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Great River State Trail
255 Riders Club Rd
Onalaska, WI 54650
Wisconsin State Park System Great River State Trail
This 24-mile trail travels through prairies and backwaters of the upper Mississippi River valley. Built on an abandoned Chicago-Northwestern railroad line, the trail has a finely crushed limestone surface suitable for walking and bicycling for much of the year and snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. The Great River trail is within a larger area called the Mississippi Flyway and passes through two National Wildlife Refuges.
The trail is in Wisconsin's scenic Coulee Region, part of the Driftless Area that was untouched by glaciers during the last Ice Age. Visitors to the Great River trail will enjoy the changing wetlands of the Mississippi River backwaters, 500-foot bluffs, hardwood forests, unique sand prairies and oak savannahs. The Great River Trail Prairie and the Midway Railroad Prairie are state natural areas with direct access from the trail.
The Great River State Trail links to the La Crosse River State Trail via a short road route in the city of La Crosse.
The trail may bring a number of different users to the trail at the same time. It is important to use good trail etiquette to ensure the enjoyment and safety of all trail users.
Walking and bicycling
The level grade and limestone surface make this trail suitable for bicyclists, walkers and joggers. A state trail pass is required for bikers 16 years of age and older.
Pet owners, please be sure to have your pet on a leash, 8 feet or shorter, at all times. You must pick up after your pet.
Near Trempealeau, there is direct access from the trail to Perrot State Park where camping is available. In addition to camping, the park offers hiking trails, canoeing and fishing opportunities and a nature center. Perrot State Park was a natural landmark for the Hopewell Native American culture, which built many mounds along the Mississippi River Valley.
Canoeing and kayaking
Lytles Landing is a primitive canoe launch area along the Black River. Parking, water and vault toilets are available. The Great River State Trail is ideal for a bike and paddle trip. Sections of this former rail corridor parallel the Mississippi River. You can paddle downstream and then bike back to your starting point or vice versa.
Snowmobiles are permitted on the trail. Operators must follow all Wisconsin snowmobile laws. The trail also connects to numerous miles of county snowmobile trails.
The opening and closing of snowmobile trails is at the discretion of each county, including the snowmobile trails which cross DNR lands. Whenever possible, the opening and closing of snowmobile trails is done on a county-wide basis, however localized conditions may require localized trail opening and closing. It is the responsibility of the county to provide notification about the status of snowmobile trails. The Travel Wisconsin Snow Conditions Report, and local club and county snowmobile web pages and telephone hotlines will provide the most current information.
The trail is open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, however, the trail is not groomed and skiers and snowshoers must share the trail with snowmobiles. Skiers do not need a trail pass while using the trail.
The Great River State Trail corridor is open to hunting from County Highway ZN in La Crosse County northwest, approximately 10 miles, to the Village of Trempealeau limits in Trempealeau County. Then, from approximately two miles past the northwest limits of the Village of Trempealeau, at Lehman Road northwest, approximately 3 miles, to the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge access road at the junction of West Prairie Road, for a total of approximately 13 miles. These sections are open during the Wisconsin state parks hunting time frame. For more information, please see:
Part of the Mississippi River Trail
The Great River State Trail is part of the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), a designated bicycle route that travels from the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca, Minnesota to the Delta at the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. It is a 3000-mile system of bicycle-friendly roads and multi-use pathways. The MRT is a "string of pearls" that connects 10 states, the cities of Minneapolis, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans and hundreds of smaller towns along the way. The MRT is a unique way to experience the Mississippi River’s natural wonders, transportation system, recreational facilities and cultural heritage. Most of the MRT in Wisconsin is routed on Highway 35, the Great River Road.
- Wisconsin's Great River Road
- Mississippi River Trail - Bicycle Map
- Mississippi River Trail - Wisconsin segment
Parking is available in the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, Perrot State Park, Lytles Landing, Midway and Onalaska.
Department of Tourism listings
More in the area
- Bike 4 Trails
- La Crosse
- Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge
- Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge
- Winona, MN