Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, the fourth largest park in Minnesota, offers lots of nature and history. With more than 10,000 acres of forested, water, and green spaces, Mille Lacs Kathio is one of the best state parks for hiking and more. Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, this state park offers nine millenniums of Native American history. That’s 9,000 years!
If you love a good cardio workout, the 100-ft. fire tower at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Note that you won’t find Minnesota’s second largest lake in this state park. But you’re close. Father Hennepin State Park, just 15 miles away, offers public access to Mille Lacs Lake. This includes a sandy beach and boat access
See my related Minnesota state park series.
- Take the Minnesota State Park Challenge – list of all the best MN state parks with reviews
- How to hike all 66 Minnesota state parks in a year
- Explore Minnesota State Parks on Free State Park Day (updated with 2023 dates)
- Top Minnesota state parks with waterfalls – ranked!
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Top 10 things to do at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park in Onamia, MN
Here are the top 10 things to do at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park in Minnesota.
- Explore the mile-long Landmark Trail to learn about the area’s ancient historical significance. More than 30 archaeological sites are located within Mille Lacs Kathio State Park dating back to the Paleo period.
- Come back again and again to hike the 35 miles of trails. The scenic hiking paths overlook lakes, bogs, and ponds, and lead you through wooded areas and over glacial moraines. You can find a boardwalk at the Touch the Earth Trail near the Interpretive Center (center open seasonally).
- Climb the 100-ft. tower overlooking canopies of trees and Mille Lacs Lake in the distance.
- For the equestrians, you’ll find 27 miles of seasonal horse trails. Closed when snow-covered.
- Paddle, canoe, kayak on Rum River and the park’s two lakes: Ogechie and Shakopee.
- Fish for northern pike, walleye, bluegills, sunfish, and bass from the fishing piers, former dam, or boat.
- Enjoy a picturesque picnic at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.
- Go camping at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Includes traditional, horse, and group campsites as well as cabins.
- Watch for wildlife such as deer, bald eagles, osprey, beaver, loons, grouse, and coyotes.
- Winter offers one of the state’s best places to cross-country ski on its 20 miles of wooded trails. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park also offers 19 miles of snowmobile trails and three groomed trails (~8 miles). But you may snowshoe anywhere in the park.
Frequently asked questions about Mille Lacs Kathio State Park in Onamia, Minnesota
Where is Mille Lacs Kathio State Park located? What is the address for Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is located at 15066 Kathio State Park Road, Onamia, MN 56359.
When is Mille Lacs Kathio State Park open?
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Unlike other state parks, you’ll find an abundance of winter activities here. This includes groomed trails for snow hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing. Additionally, you’ll find a fun sledding hill and can reserve a cabin in the winter.
Is Mille Lacs Kathio State Park free? How much is the admission fee at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park in Minnesota only costs $7 per vehicle per day ($5 per motorcycle). That includes unlimited visits to all Minnesota state parks on the same day. I highly recommend an annual pass, which gives you entrance to all Minnesota state parks. See the Minnesota DNR website for more information. And it’s highly recommended to pay online ahead of time. Minnesota state parks are no longer accepting cash self-payment envelopes on site.
Admission to every Minnesota state park is free for all Minnesota state tribal members.
You can also visit Mille Lacs Kathio State Park on any of the four free state park days in Minnesota. See my related post for this year’s free state park days.
Does Mille Lacs Kathio State Park have a lake, river, or waterfall?
Yes. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park features the historic Rum River, the Ogechie, Shakopee, and Black Bass lakes.
Note that Minnesota’s second-largest lake, Mille Lacs, is not located at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Mille Lacs Lake is about 15 miles away. You can find a public beach on Mille Lacs Lake at Father Hennepin State Park.
Can you fish at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
Yes. You can fish at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park year-round. Just like nearby Mille Lacs lake, you can fish for northern pike, walleye, bluegills, sunfish, and bass. You may fish from the former Buck Moore Dam site, boats, or the fishing piers. A fish cleaning shelter is available in the Petaga Campground.
Note that the remote Black Bass Lake is known as a designated Heritage Lake. So special fishing regulations apply. This means no power augers or fishing electronics allowed. Learn more at the Mille Lacs Kathio State Park office
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is also known for its ice fishing in the winter.
Does Mille Lacs Kathio State Park have a swimming beach?
Yes. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park in Minnesota features a small swimming pond and sandy beach. Note the maximum depth is 6 feet and there are no lifeguards on duty.
