Mille Lacs, Minnesota, USA
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68-Miles of Scenic Beauty

The scenic route includes many opportunities to learn about Minnesota’s natural beauty, rich history, culture, and recreational opportunities.

What to See on the Byway

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) campsites from the 1930s and 1940s, the nation's smallest national wildlife refuge and two State Parks.

Keep an eye 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

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.


Bird Checklist – Father Hennepin State Park
Bird Checklist – Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

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.

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.

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!

Scenic Secrets 

Twilight Road Spur – This frontage road offers an even better view of the lake on a winding residential road which starts just north of the Hwy 169 and Hwy 27 Junction and follows the lake all the way up to just south of the Casino.

Vista Road Spur – Enter Vista Road from Highway 47 just south of Johnson’s Portside and follow north to 440th Street.  This is a particularly beautiful spur in the Fall where you drive through canopies of color and can stop off at the Scenic Overlook.

Whistle Road Spur – Enter Whistle Road off of Hwy 169 which brings you through residential areas and views of the lake.

Izatys Historical Marker – The Marker is at the intersection of U.S. 169 and Vineland Road, on the right when traveling north on U.S. 169. The marker is on the western shore of Mille Lacs Lake. The site is on the Mille Lacs Reservation and within Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. The inscription reads “In this vicinity stood the grand Sioux village of Izatys where Duluth planted the French arms on July 2, 1679. The settlement was visited by Father Hennepin in 1680. About 1750 the Chippewa moving westward from Lake Superior, captured the village, and by this decisive battle drove the Sioux permanently into southern Minnesota.” Just south of the marker, on Twilight Road, sits a sandy beach area to stop and relax.  Eagles are very visible in this location.

Mystical, Mythical, Magical Mermaid – This mythical aquatic creature is known as the siren of the sea. But in this case, she is known as the Lady of the North Shore and sits on Conifer Street. The Lady is an 11.5-foot tall chainsaw carving of a mermaid. She sits atop a hill overlooking the inland sea known to all as Lake Mille Lacs. The original artistry was done by Troy Halget. He carved her from a tree with a chainsaw while at Pikes Point in Garrison during the fall of 2006. Halget was commissioned by Terry Drahosh, of Garrison.

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