In the spring of 2017, I came across two different programs within the Minnesota State Park System. One was the Passport Club and one was the Hiking Club. Thanks to the 52 Hike Challenge we were always looking for new places to hike. We had seen these Hiking Club trails listed on park maps and seen the blue signs but had never really known what that meant. Somewhere, I came across information about these two clubs that the Minnesota DNR had to offer. I know I am a list/checklist kind of person so this was right up my alley. And if we were going to do the hiking club, we might as well do the passport club since we planned to visit all the Minnesota state park already.
We were planning a trip to Sioux Falls, SD for a long weekend and saw that Blue Mounds State Park would be near our route home so I called ahead to make sure they had the kits available to purchase. The ranger told me he had one on hand and would set it aside for us to purchase when we got there in a few days.
When we arrived at the park we made a quick drive through the campground, something we always do when visiting a new state park, and then stopped at the park office to purchase the kits and pick up a map of the park.
The campground was preparing to open for the season as we were driving through. There are 73 campsite, 40 of which are electric sites. Unfortunately, as of 2018 there is a drinking water problem at the state park and the water is testing positive for E. coli. Their website gives some options for where to fill up water and they have arranged for people to use showers at the city’s fitness and aquatic center. They are doing some construction and running a new water line to the park in 2018. So whether you are camping or coming to hike for the day, plan to bring you own water into the park.
After we picked up the map we headed to the parking area. Like many other areas in SW Minnesota, this area is prairie with Sioux Quartzite outcropping. As much as I love hiking in forests, I equally love hiking through prairie and the Sioux Quartzite is just beautiful and makes this area unique. Another thing that makes this unique is is the patches of prickly pear cacti located throughout the park. After just returning from a vacation in Texas, Elsie was quick to spot the unique plants. Another unique feature of the park is the small herd of bison that reside in the park. They are kept in an enclosed pasture but can be viewed from the hiking trails and viewing platforms throughout the park.
We set off on the trail, starting at the Mound Trail. It is a gradual uphill as you make your way up the mound. This part of the trail also runs along the fence line where the bison are corralled. This part of the park would be absolutely beautiful in the summer and early fall when the wildflowers are in bloom and the prairie grasses are tall.
Eventually, we came across the hiking club password, we recorded it and then made our way towards the Upper Cliffline trail. This part of the trails is where the Sioux Quartzite begins to start popping up in the landscape.
We walked along and just before reaching back to the parking area, we dipped down the Lower Cliffline Trail. Which brought another new view of the landscape.
I was pleasantly surprised with our short visit here. We visited in spring but I think anytime would be a great time to visit. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time here because we had a 4-5 hour drive ahead of us but it was a great way to stretch our legs.
This state park has 13 miles of hiking club trails to explore and 2.2 miles of paved trails which connects to another 3 miles which leads you into the town of Luverne, MN. This state park is also one of only five Minnesota state parks that allow rock climbing. The Sioux Quartizite cliffline is 1.5 miles long and can get up to 90 feet high which makes it popular for rock climbers in the area.
So if you are finding yourself driving across I-90, this is a must stop place to check out explore the area. And if you are looking for a yummy place to eat check out Tasty Drive In. Order at the window and find a place to eat at the outdoor tables. You won’t be dissapointed.
Date of Travel- April 23, 2017