes if you so desire. Whether you’re a social golfer or a seasoned player, hit the links, then repair to the casual clubhouse for drinks and better-than-average bar food. Staffed by a group of friendly professionals, the course opens in April—pretty much as soon as the Minnesota weather allows for golf—and stays open through October each year.

Help support Native American artists by shopping leather bags, beadwork, and more at the Keepers Gift Shop.

Keepers Gift Shop & Gallery

Pipestone

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A nonprofit organization in Pipestone, Minnesota, the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers was formed in 1996 by local Native Americans and tribal leaders to protect and teach the public about the nearby pipestone quarries. Today, the group also runs a gift shop and gallery where you can buy pipes, leather bags, beadwork, jewelry, and more that help support Native American artists around the United States. If you’d rather learn than shop, the center hosts everything from pipestone carving workshops, drumming classes, and more to help better educate people about Native American culture.

Whether you want to swim, fish, hike, or ride horses, Split Rock Creek State Park is worth a visit.

Split Rock Creek State Park

Jasper

There are several parks along the King of Trails Scenic Byway, but Split Rock Creek is especially worth visiting for its wide range of recreational options. Open year-round from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., the park features a swimming beach and horse-riding trails, plus opportunities for camping, fishing, hiking, and wildlife observation. In the winter, it’s a popular spot for sledding. When you’ve had your fill of outdoor activities, head to the nearby town of Jasper, where you can get a solid meal at spots like Trosky Bar & Grill.

Thanks to a robust artist-in-residence program, Coffey Contemporary Arts always has interesting work on display.

Coffey Contemporary Arts

Luverne

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You’d be mistaken for thinking that a trip down the King of Trails Scenic Byway is all about outdoor recreation, especially with places like Coffey Contemporary Arts along the way. Located in the rural yet artsy town of Luverne, the nonprofit exhibition space and education facility hosts artists-in-residence for 90 days, during which they produce work to be shown in the adjoining Lord Grizzly Gallery. Locals and travelers alike are invited to attend community-based, open-forum lectures on the art displayed, or simply stop by to peruse the gallery. Past exhibitions have included everything from multimedia collages by Douglas Burns to paintings by Diego Rodriguez-Warner, meaning you’re bound to see something interesting if you stop by this center of creativity.

Note: Though COVID-19 has stalled a lot of travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures. Please continue to check government websites for the latest policies and restrictions.

Plan your trip to Minnesota:

>> The Best Things to Do in Minnesota

>> Required Eating: 10 Meals Not to Miss in Minnesota

>> The Best Hotels and Resorts in Minnesota for a Truly Local Stay

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