The Blue Mounds hiking trails feature rose quartzite cliffs, native prairie grasses and flowers, and glimpses of buffalo in a short 5 mile hike.
Tucked away just north of Luverne, in the southwestern corner of Minnesota, Blue Mounds State Park draws rock climbers from around the region. It’s named for its rose quartzite cliffs, which the region’s first settlers thought looked blue when they first came to the area. Blue Mounds is part of what’s referred to as Coteau des Prairies, which means “a hilly prairie upland” in English.
We start at the trail head and hike south on the Mound Trail. Keep an eye out to the north west for the park’s bison herd. They are in a separate fenced area so not a danger unless you illegally jump the barrier. You will also see native grasses and flowers that have been part of a prairie restoration program. In late summer, the wildflowers explode in a sea of color along this trail.
Hiking counter clockwise around the Mound Trail, we take the Bur Oak Trail fork to the right (east) when we have the choice. The Bur Oak Trail features – you guessed it -- bur oak trees, and the rose quartzite cliffs to your left (west) for which the park is famous. Our German Shepherd did not have any trouble with the small amount of scrambling required to go over the rocks. Neither did our 12 year old son. The sheer size and vibrant colors of the cliffs make them well worth the walk. An unusual wall runs across the top of the cliffs. There are various theories about who built it and why: Is it a Minnesota Stonehenge? A buffalo barrier? Or part of an old settlement?
There is an historic quarry on the south east side of the park that’s also worth a look. The rock there was used to construct a lot of local historic buildings in the late 1880s, including the Rock County Courthouse in Luverne. You can also see quartzite structures inside the park built by the Works Progress Administration in the late 1930s.
A small lake on the north side of the park caps off the hike. If you still have legs, there are other very short trails on the trail map that you can walk to explore a little more. Blue Mounds also offers a bison tour, but reservations must be made 24 hours in advance. To really take advantage of the area’s history, you can also book a night in one of the park’s tipis.