Onalaska is linked to over 101 miles of exceptional state bicycle trails and is located at the juncture of the Great River State Trail and the La Crosse River State Trail, two of the Midwest’s most beautiful bicycling trails. The country roads surrounding Onalaska also provide excellent bicycling. What makes bicycling in Onalaska so special is the fantastic scenery provided by the Mississippi River bluffs, rolling hills and sprawling wetlands.
The Great River State Trail
DNR Report 5/23/2014 – Spring wildflowers have now come out for you to enjoy. The wild plum trees are in full bloom and you can smell their sweet fragrance as you bike by. Warblers are migrating through the area and are easier to see with the leaves not yet filled out on the trees. – Lois Larson, manager
Take a pedal down the Mississippi River on the Great River State Trail. Enjoy 24 miles of the most beautiful scenery in the Midwest. The trail traverses along 18 different waterways, crosses over the Black River on a 287-foot former railroad trestle, and follows Lake Onalaska and the BNSF railway. Pass through Mississippi River bottomlands, visit Nicholls Hopewell Mound, and the Upper Mississippi and Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuges. From its trailhead in Onalaska, all the way to Trempealeau, the Great River State Trail is one beautiful landscape after another and is perfect for any type of bicycle. Nearly 70,000 visitors per year enjoy this fantastic trail.
One bird watcher took a spring ride along the Great River State Trail and was not at all disappointed by the wealth of bird species she saw. The Great River State Trail is along the Mississippi Flyway an important migratory route for birds. Check out what she had to say about her trip here.
Road construction has caused a short detour on the connection between the Great River State Trail and the La Crosse River State Trail in Onalaska. Signs are up, but a helpful map can be downloaded here.
The La Crosse River State Trail
The 21.5 mile La Crosse River State Trail follows the winding route of the La Crosse River, taking bicyclists from Onalaska to Sparta. As you pedal the La Crosse River State Trail, you’ll enjoy bridges over crystal clear trout streams and picturesque farms. Like the Great River State Trail, the La Crosse River State Trail has a smooth surface that can accommodate both road bicycles and mountain bikes. Part of the trail even runs parallel to an active rail line.
For more information on all four connecting trails, visit www.bike4trails.com.
Human Powered Trails takes you up into the bluffs of the coulee region. From beginners (take the Prairie Loop or the La Crosse Ridge Loop) to the seasoned (try the Darkside or the French Connection), there are some great biking opportunities!
A great resource for road biking tours throughout west central Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota can be found here: http://www.bicyclelacrosse.com/
Repairs and Rentals
For bicycle repairs or rentals visit Kevin at Blue Heron Bicycle Works or Emily at River City Trails both bike shops are located near the bike trail in Onalaska.
Blue Heron Bicycles or 608-783-7433
River Trail Cycles or 608-519-5757
Blue Heron Bicycles offers one way bike rentals along the Great River State Trail to their sister shop, Green Heron Bicycles, in Trempealeau.
Bike Trail Shuttle Service
A-1 Taxi (up to 2 people/2 bikes)
Bee Cab (up to 2 people/2 bikes)
CTS Taxi (Call for more information)
Train Depot to the Great River State Bike Trail
Riding the Amtrak into the area? Here’s how to get from the train depot in La Crosse to the trails.
Begin on St. Andrew Street – head east to Avon Street
Turn south onto Avon toward Monitor Street
South on Monitor Street (by Menards), go over the bridge (over the La Crosse River)
East on the gravel trail right after the bridge, it goes directly to the 3 Rivers Trail.
After you go through the marsh, turn north and follow the bike trail signs.
(Approx. 3 miles)
Looking for a Challenge?
Did you know you can ride from Onalaska to Chicago with most of the route on rails to trails? Local rider Scott McMurray was kind enough to share with us his route for a six day journey from Onalaska to Chicago with a ride back home on the Amtrack Empire Builder.
Visit the WI DNR for more information on the Great River State Trail and the La Crosse River State Trail and to check the trail conditions.