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Biking for Pie: A Weekend on the Root River State Trail

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Farm along the Root River State Trail in southern Minnesota

Biking for Pie: A Weekend on the Root River State Trail

By Zoey Cole

When I was young, my family took many trips to Lanesboro to bike the Root River State Trail, but as my sister and I got older, our busy lives kept us from returning.

So when my sister accepted a new job as a nurse, we decided to celebrate with a trip to our old haunts along the Root River Valley. The 42-mile trail offers some of the most stunning views in southeastern Minnesota, including wildflower fields and limestone bluffs overflowing with trees.

Bicyclist rides on a bridge above the Root River

Ride the scenic, 42-mile Root River State Trail through the heart of Minnesota's Bluff Country

Friday Evening: A Ride Down Memory Lanesboro

As kids, we camped with our parents in Lanesboro’s Sylvan Park, learning to fish in the park’s well-stocked ponds. When we rolled into town Friday evening, we drove around the park, the tennis courts and the fishing ponds. My sister pointed out the Lanesboro Dam and reminded me of when we tried to “free” my dad’s bait minnows into the falls.

Instead of camping, we booked the Bicycle Loft Suite at Stone Mill Hotel and Suites, a converted granary built circa 1885.

We unpacked our bags before walking to Pedal Pushers Café for Norwegian meatballs and a hearty chef salad. That night, we tucked ourselves under quilts made by the area’s legendary Amish craftswomen.

Bicyclists get ready to cross the street in downtown Lanesboro

Downtown Lanesboro is chock full of shops, restaurants and bicyclists

Saturday: Biking to Aroma Pie Shoppe

On Saturday morning, we walked to the Lanesboro Pastry Shoppe for hash browns and fried eggs, then picked up our rental bikes at Little River General Store.

We started biking down the Scenic Downtown Pathway and headed out for the 28-mile round trip from Lanesboro to Peterson and back. We biked along the lively Root River through Bluff Country’s rich natural beauty, craggy outcroppings and prairies sprinkled with goldenrod.

After thirty minutes, we arrived in Whalan where a heavenly Aroma awaited.

Woman eating pie with ice cream

Get a taste of Minnesota's homemade pies / Progressman - adobe.stock.com

Housed in a small, yellow-sided building, the Aroma Pie Shoppe in Whalan is a local legend with a perpetual line out front. As we waited, we argued over what flavors to split. Aroma sells pies rapidly, so we had to figure out our top choices: chocolate cashew, strawberry rhubarb, and my personal favorite, sour cream lemon.

After a couple slices of pie, we continued to Peterson, where we stopped at the Station Museum and ate burgers and fries at Burdey’s Café. As we biked back, the sky grew darker over the bluffs and a flock of wild turkeys strutted across the trail. We back arrived in Lanesboro just in time to catch the sunset from Sylvan Park.

Period actors schuck corn at Historic Forestville

Living history interpreters schuck corn at Historic Forestville in Preston

Sunday: Fishing & Exploring in Historic Forestville

On Sunday morning, we packed up the car and drove to Historic Forestville, with fishing rods our father (an avid fisherman) had insisted we bring. We spent the afternoon fishing and exploring the town, established in 1853 when settlers from England, Ireland, Germany and Holland arrived. Forestville’s well-preserved buildings make it feel like you’re stepping into the 1800s.

With the quiet of the day, we reflected on our first camping trip so many years ago and how much we both still loved this part of Minnesota. Even after so much time, there’s still new beauty (and new pie flavors) to find.

Antique shop in Harmony

Shop for antiques and Amish-made goods in Harmony

More to See & Do

In nearby Harmony, visit the Amish Farmers Market on Saturdays from May to October. The baked goods, quilts, and baskets make for excellent, handcrafted gifts, and there are Amish tours of the town available too.

The Root River is also great for kayaking and canoeing. Historic Forestville is a great place to start, and you can take out in Preston (five-hour trip, approximately). While you’re in Forestville, you’ll also want to see Mystery Cave.

Zoey Cole

Zoey Cole is a reader and writer from Southeast Minnesota. She works in book publishing, and enjoys Midwest summers and cross-country skiing.