You can find a larger sandy beach on a much larger lake at Father Hennepin State Park. Located only 15 miles away, Father Hennepin State Park features a public beach on Mille Lacs Lake.
Can you boat at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park? Does Mille Lacs Kathio State Park offer a boat ramp with trailer access?
Yes. You can boat at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Stop at the park office to rent canoes, rowboats, and kayaks from. Boat ramps with trailer access are located on Rum River and Shakopee Lake.
How big is Mille Lacs Kathio State Park in Minnesota?
With more than 10,000 acres, Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is the third largest state park in Minnesota.
Is Mille Lacs Kathio State Park buggy? Mosquitos? Ticks?
When we first hiked Mille Lacs Kathio State Park in the fall, we didn’t notice any bugs. However, my son and I returned in early May. While I had picaridin with me, we did not spray. Rookie mistake. Both of us found a wood tick (unattached). So definitely remember to protect yourself with picaridin.
How long and how difficult are the hiking trails at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
With more than 35 miles of hiking trails at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, it’ll never be the same experience twice. The shorter half-mile self-guided Touch the Earth nature trail and one-mile Landmark Trail are unique. Both are loops. Touch the Earth trail and boardwalk begins at the Interpretive Center and winds through a variety of forest types as well as a bog.
I especially loved the historic interpretative Landmark Trail. You’ll learn about Kathio – the ancient home of the Mdewakanton Dakota nation and the former home of a band of the Ojibwe nation. This historic site features several informative signs.
Level of difficulty for the multiple trails at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park rate from easy to moderately challenging. With so many different trails through the woods and prairies, you can match your ability, time, and mood. Good to note that some of the trails are not well-maintained during the summer. And sometimes you’ll share the trails for horses. So watch your step!
Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trails at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
Yes. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park offers nearly 20 miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails and three designated snowshoe trails. The x-ski trails range from beginner to expert.
You can rent ski and snowshoe equipment from the park office when open. Additional winter activities at Mille Lacs Kathio include snowmobile trails, a sledding hill, and a warming house. And if you’re a die-hard camper, you can reserve a cabin or campsite throughout the year. snowshoeing and cross-country skiing anywhere in the park.
Check out my related post: Top 90 things to do in the winter in Minnesota
Are hiking poles needed on the trails at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
While we did not use hiking poles, you will find some steep terrain and trails at Mille Lacs State Park.
What are the best views at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
Climb the top of the 100-ft. fire tower at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park for the best views. You can see Mille Lacs lake in the distance. And the canopy of trees from this perspective is stunning. Additionally, you’ll find beautiful views on the wooded trails as well as along the lakes and other waterways.
Are there bike trails at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park doesn’t officially feature bike trails. However, the 11-mile Mille Lacs Soo Line Trail connects trailheads near both Mille Lacs Kathio State Park and Father Hennepin State Park. This bike trail is paved and also includes some travel on a highway with low traffic.
Does Mille Lacs Kathio State Park have horse trails?
Yes, Mille Lacs Kathio State Park features 27 miles of equestrian trails. You’ll also find a horse camp here and lots of horse trailer parking.
Does Mille Lacs Kathio State Park have a visitor center? Modern restrooms?
Yes. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park offers a park office as well as a visitor center. The Interpretive Center features exhibits illustrate Kathio’s 9,000-year history. When open, the Center also offers special programs throughout the year.
You can rent rowboats and canoes daily in the summer through fall, and weekends from ice out to freeze up. That’s Minnesota talk for when the ice on the waterways melts creating open water. You can also rent snowshoes and x-skis on the weekends.
Modern restrooms with flush toilets are located near the picnic and swimming beach. They are open seasonally from May through mid-October. The restroom building in the petaga Campground is also open during this time. You can find flush toilets year-round in the Trail Center/Warming House.
Vault toilets are available throughout the park and open year-round.
Is Mille Lacs Kathio State Park dog-friendly?
Yes, leashed dogs and pets are welcome at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. All Minnesota state parks welcome dogs except inside buildings, including the camper cabins (with the exception of service dogs). Leashes must be six feet or less.
Are there bears at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
Reports indicate more black bear sightings in recent years at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. But I haven’t seen any the two times I’ve hiked Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. But it’s always a good idea to carry a bear horn to scare any wildlife away – as well as bear spray.
See my related post: Top things to pack on a day hike.
