Ladies Camping Trip in Luverne
Would you drive over three hours to take a camping trip with 20 strangers? I didn’t think I would either, but something pulled me towards this group travel experience a few months ago when I first learned about it. And on impulse, I signed up!
As a kid, my family went camping every summer. But my last camping trip was more than 15 years ago. Luckily, I have a friend who is an experienced camper. She let me borrow all of her gear and gave me a few pointers before heading off on my trip.
Luverne is a small town in the southwest corner of Minnesota. It has a lot of history and pride. With a charming downtown area, a state park, brewery, and drive-in movie theater, Luverne is the perfect place to disconnect from our busy lives.
1. Camp at Blue Mounds State Park
We camped for two nights at Blue Mounds State Park, which has several options for campgrounds. When you first enter the park, you’ll find a private camping section for large groups, which is where we set up. There’s a firepit, about five or six picnic tables, and two portapotties. A short walk down the road, you’ll find a massive camping area for more people to pitch a tent or park their RVs and camper vans. On that side of the park, you’ll also be able to access hot showers, toilets with running water, and sinks with soap and paper towels. The park gets extremely dark at night making stargazing a great bedtime activity. Be patient and you’ll likely see a few shooting stars.
For those who love to hike, there are many trails within the park. We checked out Quarry Trail and Touch the Sky Prairie. The trails split and connect at various points making it easy for you to take a hike that is as long or short as you want. Most trails are easy to moderate with occasional inclines. You may also see the park bison (from a distance) while on a hike through the park. There is an option to sign up for a Jeep tour across the prairie to get a closer look at the bison herd as well.
Note: This is a state park, so you’ll need to pay the $7/daily fee, or you can purchase an annual pass for all Minnesota state parks for $35/year.
2. Enjoy a Sunset Picnic
When we hiked Blue Mounds State Park during the day, Minnesota was experiencing an extreme heatwave. Temperatures soared to 100 degrees Fareheight. The evenings, however, always cool off and can provide a beautiful golden hour light. One evening our group returned for a sunset picnic. We took photos, snacked on watermelon, cheese, and crackers, and enjoyed the park as we bathed in an evening glow.
3. Check Out a Drive-In Movie
In downtown Luverne, you’ll find the Verne Drive-In movie theater. When we visited, we saw the new Cruella movie with Emma Stone. Watch from your car, or park by the large grassy area and set up blankets, chairs, and pillows. There is a small store where you can purchase candy, pretzels, popcorn, soda, and more! There are also bathrooms and air conditioning so you can stay cool before the movie begins. They announce which movies they’re playing weekly, so check their website to stay updated.
5. Cool Off with Ice Cream
Visit JJ’s Tasty Drive-In for soft-serve ice cream and shakes. They also serve burgers, fries, and cheese curds! It’s a fun stop to make on your way through town or after a long hike. This place has been around since 1977 and is truly iconic.
5. Visit a Brewery
Take 16 Brewery is located in downtown Luverne. They have a huge selection of beer from Kolsch ales, and blond ales, to IPAs, lagers, and oatmeal porters. Depending on the evening, there may be live music or special dinners on the patio, like BBQ chicken and corn on the cob. Or, head inside to order pizza!
6. Watch the Town Parade
The weekend we were camping in Luverne, the town parade, which is called Buffalo Days, took place. This little town has so much history and pride. It felt like the whole town came out to support each other. The local high school’s marching band performed, and US veterans walked down the road waving American flags. We also saw motorcycles, tractors, go-carts, and fire trucks. During Buffalo Days you can also find art in the park with vendors, entertainment, and live music.
7. Take a Day Trip to South Dakota
One of the best things we did all weekend was a hike through Palisades State Park, which is just outside Garretson, South Dakota. Roughly a 25-minute drive from Luverne, this state park is really unique and provides a great way to cool off in the river after a hot hike. Parts of the trail were flat and easy to walk on, other spots got pretty steep and had challenging tree roots and rocks sticking out. If you’re not looking for the tougher trails, you can still enjoy a beautiful footbridge when you first enter the park, as well as the swimming area right away. The further into the park you walk, the more difficult the trail becomes.
8. Take a Walk at Devil’s Gulch
After Palisades State Park, we drove a few minutes down the road to Devil’s Gulch which has some great history tied to it! Legend has it the infamous outlaw Jesse James and his horse jumped across the ravine at Devil’s Gulch and narrowly escaped being captured. The gorge is about 18 feet wide, which is a remarkably impressive jump for a horse! Today, there is a little bridge that makes it easy for people to walk across and into the park.
My First Guided Group Tour Experience
I’ve never been on a guided group tour before. Typically I plan my own trips with friends and family, so this was a first for me. The camping trip was led by Emily Rose, the Minnesota-based travel writer behind The Wanderlust Rose. Emily Rose and I became friends over Instagram more than a year ago and have been following each other’s adventures since then. It was so great to finally meet her in person. She leads many tours around the US and around the world. I would highly recommend her for future tours. She has a kind and bubbly personality and was extremely organized and well prepared for our trip.
Go Out of Your Comfort Zone
While this trip was quite different from how I normally travel, I have absolutely no regrets. Setting up my tent brought back some serious nostalgia from my childhood, I was able to experience new areas in Minnesota and South Dakota I’d never seen before, and I met 20 incredible women, many of whom live in the Twin Cities! So what’s the lesson here? Take the chance, sign up for the trip, travel solo, because you’re never really alone. You’ll find yourself outside of your comfort zone, and you’ll leave with new friends and great memories.