Bicycling in the Driftless Region

Self-supported Rides

Bike Ride GuidesThe routes here all have several things in common. They are all designed to be able to be ridden self-supported. There is generally a stop every 25-35 miles at a convenience store. The routes stay on low traffic roads or those with bicycle facilities, whenever feasible. Beautiful scenery and great terrain rank high when choosing routes to be included in our selections listed below.

A discussion of riding in the area would not be complete without a few words about our hills. We do not have any mountains with hour-long climbs, but we do have plenty of hills with grades ranging from 6-13% with short pitches in the 15-20% range. Our base elevation is 600 feet above sea level, so we have plenty of oxygen and very few climbs have over 500 feet of elevation gain. Generally, we consider an elevation gain of 100-200 feet a small climb, 201-350 feet a moderate climb, and 351-500 feet a big climb. Please note that even with a steep grade, even the smaller hills can be very tough. While it is possible to create an easy ride with few hills, it is also possible to map out a route that averages 10,000 feet of climbing every 10 miles. Our maps include both and many in between.

The “Driftless Region,” or Paleozoic Plateau, of southwestern Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota, and northeastern Iowa is known for its steeply carved river valleys (known as coulees) and spectacular bluffs. This unique geography is due to the area having escaped unscathed from the glaciers during the last Ice Age. The region covers roughly 16,000 square miles and has elevations ranging from 600 feet – 1,700 feet above sea level.

This hilly terrain would not be home to some of the nation’s best road rides were it not for Wisconsin’s famous dairy farms. Without the thousands of miles of paved back roads, the milk produced by the dairy farms could not be transported to the area creameries in a timely manner. This vast network of paved, low traffic roads has become a wonderland for road cyclists.

Riders taste in routes varies as much as their taste in music. While some may want to hammer their brains out, others may prefer a smoother tune. The terrain and seeming endless choices of roads can provide a ride for anyone’s taste.

The rides mapped here were made by riders with decades of riding experience. We hope you enjoy our efforts to provide you with a sample of some of the best riding in our area!

Apple Blossom Loop 35 miles

ModerateGreat scenic loops starting with a big climb out of La Crescent along the scenic APPLE BLOSSOM DRIVE. If the timing is right you will be greeted with blossoming apple trees in the areas many orchards. After riding along one of the few bluff top roads that overlook the Mississippi river you descend into the Pine Creek Valley ( one of the areas many fine trout streams ) for the rolling ride back to La Crescent. Those opting for the longer route stay on top of the bluff longer and descend into the Root River valley before turning at Hokah for another big climb and more great bluff top riding before  descending into Brownsville for the return along the Mississippi river valley to La Crescent.

35 Miles

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Baristas Epic Coffee Ride 43 miles

EasyMapEasy ride with five easy climbs. Great warm up across the Mississippi river and a scenic up and back on opposite sides of the flat bottomed Root River valley. The halfway point is BARISTAS COFFEE HOUSE a very bicycle friendly café with plenty of spots to lean your bike against and lots of outdoor seating.


Route (44 miles)

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 Route (55 miles)

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Coon Valley Coulee Express 28,48,56 mile

Moderately-HardMapThree loops departing La Crosse to the North East with each longer loop adding and additional climbs. All loops start with a small climb before the fast descent into Barre Mills. This is a warm up before the big climb on Cty YY up to top of  big ridge that Hwy 33 follows. The short route then heads back to La Crosse with a fast descent down Cty YY and back to the city on the HWY 14/61 shoulder.   The longer loops head east to St. Josephs Ridge and the first stop at the friendly local Star Market.  A big descent is then followed by a long gradual climb before the twisting descent on Hwy 162 into Coon Valley for the second stop at the local Kwik Trip. The 48 mile loop then follows Coon Creek to Chaseburg before the final big climb over church hill ( Cty K ) and back to LaCrosse. The long loop adds a monster of a climb up Sveum Ridge Road/Old mill road. This climb has grades as steep as 17-18 percent and a switchback though an old farm at the top with some additional rollers on the top before the descent to Chaseburg and the last climb on Cty K on the return to La Crosse.


Short Route (29 miles)

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Medium Route (48 miles)

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Long Route (56 miles)

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Driftless Regions Most Scenic Ride 59,82 mile

Moderately-HardMapChallenging ride with four big climbs. This ride goes through many of the areas diverse geological regions with numerous vistas of the Mississippi and Root river valleys. You will spend an equal amount of time on the bluff tops and in the valleys. The challenging climb up Tschumper rd. follows a ridge up the bluff instead of a valley like most climbs in the area and rewards you with many views that riders say rival those in southern Europe. With three convenience stores and A great coffee shop ( BARISTAS COFFEE HOUSE ) at the halfway point keeping fueled up will not be a problem. The ride concludes with a fast sweeping descent into La Crescent and an easy cool down across the Mississippi river back into downtown La Crosse.


