At A Glance: Exploring Root River Trail Towns – Fun and Food
Discover the dramatic river-carved bluff lands while biking in and around southeastern Minnesota’s Root River Trail Towns. Along the trail from Harmony to Preston, Fountain, Lanesboro, Whalan, Peterson, Rushford, and Houston you will find the perfect place for a biking vacation or long weekend adventure.
While exploring Bluff Country you can enjoy local artisans, historical architecture, and museums while sampling the locally sourced cuisine influenced by the Amish and Scandinavian cultures. In a nearly mosquito free environment, watch eagles soar above as you pedal the paved trail that parallels the lazy winding trout-filled Root River. Several bike friendly road routes will take you in and out of the bluffs, where you will see red foxes, wild turkeys, and deer that will watch you through the wooded landscape as you pass by.
Where to Bike While Visiting the Root River Trail Towns
Explore and enjoy the beauty of the bluff country landscape in and around the Root River Valley. Offering over 60 miles of paved trails that connect the Root River Trail Towns, it also offers many scenic road routes for touring the bluffs. For the mountain bikers, there are opportunities for varying terrain through state forests and on quite gravel roads in both Fillmore and Houston Counties.
Area Bike Shops
Little General Store, Lanesboro | 105 Coffee Street, Lanesboro, MN 55949 | 507-467-2943
Area Walking/Hiking Opportunities
Where to Play in the Root River Trail Towns When Not Biking
The trail and the towns along the trail offer many opportunities beyond biking. Check the descriptions below for some of the attractions for each town on the trail.
Where to Eat in the Root River Trail Towns
Each of the communities along the Root River Trails offer a variety of options to choose from to feed your appetite.
Where to Sleep When Visiting
There are a number of delightful discoveries waiting for you when visiting Harmony. At the south end of the Root River Trails system you will find a small town atmosphere that truly stands behind its name. Home of the Niagara Cave, it is a place to explore when not riding. Here, you will find plenty of dining and lodging opportunities. Visit Harmony’s Hobo Park. It is a sculptural project and is a series of hobo figures at the trailhead in town titled “Life Along the Rails.” Harmony offers several interesting bar & grills, cafes, and delis ideally suited to a bicycler’s interest. For the most up to date listing visit here.
Here are some more things Harmony has to offer.
On the Crunchy Side – Everyone will find something to love here from their award winning chili to Lisa’s Pizza Bread. | 31 Main Ave N, Harmony, MN 55939 | 507-886-5560
Niagara Cave – Sculpted from an underground stream that leads to underground waterfall the sights of the cave are a hidden treasure. | 29842 County 30, Harmony, MN 55939 | 507-886-6606
Amish Tours of Harmony – A wonderful way to learn more about Amish culture and history while being able to spend time in some their shops. | 94 2nd Street, Harmony, MN 55939 | 507-886-2303
New Generations of Harmony Antique Mall – Explore 10,000 square feet of antiques, collectables, and Amish goods. | 50 Industrial Blvd NE, Harmony MN 55939 | 507-886-6660
Riding your bicycling to one of the next Root River Trail Towns, Preston is the next Trail Town, 12.3 miles of gently rolling terrain.
The Fillmore county seat this community as vibrant and at the heart of bluff country. Many visit Preston to view the beautiful Root River Valley and access the miles of paved bike trails and quite country roads in and around the area. Also known as “Minnesota’s Trout Capital” and Home of the National Trout Center, Preston is a welcoming family-fun destination offering visitors many choices for both dining and lodging. Preston offers a deli at the local grocery store specially suited for a picnic and there are several cafés ideally suited to a bicycler’s interest. Preston has several B & B’s along with charming and interesting motels. The Preston Public Library is located at 101 Saint Paul St. S.W., Preston, MN 55965 and can be called at 507-765-4511. For great pictures, check out this hashtag: #PrestonMN.
Here are few options for the Preston area.
