Description: This is one of the premier paved recreation trails in the state and in the country. Long and scenic, it is centered around the quaint small town of Lanesboro in southern Minnesota. For a multi-day skate outing, this is as good as you get.
Getting There: Lanesboro is south of Rochester in the very southeast corner of the state. From the Twin Cities, drive south on Highway 52 past Rochester. Shortly after the town of Chatfield, you will come to the small town of Fountain, western terminus of the trail. You can park here or turn east on Highway 8 to Lanesboro.
Length: The entire trail is about 60 miles long. Really fantastic is that Lanesboro is sort of the wheel hub of the trail's three spokes: west to Fountain, east to Rushford, and south to Harmony. This makes for excellent out-and-back skates from Lanesboro.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. Much of the trail is flat and smooth. There is no auto traffic at all. There is a significant gradual grade the last mile or so before Fountain, however, and most of the route from Preston to Harmony is hilly.
Popularity/number of other users: Weekends can get a significant number of users but it is never a problem. Weekdays the trail is deserted.
Surface conditions: The pavement is very good on the west and south spurs. The pavement is acceptable on the east leg, which is really better for biking at this point.
Scenery: Excellent. The trail runs along the two branches of the Root River. Deer, eagles (in season), and other wildlife are in the area. Lanesboro itself is a very scenic town, situated under the limestone bluffs of the river bank and featuring … no McDonald's!
Nearby Restaurants and Lodging: Plenty of restaurants and lodging choices. The best restaurant in town is the Old Town Hall. The most friendly establishment in which you will ever stay is the Cottage House Hotel. Also, don't miss the high-quality performances at the Commonweal Theater (across from the Cottage House). Preston has good lunch spots.
Water: Water fountains and bathroom facilities in Lanesboro (in the trail depot), Fountain, Rushford, Preston, and Harmony.
Other nearby trails: The Douglas State Trail is just north of Rochester. No information on this trail.
Links: Minnesota DNR - Root River Segment
Minnesota DNR - Harmony-Preston Valley Segment
Comments: Skate the trail, see a play, eat dinner, and stay the night in Lanesboro. This is a fantastic weekend away. The best skating route for most ability levels is Lanesboro to Preston for lunch and back. For more advanced skaters and a longer route, continue south to Harmony.
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