Epic Couples Trips in Minnesota

Based on your personality types.

In a perfect world, all experiences would be tailored to fit us as individuals and cater to our every whim. In reality, compromise is king, especially when you are planning a trip with your significant other. 

Deferring to the infinitely profound (yet underappreciated) words of my hero Red Green: “A marriage typically involves two people doing the exact opposite of each other.”

In striving to mitigate the divorce rate, we gathered some ideas of perfect trips that match the personality types of you and your significant other. If you haven’t done so already, see this prior post on personalities and outdoor planning. Or at the bare minimum, make sure you know your and your significant other’s personality type.

Idealist – Idealist

Man and woman are hiking together.

The Idealist and Idealist couple is an unfettered match made for extremes! While it might be tempting to fly off to Canada and follow a river to the Hudson Bay, ending with canoeing alongside beluga whales… these sorts of ideas can result in a stranding on the mudflats due to a lack of a tempering voice of reason.

A better option might be a trip on the ferry to Isle Royale in the mighty Lake Superior. The unique ecosystem and location should appeal to the extreme nature of both parties. Furthermore, the resources to plan the trip are plentiful. Plus… what could possibly get out of hand on an island?

Artisan – Idealist

Man and woman sit around a campfire.

This is a combination that feeds off each other… in a good way. As long as the Artisan doesn’t cut corners and the Idealist avoids turning a day-hike into a forced death march, you two will have the skills to make any trip a masterpiece.

This couple’s best bet would be to buy a large Recreation Road Atlas, set your destination in stone, sketch out a theme, and leave the details to the moment. With an Artisan’s eye for the exquisite and the Idealist’s shove towards the extreme, this road trip will take on a life of its own! Don’t hesitate to explore untrammeled public land or “locals-only” county parks. Pack a bag of charcoal and stop for a meal wherever those ubiquitous public grills catch your eye!

Artisan – Artisan

Man and woman are talking to each other while hiking.

Just face it, a couple of Artisans traveling together will want to leave plenty to chance. Not that you won’t carefully observe said chances and then discern the best path forward… A true work of art in the Minnesota travel department needs to involve the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. 

But don’t do it the usual way. As a duo of Artisans, I’d wait until June to buy a permit. You aren’t going to plan ahead anyway, so the put-in location isn’t critical. You can buy any maps needed on your drive up North. Plan to stay at least 1 night with an outfitter before embarking into the wilderness. The night before departure, take a moment to sketch out a route by lantern light with a beverage of choice. 

If you don’t already have the gear to pack for a BWCA trip, that’s alright! The outfitter you stay with can set you up perfectly, leaving plenty of mental bandwidth to focus on that paragon of a route you are going to navigate on a whim.

Guardian – Idealist

Woman and woman are looking in the distance and looking at a map.

Any Guardian traveling with an Idealist should prepare themselves for a mid-trip fight! With this in mind, it would be best if you are away from the car so the Idealist can’t drive off and preferably somewhere with few options for a wilderness runaway experience… so prairie camping is a no go.

The Guardian/Idealist couple could look to the North Shore State Trail for a day hike or longer. With only one direction to go, the Guardian won’t have too much map stress and the Idealist can utilize the sites along the way to daringly step near the edge of waterfalls, or confront any black bears over that last bite of granola bar. Granted, the Guardian must be sure to allow these “living on the edge” experiences to unfold with little commentary on the danger level.

Guardian – Artisan

Man sits playing guitar while woman drinks from coffee.

The Guardian & Artisan couple might enjoy one of the best-kept secrets in this state, Forest Service Campgrounds that dot the North Country. For the intrepid travelers, there are even canoe-in only Forest Service campsites on many public lakes! However, the uncertainty of the first-come-first-serve sites might be a little over the top for a classic Guardian.

No matter where you end up, the Superior National Forest should give the Artisan some colors for their metaphorical palette, while the Guardian can make a habit of collecting the pamphlets and brochures at the ranger stations. In fact, a prudent Guardian in a long-term relationship should find plenty in the paperwork to strategically insert suggestions for the Artisan to run with. This couple might also attract passers-by with the vivid descriptions and explanations of the landscapes around them.

Guardian – Guardian

Man and woman stand in swimsuits doing yoga.

I’m honestly not sure if two Guardians would find themselves camping much further than their backyard. That’s not said as a dig at their careful attitude. Rather, it’s likely these 2 focused people working together will already live in a sanctuary that meets their needs completely!

That aside, assuming the two of you need a getaway, the best place to start would be the Bluff Country of Southeast Minnesota. Lanesboro is a classic town to create a home base for a week or a weekend. 

