Follow the secret sportbike haunt.

Once one of the semi-secret sportbike haunts of the south metro, Welch Village Road (Goodhue Co. Rd. 7), from US Hwy. 61 to MN Hwy. 19 is a winding stretch of pavement that attracted a menagerie of riders on weekend nights. Quieter now, it still is one seriously fun road. From Rochester, you can take 52N to Co. Rd. 7 (right, east) just north of Zumbrota then just follow it north (or pick your way north on Hwy. 63 then the county roads). The real fun begins in Vasa. When you get to Welch Village, you can take 61 north (pictured) then east to Red Wing for a run back down the Mississippi or south on 58.

Wind along the Zumbro.

This is one of our favorite just-oven-an-hour round trips right from Rochester. Take Broadway north (Hwy. 63) past the roundabout at 75th St. NW and then past the old-timey gas station and convenience store (Reinke’s Corner) on the corner of 247 and Highway 63 between Rochester and Zumbro Falls. Two miles north of Reinke’s Corner, take 11 East (right) toward Hammond. Follow this for 5-plus phenomenal miles along the Zumbro River (pictured) until County Road 11 meets Hwy 2. We like loops, so we usually take County Road 2 south then turn right (west) on MN 247 back to 63 south. Though, really, the better drive is to turn around at the intersection of Hwys. 11 and 2 and head back the way you came.

photo by Explore Minnesota
photo by Explore Minnesota

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Cut through the Zumbro Bottoms. (That’s in a state forest).

Hwy 60 is the only Minnesota state highway that runs continuously from one border to another, from Wisconsin to Iowa (it drops south near Worthington, Minn.). The section we love is that 35-mile stretch on the easternmost end. And here, we’ll focus on Zumbro Falls to Wabasha. Take Hwy 63 for nearly 30 miles to Zumbro Falls, then turn right (east) onto Hwy. 60 for 25 miles to Wabasha (pictured). Along the route you’ll pass the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest. For a fun side trip, follow Wabasha Co. Rd. 11 along the Zumbro River valley which meets Hwy. 60 at the Spring Creek Motocross Park to Hwy 63 and loop back north to Hwy. 60.

Take a scenic drive. An official scenic drive.

Here’s the official description of the Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway: “Follow the lush Root River Valley and wind your way through what feels like a landscape painting of woodsy hills and dramatic dolomite bluffs, marked with the tranquil silhouette of a lone Amish buggy.” And it’s right on. We recommend Hwy. 52 south—a great drive anyway—to Preston, then left (east) on Hwy 16 (pictured) all the way to La Crescent. Then, for an excellent loop, take 61 north to Hwy. 14 west (hopefully, the construction will be cleared up on 14 by then).

photo by Explore Minnesota
photo by Explore Minnesota

Dirt bike the backroads. From LaCrescent to International Falls.

This one is for motorcycles only. And not just any motorcycle, but a prepped dual sport. We’re still planning the journey—and saving for a used Kawasaki KLR650—in our head. For the more adventurous crowd, the Trans Minnesota Adventure Trail (pictured), or TMAT for short, is a collection of gravel roads and trails that stretches north from La Crescent to Canada, with an access point just south of Rochester. Laid out by dedicated dual sport enthusiasts, the TMAT lets you explore some of Minnesota’s true gravel backroads and dirt trails.