Friday, October 4, 2013

Biking Minnesota's Root River State Trail

The Root River State Trail is a paved, 42 mile trail that mostly follows an old railroad right-of-way, except for the final 5 miles or so into Houston, the only section that is a bit hilly since it isn't an old rail line.  From west to east, the trail runs through Fountain, Lanesboro, Whalan, Peterson, Rushford, and Houston.

This area is dubbed "Bluff Country" for obvious reasons as you pedal the trail, especially the section from Lanesboro west to Fountain, as you pass alongside tall limestone bluffs.  Besides cattle in occasional fields to the west, you also have opportunities to spot deer, raccoons, turkeys, and various waterfowl.  Most of the trail is alongside or close to the namesake river, often giving views like this...

The towns on the route offer lodging, food, drink, museums, various shops, campgrounds, and historical buildings. Though Lanesboro is the most visitor friendly with over 20 B&Bs and a thriving professional theatre company, all the towns offer amenities to bikers. 

A number of old trestles have been re-purposed into bike bridges...

The scenic beauty of this trail is top-notch.  I biked this trail for four days as part of a Road Scholar biking program, and this trail quickly made it into  my top favorite trails list.  Here are a couple photos of the trail...

 The asphalt is in good condition, especially the western secment which had just been repaved.  The eastern-most segment was a bit in need of repair in places and it was scheduled to be redone next year.  The state seems to realize the tourist-draw of this trail and area and the need for investment in its upkeep.  Picnic benches are available along the trail for rest stops, and small three-sided shelters are available for biker/campers.

An adjacent grass trail was often available for equestrians (and in the winter, snowmobiles), and cross country skiers use the bike trail in winter.

Map signs like that below are liberally located along trail, and each town has a large sign showing the location of businesses in the town.

Between Lanesboro and Fountain, the trail meets the terminus of the 18 mile long Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail, an extremely scenic trail in its own right, which follows Camp Creek for part of its length.

Trail access:

  • Fountain: From Highway 52 take County Road 8 about one mile to the parking lot near the city park/softball field.
  • Lanesboro: Parking is available in the lot next to the Bass Pond off of County Road 8. Additional parking is available along the streets and at the parking lot by the Community Center/Sylvan Park.
  • Whalan: Street parking.
  • Peterson: From Highway 16, turn into Peterson on Mill Street, go 1/2 mile to Fillmore Street, and turn left to the city campground/softball field. Parking is also available along the streets.
  • Rushford: From Highway 16, turn north on Elm Street and go one block. The parking lot is at the restored railroad depot.
  • Houston: Turn west on Plum street of of Highway 76 and go one block to the Nature Center.

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