Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota's Backyard: Just an easy hike from the heart of New Ulm, an oasis of wilderness at Flandrau State Park

You drive through neighborhoods in one of southern Minnesota's regional centers to reach the 11th stop on our 20-site tour of Minnesota's state parks, then you turn a corner, go down a hill and find

Flandrau_Bluebird Trl_4879.jpg
With trails that cross freely from prairie to hardwood ridges to river valleys, Flandrau State Park is a popular southern Minnesota hiking destination, and is adjacent to the many restaurants and festivals in New Ulm. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources photo.
We are part of The Trust Project.

NEW ULM, Minn. -- If you are pulling a camper and looking for Flandrau State Park , and you get confused on the way, you aren’t alone. The route to this scenic valley where the Cottonwood River meanders on its way to the Minnesota River takes you right through neighborhoods in New Ulm, a community of better than 13,000.

“We get people calling us saying they’re not in the right place because they’re in the middle of town,” said Gary Teipel, the state park manager. “We say, ‘no, you are, just go another block and take a right and come down the hill.’ You get down there and it’s like you’re in a different world. It’s pretty neat.”

Originally the site of numerous Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps projects during the Great Depression, Flandrau was established as a state park in 1937. Less than a decade later, many of the visitors did not come to this scenic river valley of their own accord.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Our group center was a WPA work camp and during World War II was a German prisoner of war camp. We now rent that out as our group center,” Teipel said. “There are eight bunkhouse buildings with 105 beds, there are two shower buildings and then there’s a dining hall. You get a nice isolated area that’s pretty neat with real steep hillsides and very scenic, but also very private.”

This location is our 11th stop in our Minnesota's Backyard series, a 20-site tour of Minnesota's state parks this summer.

Flandrau offers three campgrounds (modern, semi-modern and rustic and a mix of privacy among the wilderness, with area attractions like New Ulm’s restaurants, shopping and special events just a nominal hike away.

“That’s one of the real attractions for people coming to Flandrau is you can walk to town from the park, and New Ulm is known for its festivals ,” Teipel said. “It’s nice for people who want to go shopping in town while others want to play golf or sit by the fire and go on hikes. There’s a lot of activity in the general area to partake in if you choose. But you do get the feeling of being way out in the woods when you’re in the park.”

On a two-mile hike in the park’s north end, one passes through towering hardwoods, marshy prairie, and a wooded floodplain where deer can be seen among an oxbow lake where the Cottonwood River once flowed. Come winter, those trails are mostly sheltered from the wind and groomed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (the park rents the necessary equipment) making Flandrau a popular destination year-round.

ADVERTISEMENT

Perhaps the only bad news is the park’s popular sand-bottom swimming pool is closed in 2021, as a combination of the pandemic, a lack of lifeguards for hire and the need to repair and renovate it meant no swimming this summer. Teipel said they aim to have the recreation area back open and fully staffed in the summer of 2022.

Notable nearby

Prior to Prohibition, seemingly every small town in America had its own brewery or two. With alcohol banned in the United States for more than a decade, thousands of small breweries were lost forever, but New Ulm was home to one of the few that survived.

Schell’s Brewery is just a short drive from the park, and can also be reached via a hiking trail. The destination features a stunning beer garden with live peacocks strolling the grounds in the summer. After a long day of hiking, it is the perfect place to take a tour of the brewery, which opened in 1860, then grab a refreshing pint and relax in a beautiful setting.

Best place to spend the night

As opposed to the wood camper cabins, which are a treat in their own right, the park’s CCC Cabin is a Depression-era stone building that accommodates two adults (with a trundle bed for a child available). It has a screened-in porch and a massive stone fireplace for a unique overnight experience in the park.

ADVERTISEMENT

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
What to read next
The buck, which has a massive set of nontypical antlers, had fallen through the ice near the new bridge on Mark Boulevard at the south end of city limits, Fire Chief Rick Beier said.
The annual event at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center is the unofficial kickoff to ice fishing season.
Charles Bird, a long-time attorney in Rochester, was part of a crew that landed a giant black marlin to win a fishing tournament in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Law enforcement and natural resources agencies such as the DNR all have issued numerous news releases urging people to put safety first on the ice. Unfortunately, you can't legislate common sense.