The best southern Minnesota bike trail has to be the Root River Trail. Thousands of people visit the path each season because of its flat terrain that winds around the Root River Valley. It passes through several 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. 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!
The little town of Lanesboro is a small community that overlooks the bluffs of the Root River Valley. This charming community in southeast Minnesota is filled with unique shops, Bed and Breakfasts, and outdoor recreation.
Family-Friendly Biking on the Root River State Bike Trail
Driving along Highway 52 in southern Minnesota, you’ll see people hauling two things, campers, and bikes. That’s because almost everyone has plans to camp along Root River and bike the famous Root River State Trail.
The trail is family-friendly due to its flat nature and scenic viewpoints. Along with the 60-mile trail system, you’ll pass through many small towns, each with its own unique charm and filled with more things to do. You don’t have to be staying in town to enjoy it.
This is one of my favorite day trips from the Twin Cities. For more fun-filled bike trails, get a copy of Rail-Trails Minnesota.
If you have kids on the bike trail, get them a helmet with the MIPS clip system. Instead of having the chin strap clip on the bottom, it utilizes a magnet system.
This makes it so much easier for little kids to do without the worry of getting their chin getting pinched. We ended up getting the whole family a set of Bontrager Stravos MIPS helmets this year. They are so amazing.
See Related: The Top Things to do in St Cloud MN | Day Trip
Other Things To Do Along the Root River Trail
Niagara Cave & Mystery Cave
The first stop has to be one of the Cave in MN. Down there it is consistently 48. 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 actually two caves in southern MN, Mystery Cave and Niagra Cave. Both are a few minutes apart but have very different features.
See Related: Exploring the St Croix Boom Site in Stillwater
Mystery Cave is run by Minnesota State Parks. It is a lot less commercial and has 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.
On a summer day, visitors need to make a reservation on their website. During the week or on non-peak times you may be able to walk right in. They are handicap accessible.
See Related: Hiking Devils Gulch in Garretson South Dakota
Niagara Cave in Harmony MN has a 65-foot waterfall running through it. They also don’t have any bats, which made me happy. this is one of the best things to do in Lanesboro. I’ve done this tour more than once and it gets better and better.
The cave has 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 lit up for you. They didn’t have as many of the classic stalactites/stalagmites I expected but still was pretty cool.
Expect to pay $20 for adults and $12 for kids 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 for every step you go down; you have to go back up. So if you are caring say, a 25lb 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 where kids can pan for gems and fossils. These MN Caves are both amazing, so have fun. If you are looking for more information about caves in the area, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Minnesota Caves History and Lore by Greg Brick.
Pro Tip: If you forgot a long sleeve shirt, you can get one at the gift shop at Niagra Cave for much cheaper than you’ll find in downtown Lanesboro.
Float Down 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 take a short trip or a long trip. There are trips that take off from campgrounds or nearby outfitters. The sky is the limit to what you want to do.
See Related: 7 of The Best River Tubing in MN for a Summer of Fun
Want to get the Amish experience? Take a guided tour by Bluffscape Amish Tours of the region.
You don’t need to take an official tour though. You can do your own thanks to this Self-Guided map of the Amish farms in the community; you can do your own.
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.
Just some quick etiquette before you go. Don’t take photos of the Amish. Only visit an Amish Farm that has a business sign next to their driveway.
They are open every day but Sundays and Holidays. They are also a patriotical society so it’s polite to talk to the man first. Visiting is a great way to learn more about Amish Culture.
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. The Top MN Destinations You need to visit next
Shopping in Lanesboro MN
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.
Eat and Pedal Pushers
While there are a few different dining options in Lanesboro, we fell in love with Pedal Pushers. They are one of the best places to eat.
They source their ingredients from local farms nearby. With indoor and outdoor dining, you’ll have plenty of options. The food is all amazing.
Peddle Pushers allowed guests to do a completely contactless dining experience. Either by ordering on your smartphone at the table, or going up to the register. It not only sped up service but it helped with labor demands in town.
If you get the chance, I highly recommend visiting.
Visit the Lanesboro Dam
The newly remodel Lanesboro Dam is 190 feet long and 22 feet high. It is one of only 3% of dams like this in the United States that generates power. The historic dam was recently refurbished in 2020.
It is one of only six gravity arch dams left in the United States. In all my time visiting Lanesboro, I’m not sure how I missed this impressive foot of engineering. Today, people enjoy fishing at the base of the falls.
This is also a great place to have a picnic. There is plenty fo green space to spread out a blanket and enjoy the day.
Best Playground for Kids
Chatfield is another small town in the area. The thing that makes this town stand out is its great playground. It was so fun 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 capital 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 its opening safely.
