One of the top-ranked and unique state parks in Minnesota, Blue Mounds State Park features a bison range (pictured: bison at Minneopa State Park). Additionally, you can camp in a tipi, rock climb, and explore the mile-long Sioux Quartzite cliff soaring 100 feet above prairie grasses and plains. You’ll also find hiking trails with scenic views and can watch for birds such as blue grosbeaks. Another unique feature of Blue Mounds State Park is that prickly pear cactus grows here – in frigid MinneSNOWta!
See my related Minnesota state park series.
- Take the Minnesota State Park Challenge – reviews and a list of all the best MN state parks
- How to hike all 66 Minnesota state parks in a year
- Explore Minnesota State Parks on Free State Park Day (updated with 2023 dates)
- Top Minnesota state parks with waterfalls – ranked!
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Top 10 things to do at Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne, MN
You’ll find lots of cool things to do and see at Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne, Minnesota.
- Take the 90-minute prairie and bison bus tour.
- Watch for bison from three observation areas.
- Visit Eagle Rock – the highest point at Blue Mounds State Park – for scenic views.
- Admire the mile-long and 100-ft.-high Sioux Quartzite cliff.
- Go hiking along the cliffs, tall prairie grass, cactus, wildlife, and next to the bison range.
- Camp in one of the three Blue Mounds State Park tipis.
- Go rock climbing.
- Bike to and from nearby Luverne, MN.
- Look for prickly pear cactus blooming in early summer.
- Go birdwatching.
Reserve your spot on the Blue Mounds State Park prairie and bison bus tour
The prairie and bison bus tour is ranked #1 on my list of the top things to do at Blue Mounds State Park. Why? Because it wasn’t offered when I visited. I’ve been wanting to return to Blue Mounds State Park because it’s beautiful, to camp in a tipi, and see some bison.
While my husband and I saw plenty of bison on our visit to the bison range at Minneopa State Park, we did not see any on the day we hiked Blue Mounds State Park. So this 90-minute tour would be awesome to learn more about the park and bison.
Note: The bison roam freely on 533 acres so it’s not guaranteed that you will see the bison. Or they may be as close as 75 feet.
Reservations are recommended for the Blue Mounds State Park prairie and bison bus tour. Due to safety reasons, children younger than three are not permitted to go on the bison bus tour. Each bus holds up to 12 people. Dress appropriately as the sides of the bus are open.
See the frequently asked questions below about some fun facts and safety tips about bison.
Watch for bison from three observation areas
If you’re unable to secure a spot on the Blue Mounds State Park bison bus tour, you can try your luck at one of the three observation areas. Tip: Bring your binoculars and watch for bison early in the morning.
You’ll find a bison viewing platform with a scope to help locate bison. We didn’t have much luck on the day we visited Blue Mounds State Park. If you experience the same thing, Minnesota DNR predicts you can find the bison hanging out in the southwest area of the bison range or from the Western Loop Trail.
Caution: Bison are huge! Up to six feet tall and can weigh as much as a ton. And they are very protective during calving season (late spring / early summer) so keep your distance. And always stay outside of the fence. Never enter the fenced-in enclosure to get a closer look. Bison will gore you if they feel threatened. They are bigger and much faster than you!
Visit Eagle Rock Vista – highest point in Blue Mounds State Park – for scenic views
For some of the best panoramic views, go to Eagle Rock Vista at Blue Mounds State Park. It’s the highest point overlooking nearby Luverne, MN and surrounding farms. You can even see Iowa and South Dakota from this vantage point at Blue Mounds State Park.
Admire the mile-long and 100-ft. high Sioux Quartzite cliff
It felt like we were in a western movie scene as we entered the Sioux Quartzite cliff area. This historic quarry is breathtaking beyond words. Pictures do not do it justice. So I highly recommend visiting Blue Mounds State Park’s Sioux Quartzite cliff area in person.
What is quartzite?
Quartzite is the natural stone equivalent to the fabricated quartz.
Wait. What? Quartz is not a real stone? Yep, I was this many years old when I learned that fun fact.
This historic quarry at Blue Mounds State Park supplied Sioux quartzite to construct the region’s buildings in the 1880s. However, the quarry was abandoned in the early 1900s when Sioux quartzite was replaced by the less-expensive and easier to produce masonry brick.