Create a checklist and do it all: 

  1. Bike the Root River Trail. 
  2. Canoe the Root River.
  3. Stop in Wahlen for Pie.
  4. Tour the Forestville Mystery Cave.

Rational – Idealist

Man and woman hold hands while climbing up a few rocks.

For Annie and me, this combination hits close to home. As a much reflecting scholar of personality types, I can confidently say I’m a Rational leaning Idealist married to an Idealist leaning Rational. Don’t try to figure out the nuances in that statement. It mostly means we overcomplicate our trips, push them to the limit, and then collapse in exhaustion after meeting 90% of our goals. 

Our most successful trips that include the right amount of adventure/fun tend to be multi-day river floats with first-come-first-serve canoe in campsites. Minnesota has an excellent collection of water trails with opportunities for every level of outdoors adventurer. Depending on your skill level, try the following trips:

Novice: Zumbro River, stop for a burger at one of the many towns along the way and pan for gold while relaxing on a sandbar.

Confident: Cloquet River, portage the rapids if needed on the upper section, and make sure you have plenty of time to paddle across Island Lake if you decide to go that far.

Expert: Vermillion River, while this river is mostly a flowage of calm, reedy water, there are some class III and IV rapids to test your mettle, should you desire. I’d recommend (from experience) that you portage AROUND the canyon at the end, but make sure you hike over to see it before paddling on!

In all seriousness, a multi-day river trip post is probably in order for this site. If that post doesn’t flow out of my keyboard soon enough, comment below with any questions about the above rivers and I can fill in any gaps you still have in your planning.

Rational – Artisan

Two women kayak.

The Rational/Artisan couple combination is one I wish I knew more of. I suspect that they typically have a downright good time! With the Rational spreading the canvas and an Artisan game for anything, any trips happening here will be future guidebook material. 

For this duo to move away from the cliche, I recommend a few nights on the Mississippi near Wabasha. Put in at Reads Landing (pg 55 of the link) and go all the way through the Lock and Dam to the access at West Newton (pg 63.) There are plenty of public beaches for camping along the way, while Wabasha has a wide variety of shops and restaurants to visit and explore.

Don’t let the Lock and Dam deter you from canoeing. It’s completely safe, public, and acceptable for small boats to go through. Since dams involve hard-at-work tax dollars to maintain the infrastructure, it is completely free to all U.S. citizens to be raised or lowered as they traverse the river. 

Rational – Guardian

Man and woman riding tandem bicycle.

The Rational/Guardian combo has the opportunity for a positive experience in the making. As long as the Rational can explain themselves and the Guardian can stop the Rational from an analysis-paralysis hold-up. 

The Rational and Guardian couple will be best served by a road trip, but not the bender college graduation kind. Start with a VRBO rental and then add a variety pack of fun around the area. The Guardian will appreciate the home-base, while the Rational can fulfill their need for diversity with the activities in the area. If you manage to snag a weekend at the link above, you will be in our home area. We recommend you stick to the following: 

  1. The Le Sueur River for a canoe trip.
  2. The Red Jacket Valley Park for swimming and/or biking.
  3. Any number of wildlife areas available for an off-the-path hiking experience. 
  4. Minneopa State Park.

Rational – Rational

Woman and woman do yoga next to each other.

With the right planning, a couple of Rationals have an opportunity for an incredibly epic trip! Assuming, that is, that they can get their maps of the Boundary Waters off the wall, where they hang after being taped together so they could better see “the big picture.” 

Truthfully, the only thing that will fully satisfy this combination will be something in the BWCA. Furthermore, it must be a loop, preferably a week or more in length. If you find yourself in this relationship category and you’re planning an expedition, include (at a bare minimum) 1 river and 1 large lake. Don’t spend more than 1 night at a site, and travel light. The first thing that comes to mind is a Frost River loop with a night on Little Saganaga. Go out from anywhere on the middle/northern Gunflint and return by a different route with new lakes to visit.

Note: The Frost River is rugged and not for the faint of heart. You might need a few notches on your belt to work up to it. To start, just focus on getting to Little Saganaga and back, once you accomplish that you can branch out!

Tips on Trips

If you find yourself exploring any of these trip ideas, but need further planning advice, feel free to comment on the post or email me! I’ve done each of these loops/trips personally and would be glad to help any readers create the perfect adventure for them.

In addition, if you’ve been on the perfect trip for a Rational/Idealist couple please reach out to recommend a trip to us!

Nick Schmitz: nick@straightupoutside.com

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This post was written by Nick Schmitz in January, 2021.

Nick sits in canoe and Luna swims in the water

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