Question. Where in Minnesota can you see a waterfall, an old flour mill and a heard of wild bison all in the same place? Answer: Minneopa State Park! Peaked your interest yet?
Located in southern Minnesota right outside of Mankato, is the beautiful Minneopa State Park. The word Minneopa is from the Dakota language and interpreted as “water falling twice”. This is the perfect name since the park contains a double cascade waterfall! The park has 2 different sides separated by a highway. Both sides contain something totally different so make sure to leave enough time to explore both!
We started out on the waterfall side and boy was it raging! Due to recent flooding, the waterfall definitely put on a show. The negative side of this was the paths you can hike down closer to the waterfall were closed. If you’re there during lower water levels, walk across the bridge and past the waterfall to find the trail that goes down. There are picnic tables, a gazebo and grill pits so this would be a great place to stop and have a picnic lunch as well.
Head back across the highway to the other side of the park. This is where you will find the hiking trails and the wild bison enclosure! We decided to hike first and then drive through the enclosure. If you took the full loop around the enclosure, it’s about 4 miles. Most of the trails start and end at the same trail head so you can pick your route!
We decided to take the Minneopa Creek confluence trail as the longer ones were really muddy that day. Unfortunately, we got about halfway through and had to turn around due to the trail being flooded. See photos below!
Along the Minneopa Creek Confluence trail, you get to see this great overlook of the river valley. It’s just a couple steps of the main trail so keep an eye out for it!
This tree was one of the coolest things we saw in the park. Made me think of Medieval times and ancient forests. Watch out for Robin Hood! 🙂
If you couldn’t tell, this is where we had to stop!
We decided to try our luck on the Seppmann Mill trail instead. What’s great about this park is the mix of woodlands and prairie so you get the best of both worlds on your hike.
If you hike the whole trail, you’ll end up at the mill. Seppmann Mill was used as a grist mill and was fashioned in the German style. Long story short, it was a working mill for many years until Mother Nature decided to slowly destroy it with bad weather. It was a windmill so it used to have blades which were not replaced when the mill was restored in the 20th century.
The location of the mill also has a great overlook over the prairie where the bison roam. Could you imagine working at a mill with that view?! We were also picturing how cool it would be to see the bison herd galloping across the grass! Too bad they were busy relaxing elsewhere. Don’t worry, we found them eventually.
Found them! After our hike, we got back in the car and drove through the bison enclosure. You are not allowed to get out of your car while inside the gates for obvious safety reasons. We spotted the whole herd right at the entrance to the park so we were able to get out and walk closer as they were beyond the fence. You can also drive to the mill through the enclosure if you want to still see it but not hike all the way there.
Tell me more, tell me more!
Difficulty? Based on the parts we hiked, I would rank the difficulty as easy. You can do the whole loop around the bison enclosure (~4 miles) or just do part of the hike and turn back.
Trail? Parts of the trail are packed dirt trail so it can get muddy after a rain. Other areas are mowed grass through the prairie parts of the hike. Since it’s a state park, it is well maintained. It’s a good mix of wooded areas and open prairie, depending on what trail you pick. Since there are bodies of water around, we needed bug spray as well.
Map? Here is a link to a map of the trails!
Let me know what other information you might find helpful and I can respond in the comments. Hope you enjoy your hike and exploring the rest of Minneopa State Park!