Harmony/Preston Valley Trail Log
Gentle hills, great views
The 12.3 mile paved trail between Harmony and Preston links this unique part of the state to the Root River Trail System offering a wider variety of conditions than most trails.
Aside from the flat railroad bed there are curves, hills, woods and tall grass prairie with great views.
It starts moving through farm fields, winding its way through hills and woods to finish in quiet limestone cliffs and gurglings waters.
It’s the perfect ride for those who’d like a change from the traditional trail over abandoned railroad routes. This ride has some of that, but the curves and hills will get your heart pumping and spirits soaring. Or you can take the hills slowly to keep the sense of stillness. Don’t avoid this segment just because of a few hills; you’ll miss the fun.
This ride begins in Harmony and ends in Preston, where you can go another 5.5 miles and connect to the Root River State Trail; go as far as you want to go.
You can park in the lot at the Harmony Visitor Center (which has rest rooms and drinking water) at the entrance to downtown or at the large trailhead (that has lots of parking but no water) off Hwy. 52 just north of the downtown.
Highlights along the trail, from Harmony to Preston:
The following description has mileage markers in descending order to match the mileage markers on the trail that start at Isinours Junction north of Preston (at M0) and finish at Harmony (at M17.8)
•M16.8 After snaking through an industrial area and then the quiet of some woods and fields, the trail follows a road for a half mile before turning into farm country again.
•M15.9 A warming hut.
•15.7 A nice hill climbs .2 miles; bigger ones await you.
•M15.4 The trail crosses a dirt road and then turns sharply to the right and continues through farm land. Enjoy the wide-open look and feel, plus the ups and downs along the way.
•M14.3 Still enjoying the nice hills?
•M14.1 Now the real hills begin, and a couple more are ahead; they take you up and then let you coast down.
•M12.7 A sign warns you a steep hill is ahead. Believe it. This is going to be fun for about a half-mile, but hold on. As soon as you get to the base of the hill, slow down, because the trail turns sharply to the left so brake or you’ll hit a wall of stone.
•M12.2 Another steep hill greets you, so watch carefully so you don’t skid off the shoulder. You won’t need to pedal much for another 3/4 mile or so; enjoy the scenic view from atop the world, but watch where you’re going.
•M11.4 As the trail descends and crosses the river, the trail bridge joins an older stone bridge that is worth a stop and look-see. The trail is now down in the valley, following the babbling river most of the time, and nearly all flat.
•M11.2 The trail crosses Hwy. 16 and then heads up a short hill with an interpretive sign explaining weeds and grasses at 11.1.
•M11 That knob of a hill in front of you is typical of the three you’ll see between here and Preston. Much lower than those up in the limestone bluffs, right? While this writer stopped to enjoy this quiet scene one early September morning, a little deer tip-toed in the brush trying to figure out if it was safe to cross the trail in front of a cyclist.
•M9.5 A bridge crosses Camp Creek. It’s the first of about a half-dozen. After the heavy rains and flooding of 2000, this bridge was moved by the force of the water and was eventually raised when it was moved back. On the left, you can still see the uprooted trees that show the force of the water in the creek that now barely gurgles.
•M8.8 An interpretive sign says that Camp Creek is about 48 degrees year around, perfect for trout. There’s a picnic table on the trail right-of-way, but respect the private property beyond.
•M8.2 The trail crosses a road and leaves the woods to cut through open pasture for about a half-mile, but farmland and cows will pop up for a long ways, to M6.7.
•M6.7 An interpretive sign explains the project to turn weeds into grasses and flowers.
•M6.2 A trail spur leads down to the river; brake before you go in.
•M6 The trail crosses the river on a bike lane of the bridge, over a busy highway and then follows the river. On the other side of the river is the segment that goes from Preston to the Isinours Junction with the Root River State Trail.
