Tracker Pixel for Entry

Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway

Outdoors | August 17th, 2021

By Dusty & Kelly Ratcliff

Diningduster.com

@diningduster on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter


Looking for a change of scenery? Consider the Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway, an 88-mile scenic drive stretching from Dexter, MN to just west of the Mississippi River in La Crescent, MN. You’ll be treated to bluffs to hike, green and lush rolling hills, charming villages, trails to bike, the Root River, and streams for trout fishing and all-around charm! Southeast Minnesota truly has it all, including an Amish community.

Known as the Driftless Area, meaning glaciers left this area untouched and left behind steep hills and deep river valleys, the southeast corner of Minnesota is unique and beautiful and will most definitely offer a change of scenery.

The Root River is very lush and basically the heart of this scenic byway and can be explored by bike, canoe, tube, or kayak. You’ll find quaint, artsy communities along the way to explore.

Bike riders will appreciate the Root River and Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail system as a major trail destination in all of Minnesota. This trail runs from Fountain and runs through the picturesque communities of Lanesboro, Whalen, Rushford, and Houston for 42 miles. The state trail is built on an abandoned railroad making much of the trail wheelchair accessible. So you may want to bring your bike along for this scenic byway or rent upon arrival.

Lodging options are plentiful on this scenic byway ranging from camping, cabins, a horse ranch, bed and breakfasts, and non-chain hotels.

Stop at the International Owl Center in Houston. This is the only all-owl education center in the entire United States. Check their website for special events held throughout the year.

Traveling with little ones? Let them explore the Natural Playground at Houston Nature Center. This is a one-acre playground where kids can look for buried fossils, use a hand water pump, climb through tunnels and caves or sit at a fire ring.

Preston is a cute town to stop for ice cream or rent canoes, tubes, and kayaks. Again, the Root River Trail goes right through town so it’s a quaint stop by bike, car, or kayak.

Just south of Preston, and slightly off the scenic byway discover the Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. You could easily spend hours or even the day exploring this state park. The cave remains 48 degrees year-round and is a maze of corridors with over twelve miles of passages. Learn about and see stalactites, stalagmites along with underground pools.

Back on the Byway, you must stop for a slice of “world-famous pie” at the Aroma Pie Shoppe in Whalen.

Lanesboro is the heart of Bluff Country and is also the Bed & Breakfast Capital of Minnesota. Research before you go to find cozy accommodations that fit your travel needs.

You’re not going to find any chain stores or fast-food franchises in Lanesboro. You will not find a simple traffic stoplight in the charming town but you will find a phone booth! You will also encounter a wonderful cultural experience with locally grown foods, wine and dining, local art galleries, and quaint, unique shopping.

You’ll notice bikes propped up and leaning all over town, you may be riding one yourself! Bike rentals are available throughout the area. Some people just walk or even rollerblade!

Check out the Stone Dam near downtown Lanesboro. It was built in 1868 and is registered as a historic spot. Look for a beautiful waterfall in the area. With the Root River going right through town, you can expect to hear the water while exploring Lanesboro.

You won’t find any breweries in Lanesboro but you’ll find plenty of locally-brewed beer at any of the restaurants scattered throughout town.

With all the trout fishing on the Root River, consider a guided fly-fishing trip with the Root River Rod Co. They also offer lodging in Lanesboro and have fishing gear for sale, whether you book a guided fly-fishing tour or not.

Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center is a campus that hosts people of all ages to learn about life outdoors and wildlife. They host educational training experiences for all ages. There are over nine miles of public hiking trails that can be enjoyed seven days a week. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the rock climbing wall. This is also a wonderful spot for birding and scenic overlooks. Eagle Bluff offers one of the most stunning overlooks of the Root River.

Preston is also known as “Minnesota’s Trout Capital” so it’s only fitting to learn more about trout fishing and even mushroom hunting at the National Trout Center (NTC). They host events throughout the year. You can also pick up a self-guided nine-hole trout fishing course. Guided fly fishing trips are available in the area as well.