Can you camp at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
Yes. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park offers two campgrounds – Maple Grove and Lakeview. Other campground features include:
- 70 shaded and secluded drive-in campsites
- 22 electric sites (all located in Petaga Campground0
- 26 rustic sites
- 2 wheelchair-accessible campsites
- 3 pull-through sites
- 3 walk-in sites
- 4 backpack sites
- 10 horse campsites (maximum capacity of 40 horses)
- 1 rustic camper cabin available to reserve seasonally
- 2 tent-only group camps accommodating 15 and up to 45 people
- 5 camper cabins you can reserve year-round (pets are not allowed)
- RV length limit is 60 feet (from front of tow vehicle to rear of towed vehicle)
- Campground season typically runs late spring through end of October
Is firewood available at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
Yes. You can purchase firewood at the park office when open. Or buy certified safe-to-move firewood from a gas station.
Why can’t you bring in your own firewood? To protect Minnesota trees, you can only burn certified wood on MN DNR land. Collection is not allowed in state parks and you may not bring firewood from home. This helps prevent spreading harmful insects and diseases.
How far is Mille Lacs Kathio State Park from the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP) airport?
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is 108 miles north of the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport.
What’s nearby Mille Lacs Kathio State Park? Top things to do near Mille Lacs Kathio State Park?
You will never run out of fun things to do near Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. The Mille Lacs area is a perfect family getaway in every season.
- You’ll find golf courses and trails for biking, hiking, and ATVs.
- Take a boat cruise or tour of Mille Lacs.
- Paddle, canoe, or kayak on nearby Mille Lacs lake.
- Pictured above, one of the best state parks in Minnesota, Father Hennepin State Park, is only 15 minutes away. We actually hiked both parks on the same day. Learn how to hike all 66 Minnesota state parks in a year.
- Another historic state park, Crow Wing State Park in Brainerd, MN is only about an hour away from Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.
When was Mille Lacs Kathio State Park in Minnesota established?
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park was established in 1957. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
How did Mille Lacs Kathio State Park get its name?
The name origins for Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is fascinating.
According to the park’s signage, people of the greater Dakota Nation who lived in this area were known by the band name, Mdewakanton. They called the nearby Mille Lacs lake, Mde Wakan. Mde translates to water or body of water. Wakan translates to sacred, spiritual. I also read that Mille Lacs translates to million lakes.
Kathio’s origin came about due to some translation and transcription errors. Daniel Greysolon, Sieur duLhut (known today as Duluth) documented his visit to central Minnesota in 1679. He transcribed the name of the great village phonetically as Izatys. Other spellings included Issatis, Isanti, and Santee. These spellings referred to a collection of villages along Ogechie Lake, Shakopee Lake, and Lake Onamia.
The error occurred when transcribing and publishing duLhut’s journal. Izatys became Kathio because the Iz looked like a K and ys as hio.
What’s the history of Mille Lacs Kathio State Park? Fun facts?
Here are a few historical facts about Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Source: Mille Lacs Kathio State Park interpretive signs.
- Of the 22 National Historic Landmarks in Minnesota, Mille Lacs Kathio State Park is the only one designated because of its archaeology.
- More than 30 archaeological sites have been discovered at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.
- The Landmark Trail celebrates the relationship of people and the land dating back to the 1600s as well as thousands of years ago.
- Kathio is recognized as the prehistoric homeland of the Dakota Nation. Additionally, this area is the historic home of the Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe Nation.
- Kathio is the oldest village name preserved in the state of Minnesota.
- Father Louis Hennepin (a popular place name through Minnesota) spent six months with the Mdewakanton Dakota villages. These villages were located within today’s Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. He published stories about Kathio in the 1683 Description of Louisiana.
- It’s believed the Mdewakanon Dakota moved out of the area ~1750. Opinions vary on why. Most historians say they moved to become closer to trading posts.
- The Ojibwe harvested wild rice in Ogechie Lake for two centuries (1750s-1960s).
With 9,000 years of history at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, you’ll uncover many more facts when you visit.
Does Mille Lacs Kathio State Park host deer hunts? Is Mille Lacs Kathio State Park closed during deer season?
Yes. Mille Lacs Kathio State Park hosts deer hunts during deer season. I took this pic a week before they hosted a deer hunt. Can you locate the camouflaged deer?
For a complete list of which Minnesota state parks are closed or limited to the public during deer season, see my post: Hiker safety: MN state parks that host deer hunts.
Additionally, the bordering Native Tribal Lands may hunt from July 1 through January 31 every year.
Hiking safety tip during deer season: Wear bright orange when hiking during deer season. I typically avoid hiking even when the state park is partially open to non-hunters.
