Bicycling on the Wisconsin Great River Road

River Travel Media/La Crosse Local

Life Along Wisconsin’s Great River Road And Why You Need To Go


Bicycling does a lot more than just provide exercise.

Studies show it helps you sleep better, look better, increases your brain power and makes you live longer. In many areas, it even gets you to your destination faster.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy two wheels along Wisconsin’s Great River Road, the 250 miles of Highway 35, which runs adjacent to the Mississippi River from Kieler, Wis., in the south, to Prescott in northern Wisconsin.

No matter your biking style, one of these locations is likely to fit the bill:

Bike on trails

The Great River State Trail has a finely crushed limestone surface and follows an abandoned railroad line, which means it is easy for the whole family to bike together safely. This 24-mile trail travels from La Crosse to Onalaska to Trempealeau and beyond. Note the wildflowers as you bike through the prairies and the wildlife living in the backwaters of the Mississippi River Valley. This trail is particularly notable because it is inside the Mississippi River migratory bird flyway; passes through two national wildlife refuges; and is part of the state trail system that connects all the way to Reedsburg, Wis.

Mountain biking beauty

Those mountain bikers wanting a more rugged adventure should hit the rolling hills of Wyalusing State Park in Bagley, Wis. It has trails totaling 7 miles that are classified as easy to intermediate so they are perfect for beginners and families. Some describe the Mississippi Ridge Trail as challenging, but it’s hard to resist a 1.8 mile ride along the bluff that ends with such a picturesque view of the Mississippi River. Besides, after the ride, there are other fabulous sites to explore on foot including a small limestone cavern called Treasure Cave and some waterfalls. It’s a favorite state park for many campers, so why not make it a weekend?

Road bikers rejoice

The Great River Road isn’t just for cars. Road biking is especially popular with those who like exploring quaint little towns and witnessing the splendor of the bluffs at a slower pace. Some spots of the road are more desirable than others due to road width and traffic, but all it takes is a little planning. A 38-mile stretch from Nelson to Hagar City on the north end hits several cute river towns with neat mom-and-pop businesses. A southern stretch from Lynxville to Genoa features a trip through Ferrryville, a community built on a ledge between the Mississippi River and the bluffs that may be the longest one-street village in the world.

Serious mountain bikers wanted

Want a spot where mountain biking trails are rated easy, intermediate and difficult? Hixon Forest in La Crosse has 800 acres of bluff land and wildlife, and some of its bike trails get pretty steep. Hixon Forest hosted the 8th event in the Wisconsin Off-Road Series racing in 2018, and promoters promised “thrilling challenges through rock gardens, root tangles and punchy climbs with fast descents.” Especially appealing is the fact you can ride the trails from Hixon Forest through the La Crosse River Marsh to get to hotels in downtown La Crosse. Make it a weekend of nonstop biking. Park your car at the hotel on Friday and leave it until it’s time to go home Sunday.

Meet the Writer

Anastasia Penchi

Anastasia Penchi is a self-employed writer who lives just off Wisconsin’s Great River Road. You can read more about Wisconsin’s Great River Road, and the festivals and people of Western Wisconsin, at the Web site: