The Harmony–Preston Valley State Trail runs 18 miles on a north-south line between the town of Harmony and the Root River State Trail, which it meets between Lanesboro and Fountain. The paved trail is mostly level, although a section just north of Harmony is relatively steep.
An old railroad right-of-way creates the foundation for the northern two-thirds of the Harmony–Preston Valley State Trail. The northern portion of this section passes through lush woodlands and farmlands as it winds along and across Watson Creek, the South Branch of the Root River, and Camp Creek.
The southern portion begins in Harmony, noted for its rich Amish heritage and green business operations today. The trail leaves the railroad grade and climbs up through some of its most challenging sections as it continues north out of the river bottom to the valley rim, offering broad vistas of the surrounding countryside. Just 0.5 mile from Harmony, an interpretive site highlights some of the glacial history of the area.
Settled in 1853 alongside the Root River, Preston’s history is that of a southern Minnesota milling town. From Preston, continuing another 5.5 miles north and casually paralleling the South Branch of the Root River, the trail links up with the Root River State Trail just east of Isinours Junction (and a northern trailhead parking option), providing an additional 42 miles of trail network.
The Harmony–Preston Valley State Trail is popular with cyclists, hikers, and in-line skaters; cross-country skiing is popular during winter. Local waters offer some of the best trout fishing in southern Minnesota. Forested hills and meandering valley streams and creeks are all part of the natural character of this trail. Although a lot of wildlife can be observed along this trail, Minnesota’s timber rattlesnake is perhaps the most ominous. Though infrequent, they can typically be found among rock outcrops, along river bottoms or even warming themselves right on the trail. The timber rattlesnake is a protected state species and should be respected, along with all wildlife.
Restrooms and parking are available at the trailhead centers in both Preston and Harmony. Both towns also have a bicycle tune-up station located at each trailhead. The trail managers warn users not to leave valuables in their cars while enjoying the trail.
In Harmony, there are two places to park: Take I-90 to Exit 218. Turn left onto US 52 S., and go 37.2 miles to Fourth St. N.W. Turn right onto Fourth St. N.W, and go 0.2 mile west to the parking lot on the left.
Alternatively, park at the tourist information center at the end of Second St. N.W. just off Main St. Take I-90 to Exit 218. Turn left onto US 52 S., and go 37.3 miles. Turn right onto Main Ave. N., and immediately turn right onto Second St. N.W. for the tourist information center parking lot.
To the trailhead in Preston, take I-90 to Exit 218. Turn left onto US 52 S., and go 26.8 miles. Turn right onto St. Paul St. N.W., and go 0.3 mile. Turn left onto Fillmore St. Parking will be on the left in 0.2 mile.
Parking is also available at Isinours Junction, about 0.8 mile west of the junction with the Root River State Trail north of Preston. Take I-90 to Exit 218. Turn left onto US 52 S., and go 21.5 miles. Turn left onto County Road 8, and go 4.2 miles. Turn right onto CR 17. In 1.8 miles turn right onto a gravel road. The lot is 0.5 mile down the road. Head east on Root River State Trail, and go 0.8 mile to the junction with Harmony–Preston Valley State Trail. Turn right.