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5 Best Day Trips to take from Rochester MN

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Rochester Minnesota has so much to offer travelers, whether in town for a getaway, work or medical reasons (read here for all the things to do!).  Rochester is also an amazing launch point for day trips to some of the most beautiful parts of Minnesota.  Southern Minnesota is known for bluffs, rivers and wide open spaces and the benefits of recharging in its beauty are felt almost immediately!  During our weekend stay in Rochester, we had the chance to explore surrounding areas on day trips and loved how it felt like we had mini-trips within our bigger trip.  Below are the Top 5 day trips around Rochester (all within an hour)!

1. Spring Valley

Drive time: 30 min one way

Spring Valley, directly south of Rochester, takes just 30 minutes to drive to and you’ll end up in the middle of beautiful farmland.  The main draw of this area is Four Daughters Vineyard and Winery.  It’s one of, if not the, most gorgeous wine estates in Minnesota and is the perfect place to spend an afternoon sipping delicious wines and enjoying the fare offered on site such as brick oven pizzas, charcuterie boards and nachos.  I personally am a big cider fan (read the top cideries around Minnesota here) and was thrilled to learn Four Daughters produces Loon Juice hard cider. From dry to sweet, the Honeycrisp based hard cider offers something for everyone. My favorite was the grapefruit mango cider.  After relaxing on the patio space, take some time to walk around the grounds – the vineyard is expansive and offers plenty of opportunities for beautiful photos.

Bonus – Mystery Cave State Park is just a 20-minute drive further southeast. We didn’t visit because tours were canceled due to COVID but check the latest here if you’re interested in seeing the longest underground cave in Minnesota!

2. Lanesboro Minnesota

Drive time: 45 min one way

Lanesboro is known as the Bed & Breakfast capital of Minnesota but you don’t have to stay overnight to enjoy the area! It’s well known for its Root River trail which is one of the most beautiful paths in Minnesota. We brought our bikes and biked along the Root River and through gorgeous bluffs – the scenery was stunning! We rode to Whalen and back but you could go much further – the trail in total is 60 miles! After getting back into Lanesboro, we rode along the trail in the opposite direction from Lanesboro just a short way to see a waterfall! We parked in the Sylvan Park parking lot (free) but there is another expansive lot called Poetry Parking lot that looks like a good option too. After enjoying the trail, stop at Pedal Pushers Café for a meal and Another Time Ice Cream for a treat!

3. Whitewater State Park

Drive time: 35 min one way

One of Minnesota’s best state parks, in my opinion, is Whitewater. There are many gorgeous trails ranging from easy to medium that offer incredible views. We hiked the Chimney Rock to Inspiration Point loop which took about 2 hours with plenty of photo stops and offered great views of the bluffs and valleys. It was especially magical in the fall light! I’d recommend packing a picnic to enjoy at one of the great viewpoints. After hiking, check out Whitewater Winery and stop en route at the Elba Fire Tower for more incredible views. We didn’t get a chance to enjoy the fire tower or wine but I’ve heard great things and will definitely visit them on our next trip!

4. Winona Minnesota

Drive time: 57 min one way

Winona has gorgeous bluffs alongside the Mississippi River and makes for a really fun and scenic day trip from Rochester. First, stop at Garvin Heights outlook for some amazing views. There’s free parking right near the viewpoint. We walked just a little further beyond the main lookout area to see the views from the bluffs. Next, hike up Sugarloaf Bluff for even more great views. Park at the trailhead by the Edina Realty. It takes 15-20 minutes to hike up. Note the trail continues so make sure when the path splits, you go in the direction of sugarloaf bluff! After soaking in the views, enjoy some of the town’s highlights: Bloedow’s donuts, Acoustic Café and the Marine Art Museum.

5. Nerstrand State Park

Drive time: 55 Minutes one way

Another gorgeous park to explore within an hour of Rochester is Nerstrand. In addition to hiking around the park, the general area has a lot to offer, from biking the Sakatah Singing Hills Trail to enjoying pizza on a farm at Pleasant Grove to sipping hard cider at Keepsake Cidery. Read more details here – it’s the perfect adventure day from Rochester!

Did I miss any of your favorite day trips? For more things to do within Rochester, read my guide here!  More Minnesota travel ideas can be found here.

Happy Planning!

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  1. Wayne Moran on November 1, 2020 at 22:09

    You have found some amazingly beautiful scenes. So so great.

    • Planet with Sara on November 25, 2020 at 20:07

      Thank you, Wayne! There are lots of great spots around Rochester.

  2. […] New Ulm, Stillwater, Rochester, Red Wing, the North Shore (including Duluth and Grand Marais), Winona, Lanesboro, the Great River Road, Taylors Falls, Northfield and Faribault.  We also used our State Parks pass and visited 13 […]

  3. […] It’s also a great road trip from Rochester! […]

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