The Fillmore County seat is quite a bit larger than Lanesboro, but a whole lot quieter due to the scarcity of tourists. “America’s Trout Capital,” as Preston has declared itself, is tucked into a deep bend of the South Branch Root River, and the fishing is superb from here all the way up to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.
For most, the main reason to come to Preston is to leave it, either along the river or via the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail. The 14-mile trip by water to Lanesboro has just a few small riffles and is a much less traveled route than that below Lanesboro, though this is in part because it is a difficult run when water levels are low.
If you call ahead you can tour the Pro-Corn Ethanol Plant (701 Industrial Dr. N., 507/765-4548, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri., free admission).
The simple Trailhead Inn (112 Center St., 507/765-2460, www.trailhead-inn.com, $55), sitting right where it says it does, has 11 fairly large rooms.
The fanciest rooms in town are at the JailHouse Inn (109 Houston St. NW, 507/765-2181, www.jailhouseinn.com, $82). The 1869 brick building did serve as the courthouse and jail, but it has been completely gutted and gussied up, and now the only evidence of its former use are the room names and the original bars left behind in the “Cell Block.” Each of the 12 cozy rooms has a unique touch, whether that’s Amish furnishings, antique decorations, or claw-foot tubs, and there are some whirlpool suites. A full breakfast is included.
One mile south of town, off County Highway 17 right between the river and the trail, is The Old Barn Resort (507/467-2512 or 800/552-2512, www.barnresort.com, $34 with full hook-up, $25 hostel bed). The massive campground (130 RV and 40 tent sites) is as crowded as you’d expect it to be, but the location makes it a good choice anyway. The barn itself houses the offices, a busy restaurant, a game room, and a four-room, 44-bed hostel in the basement, while a swimming pool and 18-hole golf course surround it.
Another vast campground is the grassy Maple Springs Campground (21606 County Road 118, 507/352-2056, www.maplespringscampground.com, $18 tent, $25 full hookup), as groomed as a city park. There are 69 sites and a well-stocked store on-site.
Locals looking for a nice night out come from across the county to dine at the Branding Iron (1100 Circle Heights Dr., 507/765-3388, 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Tues.–Thurs. and Sun., 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $7–22), a casual supper club perched above town along U.S. 52.
Get sandwiches to go or eat in the simple bakery at the Sweet Stop & Sandwich Shop (110 St. Anthony St. S., 507/765-9956, www.sweetstop.net, 7:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat., closed Sun.).
The Trailhead Inn and Old Barn rent bikes, and the Old Barn also has inner tubes and canoes.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition