Hiking Club Loop

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Saturday, August 26th, 2017
Last Updated: Thursday, August 31st, 2017
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Moderate
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 3 miles roundtrip
Time 1.5 hours
Terrain Hilly
Best Seasons Spring, Summer, Fall
Family Friendly No
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

This is one of the better Hiking Club trails taking you up and down rolling terrain and twisting and turning through gorgeous forest. Even though this park is only 2 hours north of the Twin Cities, the forest is markedly different featuring more varied topography and diverse trees, both coniferous and deciduous. I can imagine this is a stunning place in the fall with such a variety of plants changing colors. This park is also the 4th largest by area out of all Minnesota State Parks and as such gives a wilderness feeling without being far from civilization or modern comforts.

Dogs are allowed on leash. Although most Hiking Club hikes are family friendly, this trail is longer and hillier and may not be suited for younger children; check out the Hiking Club Loop at Father Hennepin State Park for an easier but similar hike at a park also on Mille Lacs Lake. Bring your bug spray or face the wrath of the mosquitos. Also, it is especially important that you pick up a park map from the park office to help you navigate the many intersections and turns required to complete this loop.

A portion of this trail requires you walk along the road, and I recommend you get this part out of the way first so you can enjoy the rest of your hike. From the parking lot, follow the park road until it meets a trail on your left. Take the trail, then turn right at the following intersection marked 19 with a sign and on the map -- the rest of the intersections on this hike are also numbered and signed to help you navigate. At intersection 23 ahead, turn left, then continue straight through intersection 24. This section of trail has rolling hills, and openings in the trees will offer you beautiful views of meadows and ponds like pictured below and at the top of the page.

Meadows and ponds are frequent in this hike

Meadows and ponds are frequent in this hike
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When you reach intersection 14, take a sharp left, then continue straight through intersection 15. You may have noticed that the winter trail map has this section marked with a jagged line meaning "most difficult". The terrain here is steeper and uphill sections are longer than the rolling hills in the previous section, just enough to elevate your heart rate but not enough to require a stop at the top of every hill.

Turn right at intersection 16. After a half mile you will reach intersection 17 where you will have two options: go to the right to follow the Landmark Trail along Ogechie Lake to see the Wilford Site (historical marker), or head left for a series of expertly placed educational signs that explain the different types of forest that have existed here over time with real live tree examples of that era nearby (I've become a bit of a nerd about forest ecosystems lately, so I obviously opted for the educational trail on the left). Eventually the two trails meet up and you will have views of the lake on your right as pictured below. At intersection 18, continue straight, and the trail loops around back to the parking lot after passing the Cooper Site.
Looking towards the marsh on the edge of Ogechie Lake

Looking towards the marsh on the edge of Ogechie Lake
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Overall, this is a really enjoyable trail and is worthwhile even if you aren't collecting Hiking Club passwords. This is a great introduction to the park, and hopefully this hike encourages you to try other trails -- this state park is so large that there are still many other trails left to explore. Let me know what you think in the comment section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!


From the Twin Cities, take Interstate 94 west to Rogers, then take the exit for Minnesota Highway 101 north. Continue straight and the highway changes into U.S. Highway 169. A few miles after the highway hits Mille Lacs Lake, follow the sign for Mille Lacs Kathio State Park and turn left onto Shakopee Lake Road. Turn right onto Kathio State Park Road. Pay the entrance fee at the park office on the right, then continue on the main park road. Turn right at the Y intersection ahead, then park in the lot where the road ends.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Like all Minnesota State Parks and Recreation Areas, you must pay a vehicle entry fee of $7 per day or $35 for an annual pass (highly recommended if you frequently go to Minnesota State Parks). There are vault toilets near the lot.

Nearby Hikes

Peeking through the forest at the stormy waters of Mille Lacs Lake
Pope Point and Hiking Club Loop
Father Hennepin State Park, Minnesota
The view from Chippewa Lookout
Hiking Club Loop
Crow Wing State Park, Minnesota
Beautiful fall colors on one of the Twin Lakes
Rice Lake Trail and Twin Lakes Loop
Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota
You too can eat lunch with this view of Wolf Creek Falls!
Wolf Creek Falls and Quarry Loop
Banning State Park, Minnesota

External Links