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Minnesota in Pictures: 15 Beautiful Places to Photograph

Written by Brad Lane
Feb 5, 2020

Sparkling lakes, dense forests, and an array of landscaped public spaces define many of the best places to visit in Minnesota. From the dramatic North Shore of Lake Superior to the high river bluffs on the Mississippi River, photos of Minnesota frame the adventures in the state. Top spots to take a photograph in the state include designated wilderness areas and bustling metros like the Twin Cities.

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1. Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park

An incredible, water-based wilderness awaits those who visit Voyageurs National Park. In the far northern part of the state, over a third of this 20,000-plus-acre national park is water. So much water lends to popular activities like boating, fishing, and swimming. Wildlife photography is also accessible at Voyageurs, where resident animals often outnumber people.

2. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Canoe on the Boundary Waters
Canoe on the Boundary Waters

The Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota are a fabled place for adventure. Part of the Superior National Forest, this roadless wilderness is often navigated by boat or foot. Adventures and photography options abound in this million-acre wilderness. Multi-day excursions are the best way to dive into the wild environment, where paddlers can find over 1,200 miles of established canoe routes.

3. Split Rock Lighthouse, Two Harbors

Split Rock Lighthouse
Split Rock Lighthouse

On the idyllic North Shore of Lake Superior, Split Rock Lighthouse lures visitors with its beaming beauty. Split Rock Lighthouse has been the subject of millions of photographs, and visitors can get a great shot from many vantage points in the park. A pebble beach next to one of the best campgrounds in Minnesota offers a particularly scenic picture.

4. Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis

Minnehaha Falls
Minnehaha Falls

One of the top attractions of Minneapolis, this urban park allows city dwellers to connect with nature. The centerpiece attraction of the park, the 53-foot Minnehaha Falls, offers a stunning picture every day of the year. Several sculptures throughout the park also tend to catch the camera's eye. A popular spot for picnics and family adventures, Minnehaha Park also features a disc golf course, wading pool, and limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

Accommodation: Best Hotels in Minneapolis

5. Itasca State Park, Park Rapids

Autumn colors on Josephine Lake, Itasca State Park
Autumn colors on Josephine Lake, Itasca State Park

Minnesota's oldest state park, Itasca State Park, is home to the headwaters for the Mississippi River. Several scenic landscapes warrant a photograph along the park's Wilderness Drive. Hiking trails are the best way to get the best pictures, though. The park's hiking and cross-country ski trails enable access to the landscape throughout the year.

6. Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, St. Paul

Sunken Garden at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory
Sunken Garden at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

In the state capital of St. Paul, the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is a great place to spend the day taking pictures. Alongside a collection of animals, including giraffes, polar bears, and sea lions, this free public space also features a one-acre collection of gardens completely under glass. A delicate Sunken Garden within the conservatory is popular to photograph. The facility's Japanese Garden is recognized as one of the best in the Midwest.

7. Gooseberry Falls State Park, Two Harbors

Gooseberry Falls
Gooseberry Falls

On Minnesota's North Shore, 40 miles from Duluth, Gooseberry Falls State Park offers an abundance of Kodak moments. Five different waterfalls at the park draw summer crowds, and scenic hiking trails lace the surrounding forest. The state park campground at Gooseberry Falls facilitates overnight travel with spots for tents and RVs.

8. Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais

Gunflint Trail
Gunflint Trail

In northern Minnesota, this national scenic byway offers some of the best roadside views in the state. Beginning in Grand Marais and extending to the Boundary Waters, several roadside stops line this approximately 57-mile route. Communities, resorts, and campsites are popular places to pull over. Encouraging for wildlife photography, the Gunflint Trail is one of the best places to spot a moose in Minnesota.

9. Great River Bluffs State Park, Winona

Mississippi River from Great River Bluffs State Park
Mississippi River from Great River Bluffs State Park

In the southeast part of the state, this state park offers tremendous views overlooking the Mississippi River from its namesake features. Several hiking trails lead up and down the bluffs of the park, with the Kings Bluff trail standing as one of the best. This is an excellent state park to visit during the spring and summer, but it's the autumn months that provide the most color to Great River Bluffs.

10. Canal Park, Duluth

Canal Park at dawn
Canal Park at dawn

The adventure friendly city of Duluth at the beginning of the North Shore is full of scenic appeal. No spot in the city exemplifies this better than Canal Park on the Lake Superior shoreline. With views of 1,000-foot ships passing under the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge, the entire expanse of Canal Park has an eye-catching vantage point overlooking the water. Alongside scenic appeal, Canal Park is also a central spot for dining, shopping, and cultural events.

11. Bear Head Lake State Park, Ely

Bear Head Lake State Park
Bear Head Lake State Park

Surrounded by the Northwoods near Ely, Bear Head Lake State Park is a popular place to go for camping, hiking, and water activities. Made up of several bodies of water, Bear Head Lake provides similar aesthetics as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area without as much of a drive. Sunsets in this region are nothing short of postcard perfect.

12. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska

Blooming tulips at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Blooming tulips at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Less than 30 miles west of Minneapolis, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, a.k.a. The "Arb" features 1,200 acres of manicured grounds. Open throughout the year, the scenic attraction of the arboretum changes with every month. No matter the time of year, though, this groomed outdoor space offers brilliant pictures and a great place to get away.

13. Tettegouche State Park, Silver Bay

Waterfall at Tettegouche State Park
Waterfall at Tettegouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park is yet another spectacular place to take photographs on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Popular things to focus on at Tettegouche include cascading rivers and inland lakes surrounded by forest. The cliffs along the Lake Superior shoreline also offer fantastic photos. Often spotted at Tettegouche is a variety of wildlife, including an abundance of birds.

14. Oberg Lake & Oberg Mountain, Tofte Township

Oberg Lake
Oberg Lake

In the Superior National Forest on Minnesota's North Shore, this popular forest destination is popping with color in autumn. A three-mile, moderate hike takes visitors to the top of Oberg Mountain with several scenic outlooks on the way. Visitors can also take a similar trek to the top of the adjacent Leveaux Mountain. Both summits open to excellent views of Lake Superior, Oberg Lake, and thousands of surrounding forested acres.

15. Red Wing

Red Wing
Red Wing

A charming small city on the Mississippi River, Red Wing provides visitors with a cornucopia of visitor attractions. Hiking trails, river views, and establishments like restaurants and shops supply a few of the many reasons to visit. The river bluffs that define much of the town also offer the best places to take pictures. The elevated Memorial Park atop Sorin's Bluff is a great place to take in the scenic surroundings.

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