Last updated on April 12th, 2019
The best bike path in Minnesota has to be the Root River Trail. The path is visited by thousands of visitors each season because of its flat terrain that winds around the root river valley. It passes through a bunch of small resort towns you don’t want to miss. During the summer my family will make special camping trips just to go biking on this path. But there is so much more to do there than just bike. There are tons of amazing things to do along the root river trail besides bike. Here are some of the best you need to check out!
Niagara Cave & Mystery Cave
The first stop you need to make is in Harmony, MN to Niagara Cave. It has 48 degrees of constant temperatures inside of the cave. Bring your coats, because you definitely needed them. I don’t care if it’s 98 degrees on the surface. It will be nice at first but after the first 10 minutes down there, you’ll thank me for it.
There are a few caves in MN. Mystery cave is the other cave in this region, just a few minutes away. It requires a reservation but is handicap accessible. It’s a lot less commercial, probably because it’s state run. And includes a lake inside. They do have bats that inhabit the cave. I found out later at Crystal Cave that the bats are nothing to worry about. But if it’s a deal breaker, you might want to skip it.
But the nice thing about Niagara Cave is they have a giant waterfall running through it, which my daughter loved. They also don’t have any bats, which made me happy. They have a bunch of fossils along the cave walls. The place has plenty of railing on all stairs. Even though there was water dripping down or ‘Cave Kisses’ as they call it, I never felt unsafe. There were great formations they have lit up for you. They didn’t have as many of the classic stalactites/stalagmite I expected but still was pretty cool.
Expect to pay $14 for adults and $8 for 4+ to enter. Tours leave every 15 mins. Or on hot days during the summer they may leave every 10 mins but you could wait up to an hour to get in. Remember that every step you go down; you have to go back up. So if you are caring say, a 20lb toddler with you, you will probably be out of breath by the time you get to the surface again depending on what shape you are in.
They have miniature golf out front as well as a place that kids can pan for gems and fossils. It costs anywhere from $5 – $10 for a bag of sediment they can pan though.
Water On The Root River
Another favorite for people to do is float down the Root River. There are so many different entry points, depending on what you want to do, you can go on inner tubes, kayak or canoe. You can choose for a short trip or long trip. There are trips that take off from campgrounds or some that leave from town. The sky is the limit to what you want to do.
Want to get the Amish experience. Guided tours are being offered by… You don’t need to take an official tour. You can do your own thanks to this Self-Guided map of the farms in the community. Just some quick etiquette before you go. Don’t take photos of the Amish. Only visit the farms with business signs next to their driveway. They are open every day but Sunday and Holidays. They are also a patriotical society so it’s polite to talk to the man first.
Each business listed on the map included the different goods that they sell, so you can pick and choose what you are looking for. They make some of the best furniture you will ever find. If you are uncomfortable shopping in their shops on their home, there is also an Amish Furniture Store along highway 52 just north of Chatfield.
Shopping in a Traditional American Downtown
Lanesboro is the traditional American downtown experience. Complete with bed and breakfasts, ice-cream shops, farmer’s markets and antique stores. It’s not gimmicky, or anything that you would expect from a tourist town. Lanesboro doubles or triples in size during the peak bike times during the weekends due to the Root River Trail running right down the center of town. Make sure to keep an eye out for them as you are driving because it can get a little crazy. This is also where a bulk of the outfitters are in town.
Best Playground for Kids
Chatfield is another small town in the area. The thing that makes this town stand out is its great playground. We would drive by this one all the time and I would look through the passenger window in wonder. It was so fun to actually be able to stop with my kids. The Tot Town was by far my favorite. Great way to let your kids get out some road trip energy without having to go off the batten path.
Watch where you walk because Fountain is the Sink Hole capitol of the USA. They have more than 10,000 around the county. At the base of the Bike Trail, in Fountain is one just a half mile out on the trail. They have a viewing bridge for those wanting to get a better look at it’s opening safely.
Aroma Pie Shop
This pie shop is a favorite amongst many of the riders of the Root River Bike Trail. But you don’t have to be on a bike to eat there. The town of Whelan is accessible by car and just a few minutes away from Lanesboro. The ownership changed hands a few time but the recipes have always stayed the same. Stop in for a treat.
Stand Still Parade
Speaking of Whelan, have you heard they like to do their parades a little differently? The town is so small, instead of having their parade march through, the parade just lines up along Main Street and the visitors do all the walking. It a festival you won’t see elsewhere. For more information, check out my visit to the Stand Still Parade.