Learn more about the geology at Blue Mounds State Park.
Go hiking at Blue Mounds State Park
Blue Mounds State Park offers around 15 miles of hiking trails. Most connect with each other so you can hike as long or as short as you can. You also have the option of parking at three different trailheads: Eagle Rock Vista, Cliffline Area, and near the tipi and bison viewing platform.
The four most popular hiking trails at Blue Mounds State Park are:
- Bur Oak Trail – 0.75 miles one-way
- Mound Trail – 1.5 miles one-way
- Upper Cliffline Trail – 1.5 miles one-way
- Lower Cliffline Trail – 1 mile one way
Camp in one of the three Blue Mounds State Park tipis
For a unique camping experience, try camping in one of the Blue Mounds State Park’s three tipis. All cart-in tipi campsites fit up to six people. It would make a fun extended family camping memory.
Of course, Blue Mounds State Park also offers several traditional campsites as well as secluded cart-in campsites.
Go rock climbing
Blue Mounds State Park is one of a few state parks in Minnesota that offers rock climbing. You must apply for a free climbing permit. The rock climbing areas within Blue Mounds State Park include:
- Receding Ramparts Area
- Mini Fortress Area
- Prairie Walls Area
- North Quarry Area
- South Quarry Area
Bike from nearby Luverne, MN to Blue Mounds State Park
You can ride the six-mile paved Blue Mounds Bike Trail from Luverne, Minnesota to Blue Mounds State Park. Three miles of paved bike trails are found in the park also. See the City of Luverne’s website for more details.
Look for prickly pear cactus blooming in early summer at Blue Mounds State Park
I was surprised to learn that cactus can grow in frigid Minnesota. And you can find prickly pear cactus blooming its yellow flowers in early summer at Blue Mounds State Park. But stay on the trails because as the name implies, the cactus has prickly spines or thorns. Even the yellow flowers. And these spines can pierce through your shoes and clothing.
In late summer, you’ll be treated to a prairie color explosion as hundreds of wildflowers and grasses reach their peak season. Some grasses grow almost an inch a day up to seven feet tall!
We saw several birds of prey soaring above our heads in the historic quarry at Blue Mounds State Park. This area is also known for blue grosbeaks and turkey vultures nest in the cliffs. Many other bird species – native and accidental – are found here as well.
Frequently asked questions about Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne, Minnesota
Where is Blue Mounds State Park located? What is the address for Blue Mounds State Park?
Blue Mounds State Park – the most southwestern state park in Minnesota – is located at 1410 161st Street, Luverne, MN 56156. The borders of Iowa and South Dakota are nearby.
Related post: On the other side of Minnesota with fabulous views lies the most southeastern state park: Beaver Creek Valley State Park.
When is Blue Mounds State Park open?
Blue Mounds State Park is open year-round, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The campground is seasonal, typically mid- to late April through mid- to late October.
Is Blue Mounds State Park free? How much is the admission fee at Blue Mounds State Park?
Blue Mounds State Park is almost free. It costs $7 per vehicle per day ($5 per motorcycle) with unlimited visits to all Minnesota state parks on the same day. I highly recommend an annual pass, which gives you entrance to all Minnesota state parks. See the Minnesota DNR website for more information. And it’s highly recommended to pay online ahead of time. Minnesota state parks are no longer accepting cash self-payment envelopes on site.
Admission to every Minnesota state park is free for all Minnesota state tribal members.
You can visit Blue Mounds State Park on any of the four free state park days in Minnesota. See my related post for this year’s free state park days.
What’s the difference between bison and buffalo? Are bison and buffalo the same thing?
Bison and buffalo are commonly mistaken for one another. While the terms are used interchangeably in conversation, bison and buffalo are different. Bison are native to North America and Europe while water buffalo and Cape buffalo are found in Africa and Asia. Bison feature large humps on their shoulders and beards with thick skins they shed in the spring and early summer. Source: Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservatory Biology Institute.
Is it safe to see bison at Blue Mounds State Park? Are bison dangerous?
Yes and yes.
