7. Glacial Ridge Scenic Byway
Addressing the area’s ancient glaciers is a very good place to begin! All the lakes, rolling hills and surrounding landscapes in the Alexandria area were all formed by a glacier that advanced and retreated. Over 75,000 years ago, millions of acres of land was being covered by thousands of feet of ice as the Laurentide Ice Sheet began its advance during the Wisconsin Glaciation period. Alexandria was covered by a smaller section of that ice sheet called the Wadena Lobe, and later by parts of the Des Moines Lobe, which started to melt and retreat around 10,000 years ago. This glacial activity carved out valleys, dropped millions of tons of rocks and sediment to form hills, and of course… broke off countless chunks of ice that eventually turned into all the lakes we love and enjoy.
Cruise the Trail of a Glacier! The Glacial Ridge Scenic Byway is your window into the Ice Age of the past! This officially designated Minnesota State Byway is over 220 miles of beautiful rural routes through rolling hills, lakes, woods, prairies and farmlands. There are several scenic loops and dozens of side trips along the way. The Byway is great for both a motorcycle tour or a driving cruise. The route starts in Alexandria and goes through many other towns, spanning a course of 5 counties, 4 State Parks and a birding trail.
There is something for everyone to enjoy along the route including history, hiking trails, parks, unique restaurants, wildlife and more! Many of the interesting stops are highlighted in the Glacial Ridge Scenic Byway Map, which can be picked up at our office (Explore Alexandria Tourism :: 324 Broadway Street), or click here for an electronic version.
6. Lake Carlos State Park / Inspiration Peak
Lake Carlos State Park and Inspiration Peakare fantastic natural attractions for the area. The State Park is located just 10 miles north of Alexandria and Inspiration Peak is located 25 miles northwest of town. Inspiration Peak, which is managed by Lake Carlos State Park, is the highest peak within the glacial-formed Leaf Hill Moraines. The hill is kame (pile of glacial sediments) left by the Wadena and Des Moines Lobes from the last glacial period. Being among one of the highest points in the state of Minnesota, this wayside park is a must see for anyone who appreciates natural wonders. The peak rises 400 feet over the surrounding countryside to an elevation of 1,750 ft. A quote by the well-known regional author Sinclair Lewis sums up Inspiration Peak : “there’s to be seen a glorious 20-mile circle of some 50 lakes scattered among fields and pastures, like sequins fallen on an old paisley shawl.”
Lake Carlos State Park is 1,231 acres of beautiful landscape that sits in the hardwood transitional zone between the prairies to the southwest and the coniferous forests of the northeast. The park’s glacial topography allows visitors to explore dense forest, woodland ponds, marshes, wet meadows and lakes. The park offers great amenities to enjoy including canoe rental, lakeside camping, dock, swimming beach, paddleboat rental, 14 miles of hiking trails, horseback trails, snowshoe rental, cross country ski trails, ice house rental, fishing kits, children’s discovery kits, educational programming and lots of special events throughout the year.
Read the remaining 5 wonders here!