Riverside at Flandrau State Park

Hiking at Flandrau State Park in New Ulm MN

Known for its sand bottom beach, Flandrau State Park is in the middle of downtown New Ulm. This Park is smaller, only 1,000 acres but still manages to have a unique landscape with marshes, woods, and the Big Cottonwood River.

During the summer, people flock to the beach and hiking trails. In Winter, it becomes a wonderland with snowshoes and ski trails. My primary reason for going was to complete the Hiking Club Trail at Flandrau State Park in New Ulm.

The Park is named after Charles Eugene Flandrau, a frontiersman credited with giving Minnesota the nickname of the Gopher State.

As a lawyer and frontiersman, he quickly became a name after settling in New Ulm. He was a delegate to Minnesota’s constitutional convention, a member of the state’s supreme court, and a member of the MN Historical Society’s executive council.

He published the Encyclopedia of Biography of Minnesota and the History of Minnesota and Tales of the Frontier.

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Flandrau Hiking Club Trail

Miles: 2.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Miles Hiked: 107.9 miles

The Hiking Club Trail starts off at the sand bottom beach parking area, just behind the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) building.

Then follows along the Big Cottonwood River back toward the rear of the park. Soon after leaving the riverbank, you’ll reach a prairie-like area.

We managed to arrive during the peak of cottonwood season. The field looked as though it was snowing around us.

Cottonwood Snow

After seeing the ranger’s station again, you’ll loop back along to the Ridge Trail before making it back to the parking lot. The hiking club trail takes you through almost the entire park, except for a small section just south of the beach area.

Do you have your Flandrau State Park Map? You can download a GpsPDF-enabled map directly to your phone for free through Avanza Maps. They track your location as you like and don’t require internet! I always make sure to download them before I leave home.

Other things to do at Flandrau State Park

Flandrau State Parks Swimming Pond

The biggest draw for local residents of Flandrau State Park is the sand bottom swimming pond. This pond is big enough for everyone to have fun.

It just so happens, after waiting until summer to see it in person, I come to find out it’s closed for the year. It’s going to be closed all of 2021 while they install new pumps and replace outdated parts.

I’m just glad I didn’t get the kids in swimsuits before going. The information is buried on the first page of the state parks’ website, but not in the normal Visitor section.

Beach House

This magnificent historic stone building is situated in the main day-use area, next to the swimming pond and playground. The concession area, bathrooms, and showers are open seasonally.

The stunning great room, fireplace, and kitchen area are available for use and rent by contacting the park office. During the winter months, this building serves as the warming house for skiers and snowshoes.

Warm yourself by the fireplace after skiing or snowshoeing on the trail system. Ski and snowshoe rentals are available from the park office.

The great room and adjacent kitchen serving area are available for rent by contacting the park office. The room has hosted graduations, family reunions, birthdays, and weddings.

 Near the beach is a nice set of shaded picnic tables and a classic-style jungle gym.

Sand Bottom Beach at Flandrau State Park
Flandrau State Park Consessions
Flandrau State Park Picnic Area


There are three different camping areas to choose from. A grouping of rustic campsites, walk-in campsites, and electric sites. Each site has privacy from the other campers.

There are 84 drive in sites, with 2 pull through sites. There are a few walk-in sites to. For RV’s there are 35 electric sites with a dump station. Flush toilet and showers on site too!

Group camp

Nestled in the shady bluffs of southern Minnesota, the historic Cottonwood River Group Center is the perfect place to take a break from the hectic pace of city life.

Originally built as a work camp during the depression, it later housed German Prisoners of War during World War II. Renovations have turned it into an ideal getaway for overnight retreats, class or family reunions and church or youth groups.

A total of eight rustic two-room cabins can accommodate up to 110 people. Bed frames, mattresses and chairs are provided, but you must bring your own linens and pillows. Cabins have electricity and ceiling fans, but no running water or heat.

Big Cottonwood River

The Big Cottonwood River is very shallow. It’s not recommended for watercraft or swimming. If you want to enjoy it, there are a few scenic overlooks and benches along the hiking trail. When the water is higher, the river is accessible by canoe if you carry in your craft.

Fishing at Flandrau State Park

Try your hand at shore fishing at Flandrau State park. They offer shore fishing at the river passing through. There are plenty of spots fish.

Fish For Free in Minnesota State Parks
Did you know if you have a Minnesota driver’s license you can fish for free in Minnesota State Parks? The only expectation is if the body of water requires a trout stamp, or if you are in a Recreation Area. To fish for free you must be:

1. Fishing from shore or wading in water within the state park; or
2. Fishing through the ice, from a boat or a float on a designated lake that is completely encompassed within a Minnesota state park.

Click here for the official statue.

Other questions about Flandrau State Park

Does Flandrau State Park have Wifi?

The park doesn’t have any official Wi-Fi at the park. But we didn’t have any problems getting phone and internet access inside the park with our cellphones.

How much does it cost to visit?

All Minnesota State Parks are free with an annual permit. You can buy them in person or online for $35. If you are planning to visit for the day, expect to pay around $7.

Throughout the year, there are a few free days and other discounts you can check out too.

Camping costs anywhere from $25-35 a night.

Pro Tip: Visit any State Park during one of their free days. Check out Minnesota State Park Pass Hacks, Tips, and Free Days to find all the days

Would I go back to Flandrau State Park?

I’d love to see the beach in action. Based on the number of activities in the park, this is a good Day Trip destination.  The town of New Ulm is a great small town to visit in MN.

There are lots of stuff to do including seeing Herman the German and the glockenspiel. Plan to visit during the week or on Saturday. A lot of the fun shops are closed on Sundays.

The other thing you can do is use this as a base camp if you plan on spending time in town, or at a neighboring area like Minneopa State Park and Mankato. Because of its proximity, I would day trip to it vs a stay.

Jenn on the Trail

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