Mystery Cave State Park – Explore the caves with a variety of tour options including a flashlight tour. | 21071 County Road 118, Preston, MN 55965 | Cave: 507-937-3251 | Main Park: 507-352-5111
The Sweet Stop & Sandwich Stop – Tasty sandwiches and breakfast that is served all day. | 110 St. Anthony St. South, Preston, MN 55965 | 507-765-9956
Old Barn Resort – Golf Course with outfitter service to tube on the river. | 24461 Heron Road, Preston, MN 55965-9036 | 507-67-2512
Riding your bicycling to one of the next Root River Trail Towns, here it is 12 miles to Fountain, and 10.2 miles to Lanesboro.
The trailhead in Fountain is located at the top of the bluff, just off Highway 52. At the trail head, you will find picnic shelters, playground and a volleyball court, and places to eat in the downtown area. Fountain has a grocery store with great snacks and deli items for a picnic and a couple restaurants ideally suited to a bicycler’s taste. For the most up to date listing check here There is also a hardware store in the downtown area for minor repairs, sunscreen, etc.
Here are a few of the features of Fountain.
Filmore County Historical Center – A museum and genealogy library to help you learn more about the beautiful area. | 202 County Rd. 8, Fountain MN 55935 | 507-268-4449
Bent Wrench Bar & Grill – A variety of your favorites including onion rings and deep fried pickles, also a fun take on a burger with bacon. | 98 Main St., Fountain, MN 55935 | 507-268-4922
Los Gables – A menu full of all your favorite Mexican dishes and a full service bar. | 122 US-52, Fountain, MN 55935 | 507-268-1020
Village Square Restaurant – Traditional family style meals, pizza, and ice cream. | 99 Main Street, Fountain, MN 55935 | 507-268-4406
Riding your bicycling to one of the next Root River Trail Towns, here it is 11.2 miles to Lanesboro, the next Trail Town.
Nestled in a deep valley of the Root River, Lanesboro offers visitors here many invigorating outdoor activities, rich artistic experiences, unique shopping, a local winery, fine dining, and lodging to fit every taste and budget. Here at the center of the paved Root River Trail system you will find a downtown area revitalized with many shops, restaurants, and the Common Wealth Theatre for your visit. Lanesboro offers several interesting and charming coffee shops and cafés ideally suited to a bicycler’s interest. Lanesboro has several B & B’s and camping options along with a couple charming hotels. The Lanesboro Public Library is located at 202 Parkway Ave. S., Lanesboro, MN 55949 and can be contacted by 507-467-2649.
Here are a few of your options in Lanesboro.
Commonweal Theatre Company – A rotation of all different genres of plays and musicals. | 208 Parkway Avenue North, Lanesboro, MN 55949 | 507-467-2525
Old Village Hall – Your favorite American cuisine in the town’s original village and fire hall. | 111 Coffee St., Lanesboro, MN 55949 | 507-467-2962
Spud Boy Lunch – Classic diner feel and cuisine. | 105 Parkway Ave., N, Lanesboro, MN 55949
Riding your bicycling to one of the next Root River Trail Towns, here it is 4.6 miles to Whalan, the next Trail Town.
A charming 19th century Irish village in a valley surrounded by limestone bluffs and lush green hills, the village here was incorporated in 1876 with land donated by John Whalan. Soon after a railroad was built with a train depot here along the rail line, now the Root River Trail, it moved people, cattle, crops, lumber, and general supplies from city to city along the tracks, then on to La Crosse. Today, you will find a great place to stay and a pie shop for desert. Both are along the trail in Whalan.
Here are a few of Whalan’s attractions:
Gator Greens Mini Golf – Open each weekend and weekdays by appointment. | 439 Half Street, Whalan, MN 55949 and 920 Bench Street, Whalan, MN 55949 | 507-251-5101
Aroma Pie Shop – The perfect place for a sandwich and slice of pie. | 618 Main St., Whalan, MN 55949 | 507-467-2623
Riding your bicycling to one of the next Root River Trail Towns, here it is 8.9 miles to Peterson, the next Trail Town.
