Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
Mille Lacs Kathio is an ideal state park for doers: Challenging trails, water sports and all-season activities in a rugged, forested setting. With over 11,000 acres, Minnesota’s fourth largest park has plenty of space to play. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is located one mile west of Onamia in Minnesota’s Mille Lacs County.
Mille Lacs Kathio has 35 miles of hiking trails and 27 miles of horseback trails. Some people like to bicycle on the 4.5 miles of park roads. Horseback riders can park their trailers in the Trail Center parking lot. The trails twist and turn throughout the park, but the undeveloped southwest corner of Kathio gives hikers a chance to truly get away. This is a scenic area of hills and meadows where you might come across beaver lodges or spot a deer feeding at dusk. The north-end trails are pretty, too, and include two short nature trail loops.
A special experience at Kathio is climbing to the top of the 100-foot-tall observation tower. The undulating carpet of forest sweeps away in three directions from the tower, while Mille Lacs Lake dominates the view in the other direction.
Canoeists also have both lakes to explore as well as the Rum River Canoe Route. The Rum River, a state designated waterway, begins in the park and connects Ogechie and Shakopee lakes before winding its way south for 146 miles to the Mississippi. Many canoeists start their river trip from the canoe landing between the lakes. The park rents canoes and boats at the landing, next to the primitive canoe campground.
The Ojibwe brought their own rich cultural tradition with them from the east and settled along the shores of Mille Lacs. They, like the Dakota, depended on the natural bounty of wild rice, fish and other foods. Because of the interwoven history of Dakota, Ojibwe and European people in this area, Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is a designated National Historic Landmark.
The interpretive center, next to the picnic grounds, highlights the extensive Native American history of the area. Much of the pottery, arrowheads and tools in the center came from some of the 19 archaeological sites in the park. Researchers have found evidence of civilizations that lived here long before the Dakota and Ojibwe.
Cold weather and snow doesn’t stop the fun at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Ice fishing is big news on Shakopee Lake and, of course, on Mille Lacs Lake. You can snowshoe anywhere but groomed ski and snowmobile trails in the spacious park, but there are 6.5 miles of designated snowshoe trails.
The 20-mile cross-country ski system is considered one of the best in Minnesota and provides a challenge for skiers of all abilities. The trail center building is used as a warming house, complete with cut wood and a fireplace. A sliding hill is popular attraction as well.
More about skiing at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park