•M5.5 The trail head at Preston gives you several options: A nice place to rest before returning (by bike or shuttle) to Harmony or continuing to the Root River trail, or following the one-mile segment along the river that goes around the southern and western side of Preston, with access to downtown.
The narrative of the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail continues in the Preston section.
Preston to Root River
Cyclists looking for a variety of biking experiences will enjoy Preston, a trailhead for three biking opportunities, all quite different from one another but all enjoyable for what they offer. The city has access to the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail, Root River Trail and a short in-town trail.
•A 5.5 mile segment of the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail going north follows the Root River through woods and farm fields and across several bridges to its junction with the Root River Trail at Isinours. From their cyclists can go 6.5 miles west to Fountain or 25.8 miles east all the way through Lanesboro, Whalan, Peterson and Rushford to the end of the trail in Houston.
•The 12.6 mile segment of the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail going south takes cyclists along the Root River as well, but also heads up high in the hills of limestone on a meandering course that is more challenging, with all kinds of curves and hills to climb —and coast down.
•Preston also has its own in-town trail (Trout Run Trail) that follows the river through residential areas with access to downtown. That one-mile segment will eventually take cyclists westward many more miles on still another paved trail west to Forestville State Park and beyond.
The three trails are all accessible from the trailhead that has lots of parking, spacious bathrooms, water and shelter, as well as vending machines and a privately-run bike business and lodging facility.
This page highlights the 5.5 mile meandering segment on the north side of the river from Preston north to the Isinours Junction with the Root River Trail.
(The 12.5 mile segment on the south side of the river from Preston to Harmony is featured in the Harmony section that follows.)
The trailhead is located in the southeast corner of Preston on Fillmore St.; watch for signs on Hwys. 16 and 52.
Highlights along the trail, the Isinours Segment, beginning at Preston:
The following description has mileage markers in descending order to match the mileage markers on the trail that start at Isinours at M0. Preston is at M5.5
•M5.3 Greeting you is an old military tank brought to this site through the efforts of many veterans in commemoration of the end of World War II.
Just ahead to your left is a large, stone residence that was at one time a brewery that produced “Forget me Not” beer; respect the owners’ privacy and stay on the trail as you pass. On the right is a short, paved trail that leads down to a fishing platform on the Root River.
•4.6 Just after you cross under Highways 52-16 is a young tree plantation that, as the years go by, keeps growing taller. Signs indicate each species.
•M4.3 The trail leaves town and highway noise recedes, so quiet and a sense of relaxation settle in. For the next two miles or so, the trail will skirt limestone bluffs and flirt with the Root River that always seems to be close by.
•M4 The trail takes a loooooong left turn.
•M3.6 On a 7 a.m. ride one early September day, about a dozen young turkeys were milling about the trail. Some ran into the woods, others flew to the trees. Yes, turkeys can fly; they roost in trees at night. Turkeys can often be seen along the trails, especially at dawn and dusk.
•M3.3 You’ll go through a tunnel of trees; limestone is on the left and gurgling sounds are on the right.
•M2.7 You’re right next to a limestone cliff with a 90-degree face; take a break at the shelter, which is at the midpoint of this segment.
•M2.6 A ski hut offers shelter if it’s raining.
•M2.3 to M2 The trail is out in the open by farmland.
•M2 The trail leaves the original railroad bed for a half-mile jog around a farm and along river bottom. The contrast between field and river vegetation is apparent, as are tree species.
•M1.4 The trail takes a sharp right as it rejoins the old railroad bed and crosses the Root River. The next 1.4 miles travel through mostly-wooded areas with the sound of running water always close by as the trail crosses another bridge over the Root River again and yet another over Watson Creek.
•M0 The trail hooks up with the Root River Trail; go left (west) 6.5 miles to Fountain or right (east) 4.7 miles to Lanesboro. This could also be a rest area; a table awaits you.
The narrative of the Harmony/Preston Valley Trail continues in the previous Fountain-Lanesboro section.