Blue Mounds State Park
Thunderstorms rumble eastward from South Dakota in sinister blue-black formations that darken the sky for miles. At sunset, the mile-long, 100-foot-tall cliff looks blue, which inspired the westbound pioneers to name this prairie landmark Blue Mounds. Blue Mounds State Park is located 4 miles north of Luverne on Highway 75 in Minnesota’s Rock County.
The best sky watching is from the hiking trails on the mound. Of the park’s 13-mile trail system, these trails are the longest and least crowded. On one of the hikes, you’ll pass a 1,250-foot-long stonewall, aligned exactly east and west, that may have helped prehistoric people mark the seasons, but its true origins are unknown. On the northern end of the park trails wrap around two small lakes connected by a stream, then lead to the campground.
A two-mile paved bike path connects to nearby Luverne via the three-mile paved Blue Mound Trail.
The 73-site campground is a popular destination during the peak summer season. There’s even two teepees for rent. Another three teepees are available at Upper Sioux Agency State Park.
Plants and wildlife
Bird watching is wonderful in the park. More than 200 species have been sighted here. It’s a short hike from the park office to the buffalo pasture. Buffalo once roamed freely on this tallgrass prairie and Blue Mounds is one of two parks in Minnesota to reintroduce the species, although in an enclosure. Another buffalo herd is at Minneopa State Park. Keep an eye out for blooming prickly pear cactus in late June and early July.
The park’s hiking trails are available in the winter. Snowshoeing and skiing is allowed, but there are no groomed trails.