The Root River State Trail, a paved, 42-mile state trail, begins in Fountain and runs through the quaint and picturesque rural communities of Lanesboro, Whalan, Peterson, Rushford and Houston. Constructed on an abandoned railroad, the trail is generally level and wheelchair accessible. However, the eastern segment between Vinegar Ridge and Houston is more challenging than the western segment with a rather steep, half-mile segment that may not be suitable for all users.
Come discover the dramatic river-carved blufflands of southeastern Minnesota! Part of the Blufflands Trail System, the Root River State Trail provides outstanding views of the soaring limestone bluffs of the Root River Valley. Wildlife is abundant, and sightings of wild turkey, deer, hawks and turkey vultures are common. Rattlesnakes can occasionally be found on rock outcrops, along the river bottoms, or sunning themselves on the trail. They are a state threatened and protected species, and should be left alone.
Historical buildings and rural communities along the trail provide sites of interest as well as many services. Campgrounds, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants, museums, outfitters and unique stores can be found in many of the trail towns.
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Root River State Trail
- Trail uses
Accessible Outdoors (electric wheelchairs allowed)
You will need a ski pass for cross-country skiing. No other fees or passes are required to use the trail.
Do not leave valuables in your vehicle!
Parking is available at the following trail accesses:
- 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.
Restroom facilities are available along the trail at these points:
- at the parking lots in Fountain and Peterson
- at the trail centers in Lanesboro, Rushford and Houston
- In the area
Nearby DNR and other recreational areas include:
- Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail
- Beaver Creek Valley State Park
- Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park
- Root River State Water Trail
- R.J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest
- Rushford Sand Barrens SNA
Attractions and points of interest
Share the trail with others.
- Stay on designated trail.
- Keep to the right so others can pass.
- Keep all pets on leash, and dispose of pet waste.
- Obey traffic signs and rules.
- Pack out all garbage and litter.
- Respect adjoining landowners' rights and privacy.
- Warn other trail users when passing by giving an audible signal.
- Overnight camping and campfires are permitted only in designated campsites. Never leave campfires unattended.
- Enjoy the beauty of wild plants and animals, but leave them undisturbed for all to enjoy.
- Trail users are legally responsible for obeying the rules and regulations provided in Minnesota Rules, 6100.3000.
Cross-country skiing is popular on this trail in the winter. Most of the trail is groomed in the winter. There are 30 miles of set track from the Isinours Forest Recreation Area in Preston to the bridge outside of Houston. A Minnesota Ski Pass is required to ski on this trail.
There is no snowmobiling on the trail, although the trail does briefly intersect with the Fillmore and Houston county Grants-in-Aid (GIA) trail system, which provides many miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the area.