Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota

Blue Mounds State Park

By Jim Umhoefer
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.

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The early settlers called these cliffs 'blue mounds'

The early settlers called these cliffs ‘blue mounds’

Rising out of the prairie at Blue Mounds State Park

Rising out of the prairie

Dam on Mound Creek at Blue Mounds State Park

Dam on Mound Creek

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Trails
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 Mounds trail.

Paved trail on the eastern edge of the park at Blue Mounds State Park

Paved trail on the eastern edge of the park

Camping
The 73-site campground is a popular destination during the peak summer season. There’s even a teepee for rent
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. Keep an eye out for blooming prickly pear cactus in late June and early July.

Buffalo in their enclosure at Blue Mounds State Park

Buffalo in their enclosure

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Quartzite outcroppings pierce the remnant tall grass prairie at Blue Mounds State Park

Quartzite outcroppings pierce the remnant tall grass prairie

Vulture in a tree at blue Mounds State Park

Vulture in a tree

Winter
The park’s hiking trails are available in the winter. Snowshoeing and skiing is allowed, but there are no groomed trails.
Root River Trail
Harmony Chamber
MNDNR license plate