A list of the best Minnesota state parks
All Minnesota state parks are the best in my opinion. You can read reviews of each one to create your own list of top-ranked Minnesota state parks: Take the Minnesota state park challenge
- Afton State Park | Hastings, MN (26 miles)
- Banning State Park | Sandstone, MN (97 miles)
- Bear Head Lake State Park | Ely, MN (240 miles)
- Beaver Creek Valley State Park | Caledonia, MN (148 miles)
- Big Stone Lake State Park | Ortonville, MN (186 miles)
- Blue Mounds State Park | Luverne, MN (208 miles)
- Buffalo River State Park | Glyndon, MN (240 miles)
- Camden State Park | Lynd, MN (161 miles)
- Carley State Park | Plainview, MN (88 miles)
- Cascade River State Park | Lutsen, MN (257 miles)
- Charles A. Lindbergh State Park | Little Falls, MN (112 miles)
- Crow Wing State Park | Brainerd, MN (134 miles)
- Father Hennepin State Park | Isle, MN (113 miles)
- Flandrau State Park | New Ulm, MN (93 miles)
- Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park | Preston, MN (115 miles)
- Fort Ridgely State Park | Fairfax, MN (99 miles)
- Fort Snelling State Park | Bloomington / St. Paul, MN (2 miles)
- Franz Jevne State Park | Birchdale, MN (336 miles)
- Frontenac State Park | Frontenac, MN (62 miles)
- George H. Crosby Manitou State Park | Finland, MN (231 miles)
- Glacial Lakes State Park | Starbuck, MN (156 miles)
- Glendalough State Park | Battle Lake, MN (194 miles)
- Gooseberry Falls | Two Harbors, MN (197 miles)
- Grand Portage State Park | Grand Portage, MN (308 miles)
- Great River Bluffs State Park | Winona, MN (136 miles)
- Hayes Lake State Park | Roseau, MN (343 miles)
- Hill Annex Mine State Park | Calumet, MN (197 miles)
- Interstate State Park / Taylors Falls State Park | Taylors Falls, MN (56 miles)
- Itasca State Park | Park Rapids, MN (219 miles)
- Jay Cooke State Park | Thomson, MN (146 miles)
- John A. Latsch State Park | Winona, MN (99 miles)
- Judge C.R. Magney State Park | Grand Marais, MN (282 miles)
- Kilen Woods State Park | Lakefield, MN (153 miles)
- Lac qui Parle State Park | Watson, MN (141 miles)
- Lake Bemidji State Park | Bemidji, MN (230 miles)
- Lake Bronson State Park | Karlstad, MN (409 miles)
- Lake Carlos State Park | Alexandria, MN (152 miles)
- Lake Louise State Park | Le Roy, MN (113 miles)
- Lake Maria State Park | Monticello, MN (60 miles)
- Lake Shetek State Park | Currie, MN (168 miles)
- Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park | Soudan, MN (229 miles)
- McCarthy Beach State Park | Side Lake, MN (227 miles)
- Maplewood State Park | Pelican Rapids, MN (217 miles)
- Mille Lacs Kathio State Park | Onamia, MN (108 miles)
- Minneopa State Park | Mankato, MN (82 miles)
- Monson Lake State Park | Sunburg, MN (141 miles)
- Moose Lake State Park | Moose Lake, MN (116 miles)
- Myre-Big Island State Park | Albert Lea, MN (93 miles)
- Nerstrand Big Woods State Park | Nerstrand, MN (52 miles)
- Old Mill State Park | Argyle, MN (350 miles)
- Rice Lake State Park | Owatonna, MN (70 miles)
- St. Croix State Park | Hinckley, MN (105 miles)
- Sakatah Lake State Park | Waterville, MN (60 miles)
- Savanna Portage State Park | Northeast Aitkin, MN (149 miles)
- Scenic State Park | Bigfork, MN (232 miles)
- Schoolcraft State Park | Deer River, MN (198 miles)
- Sibley State Park | New London, MN (128 miles)
- Split Rock Creek State Park | Jasper, MN (202 miles)
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park | Two Harbors, MN (204 miles)
- Temperance River State Park | Schroeder, MN (239 miles)
- Tettegouche State Park | Silver Bay, MN (217 miles)
- Upper Sioux Agency State Park | Granite Falls, MN (122 miles)
- Whitewater State Park | Altura, MN (99 miles)
- Wild River State Park | Center City, MN (58 miles)
- William O’Brien State Park | Scandia / Marine on the St. Croix, MN (43 miles)
- Zippel Bay State Park | Williams, MN (345 miles)
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