Aroma Pie Shoppe
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 Whalan is accessible by car and is just a few minutes away from Lanesboro.
The ownership changed hands a few times but the recipes have always stayed the same. Stop in for a treat at this wonderful place.
Stand Still Parade
Speaking of Whalan, 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 is a festival you won’t see elsewhere.
For more information, check out my visit to the Stand Still Parade.
There are 19 different Creeks and Streams in Fillmore County where visitors can catch trout in. They have all kinds of different varieties including Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brook Stickleback, and more.
The MN DNR runs Minnesota’s largest cold-water production hatchery in Lanesboro. They can hatch 2.4 million trout eggs, and 100,000 pounds of trout are produced each year at this location for stocking our lakes.
The hatchery is reopening after a remodel in November of 2019, you’ll be able to stop in and get a tour.
See Related: Vermillion Falls and Old Mill Park in Hastings
Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center
Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center in Lanesboro, MN offers outdoor adventures with an educational experience for adults and kids alike. Primarily a day camp, or overnight, you’ll need to plan ahead on this one.
Located on a bluff overlooking the Root River, the center features a variety of outdoor activities including a high ropes course, canoeing and kayaking, hiking trails, a climbing wall, and a zip line.
With its stunning views of the river and surrounding landscape, the center is the perfect place for adventure.
For those seeking a more peaceful experience, the center also provides canoeing and kayaking trips along the Root River.
Both options are great for beginners, allowing you to take in the scenery and relax. There are also plenty of hiking trails to explore, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center is the perfect place to spend your day in Lanesboro, MN.
Lanesboro Arts is a vibrant cultural hub in Lanesboro, Minnesota, offering a wide range of activities and events for residents and visitors alike.
From its outdoor concerts in the summer to its art galleries and workshops throughout the year, Lanesboro Arts is the perfect place to explore the creative side of the community.
It’s also the ideal destination to discover the many things to do in Lanesboro, MN, including shopping, dining, gallery-hopping, and more.
With its commitment to regional artists and its dedication to bringing the community together, Lanesboro Arts is an essential part of the town’s culture, and a must-visit for anyone looking for things to do in Lanesboro, MN.
Sylvan Brewing in Lanesboro, Minnesota is a must-visit destination for locals and visitors alike. Located on the banks of the Root River, Sylvan Brewing offers a unique atmosphere that is perfect for sampling its selection of craft beers.
With a variety of styles to choose from, including IPAs, stouts, sours, and more, you will find something to please everyone’s taste buds.
In addition to its beer selection, Sylvan Brewing also offers a full menu of food and snacks to accompany your drinks.
With plenty of outdoor seating and a cozy atmosphere, Sylvan Brewing is a great spot to relax, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy a few pints with friends. If you’re looking for things to do in Lanesboro, MN, Sylvan Brewing should definitely be on your list!
Another Time Ice Cream
Another Time Ice Cream in Lanesboro, MN is an experience that you won’t want to miss. Located on the corner of Main Street and Bridge Street, this unique ice cream shop is a great place to spend a day with family or friends.
Offering over 40 flavors of ice cream, sherbet, and gelato, Another Time Ice Cream has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a classic chocolate or something more adventurous like a Rasberry fudge tort, you’ll find something to satisfy your sweet tooth.
In addition to the delicious ice cream, Another Time Ice Cream also offers a variety of other treats like Caribou Coffee, Shakes and Malts!
If you’re looking for things to do in Lanesboro, MN, Another Time Ice Cream is the perfect spot to make a stop. And after a few miles on the Root River Trail, this is a great reward at this charming place.
Where to stay?
Camping in Lanesboro MN
There are some great campgrounds in the area, including Sylvan Park. This is a city-run park that is first come first serve. They have 27 Camper sites with water & electricity. Hot showers. Approximately 35 tent sites.
Hotels and Bed and Breakfasts
Stone Mill Hotel and Suites in Lanesboro, Minnesota is the perfect destination for those looking to explore all the amazing things to do in Lanesboro, MN.
Located in the heart of the beautiful bluff country of Southeastern Minnesota.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a family vacation, a weekend escape, or a business trip, Stone Mill has something for everyone.
The hotel is in the Historic Mill. But that was just one of the many uses of the building over the years. Each of the rooms is themed to reflect the unique local history of the property.
Stop in for a tour or book a night.
What Else Can You Do?
I’ve barely scratched the surface of fun things to do in Lanesboro MN along the Root River Trail. If you get bored, yes, you can still Bike the Root River Trail. But with everything available, I’m sure you’ll fall in the love with the charm of Lanesboro too.