Coasting Through Colors: Fall biking adventures on the Root River State Trail

coasting-through-colorsThe Root River State Trail is a 60-mile long paved recreational trail in Southeastern Minnesota running from Fountain to Houston. Built on what was formerly the Milwaukee Railroad bed, it wanders through skyrocketing bluffs, quaint towns, serene countryside and along the peaceful Root River. On an autumn Sunday afternoon, it beckons cyclists of all ages and rewards them with incredible vistas of the river and the trail’s gem-like leaves.

Only 40 miles from Rochester, Lanesboro is a great place to park the car and pick up the trail. You can bring your own bike or rent one in town at the Little River General Store on Coffee Street, which has everything from mountain bikes to a surrey with the fringe on top (just like “Oklahoma!”…minus the horses).

Lanesboro to Whalan, an easy family trail
From Lanesboro, if you are biking with the family, try the trail to Whalan, which is mostly flat and only 4.6 miles one-way. The entire stretch follows the Root River’s south branch and is a fun, relaxed trip for all ages.

Just before Whalan, stop for a round of mini-golf at Gator Greens Mini-Golf, then head on into Main Street for lunch or a slice of pie at Aromas Pie Shop where they’ve been baking fresh, homemade pie for over 25 years. If you have a little more time, check out the playground nearby where basketballs are provided and there’s a play set for the kids, while mom and dad relax in the grass.

Lanesboro to Fountain, vigorously rewarding
For more advanced cyclists, explore the heartiness of the route from Lanesboro to Fountain. It’s over 20 miles round-trip and gets continually steeper as the trail meanders through farms and up the bluffs to Fountain.

Along the way, you’ll pass the Old Barn Resort—a vacation place itself with a restaurant and bar—and see where the Root River State Trail joins the Harmony-Preston State Trail. The return trip to Lanesboro is mostly downhill and a great way to end the ride. After you return to Lanesboro from your trek, check out the Riverside on the Root Restaurant whose outdoor seating overlooks the Root River and Lanesboro’s old railroad trestle bridge. They have great evening entertainment on weekends, including Sundays, throughout the fall.

For more information about the trail or things to do on or near it, visit,,