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Chicago & Great River Bluffs State Park -- Road Trip Day 3 + 4


Day 3

Wait, where is the full post for Road Trip Day 3?? The next day after Indiana Dunes NP on our road-trip we left our hotel VERY late. We checked out like right at 11, and still had to figure out how to pack up the car properly again. I don't think we left until noon.  We planned on going to Mirror Lake State Park and Devils Lake in Wisconsin. Because of HORRIBLE traffic on I-90 in Chicago,  we actually made it to... nothing fun that day, except for a coffee at Biggby Coffee in Chesterson, Coffee Creek Preserve to let the dogs go to the bathroom (they started having upset stomachs and digestion on the trip, probably stress and anxiety), a Wine and Spirits store to pick up some beer (the important stuff) and a Jewel Osco to stock up on food and whatnot for the upcoming days. 

Oh well it was cool to see Chicago. Kind of. From I-90. We were in a dead stop several times so I could look around and see the skyline.We stayed at an Oak

Stuck in Traffic on I-90 in Chicago
Chicago traffic. Real bad, bro

Oakdale KOA Propane Grill Cabin
At our cabin at the Oakdale KOA on Roadtrip Day 3. Firin' up the Propane Stove again with a Double Space Boots by More Brewing Company that we found at a random beer/liquor store outside of Chicago. The cashier was talking to me about how good the beer was and then something about watching the Cubbies. I just nodded and smiled. I don't know anything about your Chicago baseball teams dude. I got a little more adventurous and made bacon, red bell pepper mac and cheese. It was pretty darn good!

Day 4

The next morning we woke up to Road Trip Day 4, and actually made breakfast on the propane stove. A little bacon and egg scramble bound together with cheese. It wasn't half bad. I'm starting to really love this camping stove thing.

On our drive we had time to briefly stop at Great River Bluffs State Park in Minnesota which was quite pretty! We had plans of potentially seeing the Mississippi River National River and Recreation Area but any cool parts were far off our our itinerary and we weren't sure what we'd do there anyway, so simply seeing the river and the Mississippi River Valley from afar was fine and cool enough for us!


King's Bluff Trailhead Marker
We had time for the King's Bluff Trailhead. Dog friendly and one of the most popular trails apparently! For an early Saturday afternoon, we didn't encounter too many dogs here actually. It was a relatively easy trail, about 2.6 miles out and back with little elevation gain.

Beautiful fields at Great River Bluffs
Pretty cool fields!


King's Bluff Trail GRBSP
Part of the King's Bluff Trail. The weather is looking moody. Out of nowhere we had a pretty heavy rain shower. I couldn't even see it on radar until I zoomed in hyper-locally. Way to hit us and only us!

One of the most intriguing features of Great River Bluffs State Park is its goat prairies that I've heard of. These are interesting unique environments that grow only under very specific conditions: steep slopes with at least a 40-degree inclination that face south or southwest. The name "goat prairies" is apt, given that the steepness of these slopes would make it hard for animals other than goats to traverse them. Did we get to see any goats on our short trip here? No. But that would've made it even better. We seem to miss out on the fun and unique wildlife wherever we go :(.

The park is also home to northern white cedar trees, which are unusually far south of their natural habitat. These trees have been around since the last Ice Age!  Pretty cool!


Sweeping Bluff Views from the trail
Along the trail. Wildflowers everywhere! Look at that moody sky! Such a pretty place we happened upon!


Top of the King's Bluff Trail
Made it to the top! Hello Mississippi River! There's some great colorful wildflowers up here as well!

 Recreational Activities

Though it may not offer as extensive a range of amenities as other state parks, Great River Bluffs State Park provides an authentic nature experience. It boasts several miles of hiking trails, 9 miles of cross-country skiing trails, and multiple camping sites. Wildlife watching is a popular activity here, with the park being a favored spot for bird watchers in particular. Dogs are of course allowed on the trail. Ours enjoyed it very much!


Dogs Relaxing at the top of King's Bluff
The dogs decided they wanted a break before we turned back!

Whether you're interested in hiking river adjacent trails, enjoying solitude, engaging in winter sports like cross-country skiing, or simply learning about the region's unique and intriguing geological and ecological characteristics, Great River Bluffs State Park offers a rich, immersive outdoor experience. I'm glad we got to see this on our way out west! It was a cool place! We kept some of it on our way out as well due to the VERY dusty dirt roads ;) 

After adventuring through the state park we headed towards our lodging destination. We stopped at a Hy-Vee for some food and Jack's Bottle Shop in Rochester, MN before settling in. I heard good things about the place so we had to stop in. I was looking to get some Blackstack Brewing while we were in MN so I picked up a 4-pack of DO NOT DUPLICATE by Blackstack. It did not disappoint. 

We originally had a campsite scheduled at a Sioux Falls, SD KOA. But since we swore off tent camping since the first night we wanted something different. They had no cabins available so we settled for a pet friendly hotel north of Sioux Falls at the Best Western Plus Lakeview Hotel. That's basically how our trip settled in. Oscillating between hotels and cabins. 

Check out Day 5 of the Road Trip. We made it to Badlands National Park!


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