You can safely see bison at Blue Mounds State Park by taking the guided prairie and bison bus tour. Additionally, this state park offers three different viewing areas. All bison are free roaming behind a fence. Stay clear of the 533-acre bison enclosure area.
Bison are the largest mammals in North America. They can weigh as much as one ton. And bison are extremely dangerous and will gore you if they feel threatened. They are also very protective during calving season (mid-April to mid-July). You can view the bison safely on the bus tour or at the three designated observation areas at Blue Mounds State Park.
How long is the bison bus tour at Blue Mounds State Park?
The prairie and bison bus tour at Blue Mounds State Park in Minnesota is 90 minutes.
Is there an age limit for the Blue Mounds State Park bison bus tour?
The minimum age to take the Blue Mounds State Park prairie and bison bus tour is 4 years old.
Where can I see bison in Minnesota?
You can find two bison conservation herds in Minnesota. Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne, MN is home to a herd of 80-90 bison. Minneopa State Park in Mankato, MN is home to a herd of 30-40 bison. See my related post: Minneopa State Park features bison, waterfalls, and hiking.
Additionally, the Minnesota Zoological Garden in Apple Valley, MN cares for 12-15 bison.
Can you rock climb at Blue Mounds State Park?
Yes, Blue Mounds is one of several Minnesota state parks that offers rock climbing. Make sure to get your free climbing permit and rock climbing map before you start rocking climbing.
Does Blue Mounds State Park have a lake, river, or waterfall?
No. Blue Mounds State Park once had a small lake reservoir and swimming beach. However, the reservoir was drained a few years ago and was not rebuilt. Interesting fun fact: Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 lakes (actually 11,842 lakes). Rock County, Minnesota – where Blue Mounds State Park is located – is only one of four counties in the state that does not have a natural lake. The other three counties without a lake in Minnesota include Mower, Olmsted, and Pipestone.
Historic background: Blue Mounds State Park was originally created as a recreation area (Mound Springs Recreational Area) and featured two dams with the original purpose of providing water-related activities. You can see remains of the Upper Mound Lake Dam at the park.
Does Blue Mounds State Park have a swimming beach?
Not anymore. The small lake reservoir with a beach area at Blue Mounds State Park was drained several years ago and was not restored.
How big is Blue Mounds State Park in Minnesota?
Blue Mounds State Park is more than 1,500 acres of diverse prairie grasses.
Is Blue Mounds State Park buggy? Mosquitos? Ticks?
From what I recall, Blue Mounds State Park was not particularly buggy. But then again, I always protect myself with my favorite Aunt Fannie’s DEET-free mosquito wipes and/or picaridin.
How long and how difficult are the hiking trails at Blue Mounds State Park?
Blue Mounds State Park offers 15 miles of hiking trails. Some of the more common hiking trails are fairly easy and short. Most trails are packed dirt, mowed grass with a few paved sections. The four most popular hiking trails at Blue Mounds State Park are:
- Bur Oak Trail – 0.75 miles one-way
- Mound Trail – 1.5 miles one-way
- Upper Cliffline Trail – 1.5 miles one-way
- Lower Cliffline Trail – 1 mile one way
Many of the hiking trails at Blue Mounds State Park join others and can also lead you to the bike trail and to nearby Luverne, Minnesota.
Blue Mounds State Park hiking trails are open in the winter, but they are not maintained. Snowshoeing is allowed throughout the park.
Are hiking poles needed on the trails at Blue Mounds State Park?
No. The hiking trails at Blue Mounds State Park are easy. However, there are a few steep and rocky areas. While I have not hiked at Blue Mounds State Park in the winter, it might be a good idea to bring your hiking poles.
What are the best views at Blue Mounds State Park?
The best views – when the bison are cooperating – are located at any of the three designated bison observation areas. One of these views is from a platform. Pictured are some tips on where to find bison at Blue Mounds State Park in Minnesota.
Take in spectacular views from Eagle Rock Vista. Blue Mounds State Park’s highest point offers the best views overlooking agricultural landscape near Luverne, MN. Additionally, you can even see Iowa and South Dakota from this location.
Does Blue Mounds State Park have a visitor center? Modern restrooms?
You can find a park office open at Blue Mounds State Park seasonally. It contains maps, guides, ice, firewood, and a gift shop.
