By John Lauritsen

RED WING, Minn. (WCCO) — Last month, the Red Wing City Council vote to make it illegal to paint images on the side of Barn Bluff.

While what’s on the front of the bluff was debated about, what isn’t in question is the natural beauty on top.

The bluff became a public park in 1910 and offers no shortage of scenery and history.

In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen hiked to the top for a one-of-a-kind bird’s-eye view.

“One of my earliest memories is hiking up the bluff with my dad and a couple of our friends,” said naturalist Erin Aadalen.

Rain or shine, it’s that journey to the top that’s half the fun. It offers a path where you lose all worries and have the chance to find yourself.

Ten thousand years ago, meltwater from glaciers carved a deep channel through the area, creating Barn Bluff. Dakota Indians were the first people to discover it.

“They settled around downtown Red Wing and this bluff has really big significance to them. It’s very sacred to their tribe,” said Aadalen.

The name Barn Bluff actually comes from French explorers. They called it “Mont La Grange.”

“That translates to the barn. So when they saw that from the river they thought it looked like a big barn,” said Aadalen.

To many, it still does. Rising 334 feet above the Mississippi River, hikers now walk the path once taken by famous surveyors and explorers — such as Henry David Thoreau and Zebulon Pike. Many of the buildings in Red Wing came from limestone taken from the bluff. But in 1910, they stopped quarrying and began visiting.

There are three different paths to the top. One of them includes a limestone rock wall for climbing enthusiasts.

Flora and fauna both thrive here. Insects and animals of all kinds make Barn Bluff their home.

“We have the Kiwanis stairway up here. They help a lot,” said naturalist Lindsay Bjorklund.

And halfway up, visitors hike into a grassland savanna dotted with oak trees.

Finally, the end of the journey is greeted by a quiet calm and a view, even through the raindrops, that looks like it belongs on a postcard.

“Right now, it’s beautiful with the mist and fog and stuff, but once the sun comes out and the colors change a little more, it’s going to be really beautiful,” said Bjorklund.

More than 1,000 feet above sea level, you can see 12 miles away on a clear day. All of Red Wing is at your feet, and it’s just a quick glance from Minnesota to Wisconsin.

“I like how it’s a mix of industrial and nature and that combination. That whole mix is kind of cool,” said visitor Will Marsan.

The fall colors don’t disappoint. From the red of the sumac to the yellow of the aspens. A breath-taking adventure that makes the climb to the top, more than worth it.

“I really love to bring my out of town friends here and show them what Red Wing has to offer. It has a really great view of the town and the river from the top,” said Aadalen.

There will be a community hike at the bluff on Tuesday, beginning at 3:30 p.m.

John Lauritsen