a countryside of gurgling creeks, emerald pastures and
wooded bluffs. Several trout fishing streams wind
through these hills. The 42-mile Root River Bike Trail
has been a major draw to this area. Near its western end,
the Root River Trail links with the 18-mile Harmony-Preston Valley Trail.
Picturesque Lanesboro, right on the Root River
Trail, bustles with visitors who enjoy the art gallery,
antique and specialty shops, eateries, a plethora of B&Bs
and excellent productions at the Commonweal Theatre,
a professional company that offers plays year-round.
There are bike rentals in town, as well as canoe, kayak
and tube rentals for the river.
Other villages along the Root River Trail include
Houston, Rushford, Peterson, Whalan and Fountain.
About 12 miles south of Houston, close to Caledonia is
the beautiful Beaver Creek Valley State Park, a quiet spot
for a hike through the woods.
Shops in Harmony sell Amish furniture, baskets
and quilts; tours take visitors to Amish homesteads to
buy crafts and bakery goods. Harmony also has several
antique shops. Nearby Niagara Cave is one of the
Midwest’s largest caverns; highlights of the guided tours
include a 60-foot waterfall.
West of Preston, another trailside town, is
Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. Park
naturalists lead tours of the cave. At the
restored pioneer community of
Rochester Amish buggy near Preston
interpreters portray town residents from 1899 at the
general store and storekeepers’ residence. Hiking trails
explore the park’s wooded bluffs.
Rochester (pop. 102,400), about 30 miles north of
the Bluff Country area, has numerous hotels and
restaurants. The city draws visitors for shopping,
entertainment, and medical services. Frequently named
as one of the most livable cities in the U.S., Rochester has
a symphony orchestra, art center, theaters and
performances by top-name entertainers at the Mayo
Root River Trail near Lanesboro
The city is home to the Mayo Clinic, which has a
worldwide reputation as a medical research and
treatment center and draws patients from around the
globe. This impressive international medical center
began a century ago as a small family practice founded
by Charles and William Mayo and their father. A more
personal side of the Mayo heritage can be explored by
touring Mayowood, the 57-room mansion built by Dr.
Charles Mayo in 1911. The History Center has exhibits
on the Mayo Clinic and other Olmsted county history.
This city of parks and trails is the southern anchor of
the Douglas State Bike Trail, which runs for 13 miles
north to Pine Island. West of Rochester is the village of
Mantorville, with architecture dating to the 1850s, now
home to antique and specialty shops. Once a stagecoach
stop, a popular restaurant here has served diners since
1856. The Mantorville Theatre Company presents
melodramas, comedies and musicals at the Historic
At the western edge of Bluff Country, the landscape
becomes less hilly as the terrain meets the eastern side
of the Minnesota’s prairielands. Ribbons of prairie
border the 31-mile Shooting Star Scenic Byway, linking
four small farm towns. At Taopi, there’a a path through a
small prairie and an information kiosk about prairie
plants. The paved, 9-mile Shooting Star Bike Trail runs
between Taopi and LeRoy, and passes through Lake
Louise State Park, a quiet spot on an old millpond.