Blue Mounds State Park does not currently offer a visitor center. However, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is redeveloping the Eagle Rock Vista area including the former interpretive center (aka the Manfred house). While the building still stood when we visited, it’s been closed since 2015 and will be removed.
You will find two modern restrooms with flush toilets and showers April through October in the campground area. More primitive toilets are available year-round.
Is Blue Mounds State Park dog-friendly?
Yes, leashed dogs and pets are welcome at Blue Mounds State Park (and all Minnesota state parks) except inside buildings (with the exception of service dogs). Leashes must be six feet or less.
Are there bears at Blue Mounds State Park?
I’ve never heard of any bear sightings at Blue Mounds State Park. But you may hear coyotes.
Can you camp at Blue Mounds State Park?
Yes. Blue Mounds State Park is one of two Minnesota state parks that offer tipi camping. Upper Sioux Agency State Park is the other state park that offers tipi campsites. Make sure to make your reservation early for a unique experience.
Blue Mounds State Park also offers more traditional campground experiences (RV, tent, van/car/SUV) with 40 electric and 33 non-electric sites.
For something away from it all, you can also rent one of 14 cart-in campground sites at Blue Mounds State Park.
How far is Blue Mounds State Park from the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP) airport?
Blue Mounds State Park is about 208 miles southwest of the Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP) International Airport.
What’s nearby Blue Mounds State Park? Things to do near Blue Mounds State Park?
You’ll find additional fun things to do near Blue Mounds State Park.
- Visit one of the largest nutcracker museums in the world in nearby Luverne, Minnesota. Read my full review of how this small town is home to more nutcrackers than there are people: Best things to do in Minnesota: Visit the Nutcracker Museum in Luverne, MN.
- Because the world’s third (possibly second) largest nutcracker museum is located inside the Rock County History Center, you can learn more about the area’s history at the same time.
- You can see South Dakota and Iowa from the top of Eagle Rock Vista – so you may as well go check out two more states while you’re in the neighborhood. And take a photo op where the three states meet.
- Take a beautiful walk at Touch the Sky Prairie at the Northern Tallgrass Prairie Wildlife Refuge in Luverne, Minnesota. You’ll find three popular and easy hiking trails here. Touch the Sky Prairie is located eight miles from Blue Mounds State Park.
- Historic Pipestone, Minnesota and Pipestone National Monument is less than 25 miles north. This National Park Services monument covers more than 300 acres, features an easy walking trail, a waterfall, and protects a historic pipestone quarry site. Native Americans used to quarry this soft stone here to make pipes used in rituals. And it’s still quarried today by federally recognized tribes, according to the NPS.
- You’ll also find the world’s largest pipestone pipe sculpture in Pipestone, MN. This symbolic monument is located at The Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers. You can also learn a lot about Native American history here.
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota is about 40 miles away from Blue Mounds State Park. Here you’ll find the Good Earth State Park as well as Sherman Park. This park features Indian Burial Mounds that are 1,600 years old. Additionally, Sherman Park is home to a zoo and a natural history museum.
When was Blue Mounds State Park in Minnesota established?
Blue Mounds State Park was established in 1961. Before becoming a state park, legislation designated it as the Mound Springs Recreation Reserve in 1937.
How did Blue Mounds State Park get its name?
From a distance, the mile-long cliff of Sioux Quartzite cliff looked blue to 19th century settlers. Up close, the color looks more pink. That nickname stuck when it was named Blue Mounds State Park.
Does Blue Mounds State Park host deer hunts? Is Blue Mounds State Park closed during deer season?
Yes. Blue Mounds State Park is typically closed for a couple of days every November during deer season. For a complete list of which Minnesota state parks are closed or limited to the public during deer season, see my post: Hiker safety: MN state parks that host deer hunts.
