Scenic Byway

Lake Mille Lacs Scenic Byway

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Lake Mille Lacs Scenic Byway

The Lake Mille Lacs 68-mile Scenic Byway is the state’s 22nd byway. The byway loops around Lake Mille Lacs and includes highways 169, 27, 18 and 47. Shakopee Lake Road, which is a county-owned road, is also part of the loop.

The scenic route includes many opportunities to learn about Minnesota’s natural beauty, rich history, culture and recreational opportunities.  A partial list of the route’s attractions include: birding and wildlife viewing, the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post in Vineland, several historic Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp sites from the 1930s and 1940s, the nations smallest national wildlife refuge and two State Parks.

Keep an eye on on the Scenic Byway Committee, they are just getting started!  They are looking forward to forming many new relationships and partnerships with the area and have many projects and enhancements in store.

Enjoy your visit, watch for the signs and…“always take the scenic route.”

Location:  Approximately 90 miles north of Mpls/St. Paul
Setting:  Lake views and local communities
Surface:  Paved
Suitable Vehicle:  Any vehicle
Length:  68 miles
Time:  1.5 to 2 hours
Main Roads:  Highways 169, 27, 18 and 47 and Shakopee Lake Road
Season:  Drivable year round

See Scenic Byway Map

Lake Mille Lacs Scenic Byway Sign

Follow the Byway on FACEBOOK

Birds of the Byway

The Audubon Society lists Lake Mille Lacs as one of their Important Birding Areas (IBA). The Mille Lacs IBA includes the entire water body and islands (Spirit and Hennepin) of Lake Mille Lacs, the surrounding shoreline, and significant areas adjacent to the lake. The IBA is located about 100 miles north of the Twin Cities in three counties (Mille Lacs, Aitkin and Crow Wing) and several townships.

View Birds Along the Byway
Photo courtesy of Judd Brink

Byway Side Trips

Driving the Byway is a great trip but it’s even better to spend some extra time exploring the communities, forests and parks that are located along or just a short distance off the trail.

Take your exploration from a couple hours to a full day!

Stop in one or all of our quaint Cities along the Byway. Isle, Wahkon, Onamia, Garrison and Malmo where you’ll find unique shops, dining and lodging opportunities, community festivals throughout the year and more.

The Mille Lacs area is fortunate to have 2 State Parks – Mille Lacs Kathio State Park and Father Hennepin State Park which are both situated along the Byway. Climb the Observation Tower at Kathio, put your toes in the sand at the Father Hennepin State Park beach, hike, bike, camp and enjoy the great outdoors in both locations.

A couple of other great wildlife and nature stops would be the Wealthwood State Forest on the north end of the lake and the Mille Lacs Wildlife Management area just to the south of the Byway.

Entrance to Kathio State Park

Scenic Stops

The entire byway is a scenic opportunity but wake up to a spectacular sunrise at the Garrison Concourse located on Highway 169 right in the City of Garrison.

Don’t miss a captivating sunset from the Scenic Overlook on the east side of the lake a few miles north of the City of Isle on Highway 47.

These are just 2 of the areas to take in the views and both are mesmerizing and addictive and we know you’ll want more!

Garrison Concourse Walleye
Fall Color drive along the Byway
Photo courtesy of Myron Huntley
Paddle the Byway waters
Birds along the Byway
Photo courtesy of Traci LeBrun
View of storms rolling in
Photo courtesy of Katie Burden