Your 68-mile trip around Minnesota’s inland sea will take you on an adventure like no other. From sandy beaches to hardwood forests, lakes to rivers, bald eagles to whitetail deer, fishing to kiteboarding, and powwows to festivals—you’ll see for yourself why everyone wants to #dothelake.
As a waterfowl hotspot, you’ll find several duck species, including mallards, teal, canvasbacks, bluebills, ring-necked ducks, and wood ducks. This little lake is also a prime spot for gathering wild rice, which residents and nonresidents can do with a valid wild rice harvest license.
Located between the Mille Lacs outlet and the southwest corner, just off US 169 on scenic spur road Mille Lacs CR35, Twilight Road. These pull-offs on the water’s edge offer outstanding views of Lake Mille Lacs.
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park and Observation Tower
Mille Lacs Kathio State Park features nature programs, camping, swimming, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and horseback riding, as well as boat access to the Rum River and Shakopee Lake.
The park is also home to a 100-foot observation tower. The tower was originally a Civilian Conservation Corp project, and served as a fire tower in Isle, where it was located until 1981. Climb up for stunning views of Lake Mille Lacs, Lake Ogechie, Shakopee Lake, the Rum River, and most of the Lake Mille Lacs Scenic Byway year-round.
Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area
The 38,700-acre Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area was created in 1949 to promote the diversity of plants and wildlife in the area. Here you’ll find hardwood and aspen forests, bogs and wetlands, whitetail deer, black bears, forest upland birds, and waterfowl.
Izatys Village Pull-Off
Back in the 1700s you’d find a Dakota tribal village here. Read the historical marker to learn about the battle between the Dakota and the Ojibwe that drove the Dakota out of the area.
Bare Ass Beach
Soak up some sun at this small, public beach. Despite its name, visitors must be clothed!
Mille Lacs Scenic Overlook along Vista Road
Catch a breathtaking sunset at this “must stop” on the big lake. Here, you can look out across the second largest lake in Minnesota. Look for the geographical marker placed by the Minnesota Geological Society and the Minnesota Department of Transportation that marks the glacial activity more than 15,000 years ago that created Lake Mille Lacs.
Isle’s Big Walleye and Muskie
Don’t miss a fantastic photo op with these two Monsters of Mille Lacs!
Father Hennepin State Park
Park your car and take a stroll down this undeveloped sandy beach. There’s a boat access, too.
Reddy Creek Beach
Enjoy shallow depths and sandbars that extend more than 100 feet from the shoreline. Set against high hills, locals call it “The Hogsback” for its resemblance to a pig’s back.
MN 18 Western Pull-Offs
Get out, stretch your legs, and take some photos of yourself with Minnesota’s second largest lake.
Lady of the North Shore Mermaid
This mythical aquatic creature is known as the siren of the sea. But here 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. The original artistry was done by Troy Halget.
South Garrison Wayside
Take a break at this wayside and explore the nearby Franklin D. Roosevelt-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) bridge that was restored in 2018.
Garrison Concourse & Paul Bunyan’s Walleye
Get your photo taken with Paul Bunyan’s Walley at the Garrison Concourse. There’s ample parking, a tourism information kiosk, and a historical marker marking this site as a Franklin D. Roosevelt-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project.
Garrison has one of the state’s largest concentrations of CCC projects, with eight projects showcasing the highest-quality workmanship among any camp.
Lake Kenney Overlook
Deviate from the Byway to check out the Lake Kenney Overlook (another CCC project). This overlook was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015 and offers beautiful views of Lake Kenny.
Mille Lacs Moraine Scientific and Natural Area
No trails. No facilities. Just pure nature: 80+ species of birds. 43 wildflower and fern species. 14 types of grasses and sedges. 25 species of trees and shrubs. Hardwood forests, tamarack swamps, wetlands, lakes, and undeveloped shoreline.
Lake Mille Lacs
Mille Lacs Important Bird Area (IBA)
A birders paradise! The Mille Lacs area is home to 231 species of birds including common terns, bald eagles, waterfowl, and Bonaparte’s gulls. The Mille Lacs IBA—designated by the Audubon Society—covers the entire Byway and includes Lake Mille Lacs, its shoreline, and Spirit and Hennepin islands.