A list of the best Minnesota state parks
All Minnesota state parks are the best in my opinion. You can read reviews of each one to create your own list of top-ranked Minnesota state parks: Take the Minnesota state park challenge
- Afton State Park | Hastings, MN (26 miles)
- Banning State Park | Sandstone, MN (97 miles)
- Bear Head Lake State Park | Ely, MN (240 miles)
- Beaver Creek Valley State Park | Caledonia, MN (148 miles)
- Big Stone Lake State Park | Ortonville, MN (186 miles)
- Blue Mounds State Park | Luverne, MN (208 miles)
- Buffalo River State Park | Glyndon, MN (240 miles)
- Camden State Park | Lynd, MN (161 miles)
- Carley State Park | Plainview, MN (88 miles)
- Cascade River State Park | Lutsen, MN (257 miles)
- Charles A. Lindbergh State Park | Little Falls, MN (112 miles)
- Crow Wing State Park | Brainerd, MN (134 miles)
- Father Hennepin State Park | Isle, MN (113 miles)
- Flandrau State Park | New Ulm, MN (93 miles)
- Forestville / Mystery Cave State Park | Preston, MN (115 miles)
- Fort Ridgely State Park | Fairfax, MN (99 miles)
- Fort Snelling State Park | Bloomington / St. Paul, MN (2 miles)
- Franz Jevne State Park | Birchdale, MN (336 miles)
- Frontenac State Park | Frontenac, MN (62 miles)
- George H. Crosby Manitou State Park | Finland, MN (231 miles)
- Glacial Lakes State Park | Starbuck, MN (156 miles)
- Glendalough State Park | Battle Lake, MN (194 miles)
- Gooseberry Falls | Two Harbors, MN (197 miles)
- Grand Portage State Park | Grand Portage, MN (308 miles)
- Great River Bluffs State Park | Winona, MN (136 miles)
- Hayes Lake State Park | Roseau, MN (343 miles)
- Hill Annex Mine State Park | Calumet, MN (197 miles)
- Interstate State Park / Taylors Falls State Park | Taylors Falls, MN (56 miles)
- Itasca State Park | Park Rapids, MN (219 miles)
- Jay Cooke State Park | Thomson, MN (146 miles)
- John A. Latsch State Park | Winona, MN (99 miles)
- Judge C.R. Magney State Park | Grand Marais, MN (282 miles)
- Kilen Woods State Park | Lakefield, MN (153 miles)
- Lac qui Parle State Park | Watson, MN (141 miles)
- Lake Bemidji State Park | Bemidji, MN (230 miles)
- Lake Bronson State Park | Karlstad, MN (409 miles)
- Lake Carlos State Park | Alexandria, MN (152 miles)
- Lake Louise State Park | Le Roy, MN (113 miles)
- Lake Maria State Park | Monticello, MN (60 miles)
- Lake Shetek State Park | Currie, MN (168 miles)
- Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park | Soudan, MN (229 miles)
- McCarthy Beach State Park | Side Lake, MN (227 miles)
- Maplewood State Park | Pelican Rapids, MN (217 miles)
- Mille Lacs Kathio State Park | Onamia, MN (108 miles)
- Minneopa State Park | Mankato, MN (82 miles)
- Monson Lake State Park | Sunburg, MN (141 miles)
- Moose Lake State Park | Moose Lake, MN (116 miles)
- Myre-Big Island State Park | Albert Lea, MN (93 miles)
- Nerstrand Big Woods State Park | Nerstrand, MN (52 miles)
- Old Mill State Park | Argyle, MN (350 miles)
- Rice Lake State Park | Owatonna, MN (70 miles)
- St. Croix State Park | Hinckley, MN (105 miles)
- Sakatah Lake State Park | Waterville, MN (60 miles)
- Savanna Portage State Park | Northeast Aitkin, MN (149 miles)
- Scenic State Park | Bigfork, MN (232 miles)
- Schoolcraft State Park | Deer River, MN (198 miles)
- Sibley State Park | New London, MN (128 miles)
- Split Rock Creek State Park | Jasper, MN (202 miles)
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park | Two Harbors, MN (204 miles)
- Temperance River State Park | Schroeder, MN (239 miles)
- Tettegouche State Park | Silver Bay, MN (217 miles)
- Upper Sioux Agency State Park | Granite Falls, MN (122 miles)
- Whitewater State Park | Altura, MN (99 miles)
- Wild River State Park | Center City, MN (58 miles)
- William O’Brien State Park | Scandia / Marine on the St. Croix, MN (43 miles)
- Zippel Bay State Park | Williams, MN (345 miles)
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