Surrounded by bluffs and farmland, you will find the friendly Norwegian community of Peterson. As the Root River Trail crosses the city’s main street you will see all kinds of options for a visit. First, you will notice the local café, known for their delicious breakfast, lunch, and afternoon desserts. Further down the street, at the ice cream shop, you can rent a kayak or tube to cool off on those hot summer days. Or, take a break at the Peterson Station Museum/Visitor Center where one of the exhibits, a vintage John Deere Bicycle, is showcased along with the towns lengthy history starting in 1855. Peterson offers a great ice cream shop and a charming café ideally suited to a bicyclist’s taste. Here you will find several B & B’s along with full service city campground.
Here are some of the attractions in Peterson.
Burdey’s Café – Family-owned restaurant with fresh home made meals and pie. | 417 Mill St., Peterson, MN 55962 | 507-875-2424
Geneva’s Hideaway – The perfect place to get your canoe and tube rentals and grab some delicious ice cream. | 318 Mill St., Peterson, MN 55962 | 507-875-7733
Peterson Station Museum/Visitor Center – Nearly 100 years after the Peterson Station opened to serve Southern Minnesota Railroad customers, visitors today can explore the area’s past through historical memorabilia, photographs, and other artifacts. | 228 Mill Street, Peterson, MN 55962 | 507-875-2222
Riding your bicycling to one of the next Root River Trail Towns, here it is 4.8 miles to Rushford, the next Trail Town.
When you arrive in Rushford on the Root River State Trail the first landmark you’ll encounter is the original 1867 Railroad Depot. This Historic Depot and Visitor’s Center, on the National Register, is a great place to stop and step back into the wonderful history of early Rushford. Then, cruise around the downtown area and enjoy the great places to eat while staying or visiting here. From the deli at the local grocery store, to a picnic, to several restaurants, Rushford offers several interesting and charming places to eat. Rushford has a couple B & B’s, a new motel, and the City’s campgrounds. The Rushford Public Library is located at 101 North Mill St., in Rushford, Minnesota. They can be contacted at 507-864-7600.
Here are a few more of Rushford’s options.
Shawnee’s Bar & Grill – A friendly place with variety of menu options for everyone’s taste. | 220 S. Mill St., Rushford, MN 55971 | 507-864-2073
The Creamery – From hand-tossed pizza to fresh made waffle cones for your ice cream and everything in between. | 407 S. Mill St., Rushford, MN 55971 | 507-864-7214
Norseland Lefse – For your favorite traditional Scandinavian cuisine including Lefse and Lutefisk. | 210 West Jessie St., PO Box 692, Rushford, MN 55971 | 507-864-2323
Riding your bicycling to one of the next Root River Trail Towns, here it is 12.6 miles to Houston, the next Trail Town.
Boastings one of the best trailheads in the state of Minnesota. Here you will find the Houston Nature Center, a band-shell, natural playground, recycled bike art, and walk-in campsites. At the eastern end of the area’s Root River Trail you can take a walk or bike ride into the downtown area to visit the shops and popular restaurants in Houston. For the most up to date listing of restaurants check here. Houston has several lodging opportunities and a campground. Along with most hotels, coffee shops, and restaurants having Wi-Fi availability, the public library is another good option. The Houston Public Library is located at 202 East Cedar Houston, MN 55943 and can be reached by telephone at 507-896-7323.
Here are just a few options for you to choose from.
International Owl Center – Come see and learn more about the owls in the area. | 126 E. Cedar St., Houston, MN 55943 | 507-896-6957
Houston Nature Center – Enjoy the beauty of Houston at the trail head and take a picture by the mascot Alice the Owl. | 215 W. Plum St., Houston, MN 55943 | 507-896-4668
Barista’s Coffee House – Serving espresso drinks, gourmet coffee, baked goods, real fruit smoothies, sandwiches, wraps, salads and ice cream at the trails eastern end. | 110 N. Grant St., Houston, MN 55943 | 507-896-5282
Riding your bicycling West on the Root River Trail from here, it is 12.6 miles to Rushford, 31.1 miles to Lanesboro and 63.6 miles to Harmony.