Minnesota State Parks are amazing. The 320 has a dozen of them so they’re an easy drive even if you have smaller children. Once you’re there, Kathio State park is a stunning day trip that has a little bit of something for everyone.
You’ll find Kathio State Park near Lake Mille Lacs. There are woods and trails for hiking, awesome views and family friendly amenities. But there are several surprises as well. Among them are a 9000 year old archeological site with interpretive center, horse trails, geocaching, and the observation tower. In the summer, there are canoe, boat and kayak rentals and snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter.
Let’s unpack this because that there’s a lot going on!
Kathio State Park has an interpretive center. Typically, there is a schedule of events, but Covid has changed that a bit. It would be wise to find the schedule for the day you’ll arrive. Their website is listed below. The interpretive center is part of the 9000 year old Petaga Point Archeological Site. It was a village shortly after the ice age. Archeology of the site began with mapping in the 1890s. If you’re into history, this alone would make the day trip worth the gas money.
If you are fortunate enough to own a horse, Kathio State Park is a real treat that includes a year round trail center, and a horse camp with 10 sites, enough for 40 horses. It’s important to know that the horse trails close as soon as there is snow cover in the winter.
If Geocaching is you thing, bring your own GPS units or use one of the parks GPS units for free. There’s a Geocaching Demo Park at Kathio. If you’re not familiar with geocaching, think of it as a treasure hunt. Here’s a site that offers some basics of the game. Geocaching can become an obsession of it’s own and if you enjoy it, you’ll see some amazing places.
The Observation Tower
The observation tower at Kathio State Park the kind of place where memories are made. It’s a 100 foot tower that you will have to walk up and yes, your legs will burn by the time you get to the top, but the view is worth it. Thousands of trees and a view of Lake Mille Lacs are waiting for you. Know that as soon as there’s snow, the observation tower closes due to slipping hazard. September and early October are simply the best times to visit as the fall color will leave you speechless. We were a little late to the party in these pictures, but you’ll get the idea. Oh, make sure you bring some binoculars!
Some basics you should know: All Minnesota State Parks have a vehicle fee to get in. As of this writing, It’s $7 per day per vehicle or get the annual pass for $35. The annual pass allows unlimited entrance to all 75 Minnesota State Parks. While it’s a great value, know that this pass is not transferable from vehicle to vehicle. It’s a sticker that stays in one vehicle. If you want a second vehicle pass it’s $26. Day trips to Kathio State Park are included with this pass, but if you’re going to camp, there’s an extra fee. If you’re in an RV or towing, you have a limit of 60 feet from front to back. More information on camping is available here.
Know that the park is open year round, but the modern bathrooms and showers are only open from May to Mid October. Pit bathrooms are open year round as are the flush toilets in the trail center.
As if the State Park wasn’t enough there are several places worth a look within about 5 minutes of Kathio State Park.
Grand Casino Mille Lacs
Find over 1800 Slot Machines, Poker, Black Jack, Bingo, and Pull Tabs. There are multiple restaurants in the casino, and a small grocery store and movie theater next door. Depending on the date, there is often entertainment.
Where: 777 Grand Ave, Onamia, MN
Phone: 320 532-7777