The Itasca Lakenights is a deep-northwoods bikepacking adventure surrounded by scattered lakes, forgotten forests, and long nights around the fire. It starts and ends at a tiny oasis in the forest with a general store and motel rooms to kick off your trip as well as a hunter's paradise bar and grill for story telling and post ride burger and beverages when you complete your last mile.
Photos by Josh Kowaleski & Josh Rizzo
Over the winter we dreamed up the idea of making new memories discovering a bikepacking route up north in an area not known as a popular gravel and adventure destination. We studied satellite imagery and global heatmaps that kept making Itasca County look like a dreamy place to spend long days biking with friends and cool evenings talking around the lake.
For those new to the area, Itasca County is enormous. It is Minnesota's 3rd biggest county and has over 1,400 lakes. It's far outside of the popular north shore regions and beyond the Iron Range. Grand Rapids in the south is the biggest city but northern Itasca County is vast with very low population density, and very high lake density. State and county forests make a huge percentage of land ownership which both allow dispersed camping.
This route is full of boat landings to stop for lake lunches and campgrounds for lake nights. The majority of the route is winding gravel roads through wooded rolling hills. It eastern section also includes some rugged ATV trails and unmaintained barely used cutting paths through the woods (both noted on the map).
Some would say the real gems of this route are the few and far between off-grid food and drink spots. We highly recommend getting breakfast at the Pine Cone Soup & Sandwich Cafe in Marcell as well as a burger and beer at the Antler Lodge upon completing the route and returning to your car. Talmoon also Hayslips Corner which boasts being the self declared oldest bar in Minnesota and is right across the street from a convenience store.
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Scenes From The Itasca Lakenights
Disclaimer: If you choose to ride this route, you do so at your own risk. You are 100% responsible for being prepared for all conditions and making sure that biking these routes is legal. Before riding, check local weather, road conditions, closures, and property ownership. Obey all traffic laws and follow land use restrictions. Do not ride these routes without proper safety equipment and navigational tools. The accuracy of these routes cannot be guaranteed neither can we guarantee that these routes are on public property. TheNxrth.com and its contributors are in no way liable for the personal injury or damage to property that may result from cycling this route or any other routes on this website.