Monday, May 7, 2012

Climbing in Blue Mounds State Park, MN

My climbing partners and I are always looking for new crags to climb. In Minnesota, especially around the Twin Cities, there are several popular climbing areas, such as Taylors Falls, Red Wings, Willow River SP, Palasades Head, the North Shore, etc... They often become  the "outdoor" climbing gyms on the weekends and almost no routes available if you haven't gotten there at the break of dawn already. So, a month ago, on a random weekend, we decided to check out Blue Mound State Park with no other expectations but to have another "rocking" climbin-experience.

The famous lone tree across from the Prairie Walls. (Blue Mounds State Park)

The Prairie Walls

Most climbers, who have heard or been to Blue Mounds, know that it lies off County Road 20, just 4 miles outside of Luverne (a small town in the southwest corner of Minnesota). It is nothing but the 100 foot quartzite cliffs appear among the endless grass filled prairie, featuring 50-60 foot walls with over 200 climbs. Without any bolted routes, the crag hosts numerous of  boulder problems, trad and TR climbing with various difficulty from 5.5 to 5.12. Camping, swimming, biking, birdwatching are also enjoyable after a sweaty 80-degree climbing day.

Leaving at 6 in the morning, our arrival 4 hours later was surprised by the empty crag. Not a single human here. This is the one time opportunity to set two TR anchors between 3-4 climbs without feeling guilty and unethical for hogging them all. The walls are pretty simple to find and easy to get around. We put 4 climbs in and took our sweet time gazing at a few shameless quarter-sized spiders within the cracks, while the blazing sun amongst the plains reflects against our skin. I made friends with the lovely cacti real quick afterwards. Nature is what makes climbing more exciting, right?

Four hours of driving distance between the Twin Cities to Luverne, it made more sense to us that spending the night here in BMSP for the convenience, and awesomeness. A few hours of climbing went by and still not a human in sight. Starving our faces off, we decided to go check out our camp site, set up some of our camping gear while enjoying the short lunch break. We came back out to the crag around 4 pm, set our anchor on a 5.9 wall, put 2-3 climbs in as the sun was setting behind the prairie, and called it the day.

There is nothing better than ending a hard climbing day by crawling into your sleeping bag after sharing and devouring several delicious beer brats on a camp fire.

Overall, Blue Mounds needs more climbers. Its quartzite is similar to the rocks at Devils Lake, WI. If you haven't been to Blue Mounds yet, you're missing out. As fancy as it looks, you will find these routes to be pleasantly challenging of all grades. These rocks deserve to be gracefully touched more often by many dirty climbers' fingers, along with more admiration by the outdoorsy enthusiasts.

Prairie Wall @ Blue Mounds State Park.

Now that you've been itching to have your hands all over the Mounds, go to the Summit Post and/or Mountain Project for information on how to get here. This Memorial weekend, our plan is to come back here for the 2nd visit, and it will be a bigger group of friends and climbers for 3 days of climbing and 3 nights of beer and brats. Hope to see you there.


  1. Nice. I've heard about Blue Mounds and driven by there a few times, but never stopped to climb. Now it looks like I will have to make the effort. Thanks for the post!

    1. Elizabeth, I am glad you enjoyed the post. Shall I be your belaying bitch on the Memorial weekend in BMSP? :D

  2. Wow, looks amazing and incredibly fun. I can't believe it wasn't inundated with people! Any idea why?

    1. The only logic I could come up with is that it's not near by any populated cities like Red Rocks is close by Las Vegas, Taylors and Red Wings are by the Twin Cities... It's also in the middle of nowhere and far enough for those who's willing to drive and commute, they would already choose the crags that are more popular and well known with "better" scenery and thousands of climbs, like Devils Lake or the Black Hills.

  3. Looks like I am a couple years late finding this post but glad I did. My gf and I are planning on making a trip down to Blue Mounds to get some icy cold climbing in before winter really sets in. Looks like a great place. Thanks for sharing!

  4. No.. blue mounds does not need more climbers... there are limited routes and it's not worth your time... rattlesnakes, poison ivy, and locals that will cut your rope and steal your cams....taylor falls and redwing are much better; or better yet if you insist on driving that far go to devils lake (or to real mountains out west)!!