If you’re thirsty, grab a beer at Trout City Brewing. They also offer wine and hard ciders (and soda pop) as well as coffee and light sandwiches.

Up the road in Fountain is known as the Sinkhole Capital of the United States. There are over 10,000 sinkholes of various sizes near Fountain and Harmony (a town just off the scenic byway). One of the largest sinkholes is located along the Root River in Fountain so don’t miss the opportunity to see that!

Winter is also a beautiful time to visit the Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway. Bike trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. Plan before you go as there is a seasonality to the area.

_________________

Kelly and Dustin Ratcliff are from Minnesota and are the writers of a Midwest travel blog, diningduster.com. Kelly & Dustin love to dine, drink and discover new things in the Midwest, especially Minnesota and its neighbors. They’re always on the hunt for a plant-based meal at local restaurants, love a good brewery and winery and discovering unique sights along the way. They are co-authors of their first anthology, “Midwest Road Trip Adventures.” 

RECENTLY IN

Outdoors

Tracker Pixel for Entry Bismarck1 Tracker Pixel for Entry pangea22 Tracker Pixel for Entry ParamountMar2022 Tracker Pixel for Entry High Plains Fair Housing Tracker Pixel for Entry Nononsense Tracker Pixel for Entry VFWJune VFWJune VFWJune VFWJune

Recently in:

By Laura Simmonslaurasimmons2025@u.northwestern.eduSummit Carbon Solutions approached North Dakota land owner Kurt Swensonin August 2021, requesting to lease out Swenson’s land to sequester, or store, carbon dioxide underground…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comExhibit recreates and examines the iconic bar’s legacyThere’s something to be said about a good bar. The really good ones serve as a sort of community living room, bringing folks from all walks…

Saturday, December 10, doors 8pm, show at 9pmThe Aquarium, FargoHeavy fuzz rock straight outta Fargo with Hevvy Swetter and Prediction of the Witch.“Closely related to stoner rock, it tends to focus upon downtuned, heavy guitar.…

By HPR Staffsubmit@hpr1.comOur opinion: How can it be 17 years?It’s hard to believe that Ralph’s has been gone for 17 years. I was lucky enough to experience the tail end of its legacy, though technically I wasn’t old enough…

By Ed Raymondfargogadly@gmail.com A Critical Fact: To Fully Understand a Country, One Must Know Its HistoryWe have state legislatures attempting to prevent pre-schools through universities from teaching the real history of our…

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

By Rick Gionrickgion@gmail.comAs someone who’s written a lot of feature stories and press releases, it’s tempting to write something cheesy as a lead for this month’s column. But, instead, this column will actually feature…

By Martin Beckmanbeckmanniscool@gmail.comSpec is a new hardcore band from the Fargo area featuring Josh on guitar, Ethan on vocals, Austin on guitar, Landon on bass and Robby– drummyboy. Spec has been creating waves with their…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.com“Citizenfour” Oscar-winner Laura Poitras profiles photographer and activist Nan Goldin in “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.” Like its talented subject, the movie cannot be confined to a…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comIf you’ve ever driven down the Enchanted Highway, the 32-mile ribbon of road connecting Regent to Gladstone in western North Dakota, home to the world’s largest salvaged metal sculptures,…

By Jessica M. Hawkesjmhawkes84@gmail.comIt wasn’t long after the founding of the railroad and river town of New Rockford that entertainment venues started to put down their own roots. Its population bolstered by booms of nearby…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comCharlie Berens is a man of many hats. The creator of the “Manitowoc Minute” is a newsman, comedian, writer and musician. We had the opportunity to speak with the Wisconsin native about his new…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

By John Showalter  john.d.showalter@gmail.comThey sell fentanyl test strips and kits to harm-reduction organizations and…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comPhoto by: Michelle Tait, Memory Makers Old Time PhotographyIn August URL Radio personality Stacy Sturm knew she wanted to do something for Halloween. She tossed around the thought of a Halloween…

By Waylon Hedegaardretiringwithcats@gmail.comFor all those who still decry my departure from the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian faith, understand that I will never return. I see the examples you set and want no part of…