Mound Trail to Burr Oak Trail and Lower Cliffline Trail

Blue Mounds State Park, Minnesota

Trip Date: Saturday, June 6th, 2015
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 15th, 2018
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 4.2 miles roundtrip
Time 3 hours
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly No
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

Although it was quite a drive from the Twin Cities, this state park was a welcome departure from my usual Minnesota State Park experience of camping in a forest and hiking along a river or lake. How many other state parks manage a herd of bison? Blue Mounds State Park is also unique in that it is home to one of the few remaining tallgrass prairies in Minnesota as well as one of the places that, surprisingly, cactus grows in Minnesota. The park's location feels strange since there are not many trees to disguise how close it is to a town in the middle of a vast agricultural area. Despite the lack of a wilderness feel, the area is peaceful and quiet and the elevation of the park allows you to see the seemingly never-ending flatness extending to the horizon. The entire hike is mostly flat except for short stints of elevation change taking you to the bottom of the cliffs and back up again.

The Mound Trail starts by following the fence enclosing the bison, affording you new angles to view the herd. After 1.6 miles, you will reach Eagle Rock, a large boulder jutting out of the prairie that gives you views of surrounding grassland and nearby farms for miles. The visitor center is a short distance from Eagle Rock and marks a good halfway point if you want to take a break or have a snack.

Bison keep out sign at Blue Mounds State Park

The herd of 100 bison is the best feature of this park

After leaving the visitor center, follow signs for the Burr Oak Trail which leads you through a grove of oak trees interspersed with large boulders and rocky cliffs of Sioux Quartzite. Near the end of this trail, you will encounter the historic quarry where you will be surrounded by tall pink cliffs.
The pink Sioux Quartzite cliffs of the historic quarry

The pink Sioux Quartzite cliffs of the historic quarry

Eventually the trail will intersect with the paved bike trail. Follow this north for 0.6 miles until you reach the Lower Cliffline Trail that will lead you back to the parking area. On your left you can see the pink cliffs of the Mound (pictured below) -- early settlers traveling west somehow thought these cliffs looked blue from a distance, hence the name of the park.
The cliffs of Blue Mound from the Lower Cliffline Trail

The cliffs of Blue Mound from the Lower Cliffline Trail

Before leaving the park, be sure to stop at the observation deck to watch the bison herd. If you are planning on spending a night, this state park also offers the unique experience of camping in a teepee. I want to return just to try it myself! Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Instagram and Twitter after your trip!
Believe it or not, you can book a stay in one of these teepees

Believe it or not, you can book a stay in one of these teepees

Important Information

Similar to other Minnesota State Parks, dogs are allowed on a leash no longer than 6 feet. The total distance of this hike is too long to be family friendly, but there are several ways you can shorten the hike to a doable distance thanks to the looping nature of the trail system here. You can hike here all year, and thanks to it's out of the way location, it won't be very crowded when you visit.

Directions

Blue Mounds State Park is approximately 3.5 hours from the Twin Cities or 45 minutes from Sioux Falls. From Interstate 90 take Highway 75 north for 4 miles, then turn right on County Road 20. You will arrive at the park after 1 mile.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Like all Minnesota State Parks and Recreation Areas, you must pay a vehicle entry fee of $7 per day or $35 for an annual pass (highly recommended if you frequently go to Minnesota State Parks). Parking is in a dirt oval at the end of the main park road past the campground and observation deck. There are bathrooms and a picnic area with a sand volleyball court.

External Links

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