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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.
While I enjoyed the Root River trail from Lanesboro tut o Houston and back, It was anticlimactic or me. Yes....we were forced to miss the peak fall colors, but it was sunny but windy and cool....around 57. The best discovery was actually the Pedal Pushers Cafe in Lanesboro. The next day it was colder with highs flexing between 46 and 52....and NO sun. Despite this, it was the best ride of the weekend. LOVE this trail. Fun hills, good veiws, very few cyclists between Preston and Harmony. Estellas in Harmony....some of the best food anywhere on texting trail system. Drove up from Iowa City and will return.
I loved riding this trail. The northern portion near Preston follows the river, is mostly shaded, meanders and is an easy ride. The southern portion to Harmony is a little more challenging, zig-zags between crop field, is more open and has great vistas.
The last few miles to Harmony are cautioned as having "relatively steep hills". This is true, though they are not particularly scary. The hills are up-n-down and are fairly short... so even on the toughest hill if you can't make it to the top it is a nice, short walk to the top. No problemo.
Both Harmony and Preston have nice parks/facilities along the trail.
I rode this trail on a warm summer day in June Beginning at Harmony. This trail is extremely hilly with many winding curves, and three very long steep hills you have to navigate until you reach the bottom at Preston valley. It might be better starting in Preston, and hitting the hills going up to Harmony, and then having an easier ride back. The trail is approximately 24 miles between Harmony and the town of Fountain. The scenery consists of some wooded areas, but mostly open sun, so bring plenty of sun block along. There are a number of rest areas along the way, but the best one is at the Traihead Motel and snack shop in Preston. There you'll find rest room facilities, a place to sit to meet new friends, and enjoy an ice creme cone or sandwich. About 5.6 miles down the trail you'll find, as the locals like to call it, the junction where the Harmony-Preston Trail meets the Root River Trail. Going North from the junction takes you up a 5 mile steep incline to the town of Fountain. You need to be in good physical condition to make it to the top, but the ride back is worth the effort. You'll have many views of the south branch of the Root River along the trail, and a cool corridor where the trail passes among limestone bluffs.
This trail can be physically challenging, and I wouldn't recommend it for the novice.
A beautiful trail, ranging from easy rolling hills to (reportedly) very challenging climbs at the ends where it climbs out of the river valley. We stayed overnight in Lanesboro and rode the trails near the town, which are rolling and scenic but not difficult. We were there in June, 2008.
Shade: at least 50% of the trail in this area is shaded - always a plus on a warm day. Scenery: unremarkable 2nd-growth Minnesota woodland, but the trail parallels, crosses and re-crosses the Root River, which raises the scenery rating to well above average. Trailheads are handsome, easy to find and have plenty of parking. Towns: Lanesboro is delightful – cute as a button, always bustling even on a Sunday evening. There are lots of places to eat and even entertainment. Preston is less welcoming, but does have a 24-hour grocery store and a sandwich shop (which must be open some time, but not when we were there). Smaller towns are typically right on the trail and offer at least a shady little park to rest in. Lodging: B&Bs galore, with reservations easy to make through an outstandingly good town website. They do tend to fill up early on the weekends, however.
"My wife Theresa and I pulled our 4-year-old daughter Jennifer in the bike cart with our 8-year-old son Nathaniel riding his own bike. We started at Lanesboro on the Root River Trail and took the Harmony-Preston Valley trail to Harmony. It's a climb of about 500 feet, with much of the climb after Preston. The initial few miles of the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail are the best, between cliffs and the river, with lots of trees. Then the trail runs though farmland and woods.
Preston has a tank in a park that the kids loved, but no restrooms (big mistake). Preston basically doesn't seem to care if it profits from cyclists. Preston has a side trail about a mile long, with one side pretty along the river and cliffs, but the other side residential.
Between Preston and Harmony, the trail climbs about 400 feet in four steep climbs, with almost enough distance between each to get a break. Nathaniel considered the climbs easy, but he's not your typical 8-year-old, offering no complaints about a 48-mile ride with a 500-foot climb and making us look silly on the climb. Lance Armstrong watch out?!?!
Once you're up, you're in rolling terrain until Harmony. Harmony has at least three ice cream shops, which made the climb worthwhile. The trail has a lot of sun, including the steep climbs, so either leave early or do it on a day that isn't hot. For sunny, warm days, the nearby, interconnected, mostly more scenic, and much better shaded Root River Trail is a better choice.
The trip back down from Harmony to Lanesboro was fast and fun, but you definitely need to brake on the dives to keep at a safe speed. Be careful and don't run over any kids.
-Tom Baughman; Algonquin, IL"
"Although we don't usually go in for climbs, something about this trail keeps drawing us back (beyond the good restaurants in Harmony). We like to start in Lanesboro and make an early morning climb (fairly long and tiring) from Preston to Harmony. There's quite a variety of terrains, the possibility of catching a weekend horse show in Preston, the food in Harmony, and the high speed coast on your return. We like to base in Lanesboro for its accommodating bed-and-breakfasts and the chance to eat home-made bratwurst, sauerkrat and ice cream while listening to a live polka band."
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