Route (59 miles)

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Route (82 miles)

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Grandad Bluff Loop 23 Miles

ModerateMapShort loop with one easy and one hard climb. A local favorite with an easy hill before a fast descent into Barre Mills where the route turns south on some brand new pavement for a fast ride to the interstion of Cty FO. There a gradual climb starts and continues for just over a mile until you come to the Wall, the final steep stretch to the top of the ridge. A right turn takes you along the top of the ridge with a spur leading you to the beautiful overlook at the end of Grandad Bluff , the incredible view is worth the trip. The ride down the bluff is very twisting with blind curves so some caution is in order.

Route (23 miles)

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Brownsville- Hokah 32 mile loop

ModerateMapMostly easy ride with one moderately hard climb to the top of the ridge between Brownsville and Hokah MN. Start of ride crosses the Mississippi and follows the river valley to Brownsville where it turns inland and starts a steady climb to the top of the bluffs for a few miles before a fast sweeping downhill to Hokah. Those ready for a stop have a choice of several small local establishments or the local Kwik Trip. The route returns on either the wide shoulder of Hwy 16 or a slower ramble along the Root River on Cty Hwy 7 before turning back onto the river road.

32 miles

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Cheddarman 76 miles

DifficultMapThis is the hardest easy ride you will ever do.  Originally designed as a training ride for Ironman, Wisconsin, this is too much fun to just limit to triathletes.  With four moderate climbs this might not seem hard but the 60-70 “rollers” will fry your legs.  To claim to be a full Cheddarman, you would do the out and back and two loops for a total of 129 miles.  You will then want to get your obligatory “Cheddarman” tattoo on your right calf, just like your Ironman friends…  For most people one loop is more than enough and earns you the Cheddarman 76.4 title!  Comments from people who have done the Ironman, WI agree that this is much harder but awesome training.

 76 miles

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Norski Tur 50,75,100,125 miles

ModerateMapWith four options this tour explores the area south – east of La Crosse settled by Norwegen imigrants. With good roads a little traffic these are moderate rides with the exception of the big climbs. The topography of the area features big hills and longer valleys than some of the other rides in the area. With large hardwood forests this is a very colorful area in the fall. This year with the addition of the fourth loop riders will have the option of doing our first 200K ride.

50 miles

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75 miles

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100 miles

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125 miles

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Memorial Day Figure Eight 50-24,49 miles

Moderately-HardMapThe first major climb is at 4.5 miles and may make you wonder what you are getting yourself into.  But once you get past that everything gets easier.  The four climbs earns this ride a moderately hard designation but most of the ride is scenic and only moderately challenging.  The Figure Eight route passes through Mindoro twice where you can stop at a park or several businesses to hydrate and refuel. The tail end of the ride takes you through the Mindoro Cut, the largest remaining hand hewn rock cut in the nation which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service.  You will not be history when you finish this ride but feel a sense of accomplishment as you ride downhill with the wind at your back for the last eight miles of the ride back to the start at Lake Neshonoc (Swarthout Park) where you can take a dip in the lake to cool off when you are done.

50- 49 MILES

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Whitehall English Century 100 miles

MapModerateThis is a great first English Century at 100 miles with five moderate hill and mostly easy rolling terrain.  Great scenery, wildlife, small towns, and low traffic roads makes for a very enjoyable ride.  Four towns with convenience stores ensures your ability to hydrate and refuel your muscles.  The start/finish has a grocery store, coffee shop, bike shop and restaurants to take care of your needs without having to get in a car.  A great ride through the scenic backroads of Trempealeau County.

 100 miles

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North-East Route 63 miles

MapModerateA mostly moderate ride with two big and one moderate climbs that are rated hard. This route heads east up the La Crosse River valley before turning north and over the climbs the first is a moderate size climb that will get your heart rate up and prep you for the first big climb up Hwy E a steady steep challenging climb. After a turn in Mindoro you follow Hwy 108 up a twisting climb up to the famous Mindoro Cut before a very twisty descent and back to West Salem. Motorcyclists come from all over the midwest to do this stretch of road. The route then returns back to La Crosse on the same roads as the start.

63 miles

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June Dairy Days Classique

MapModerateThis is the current version of the oldest tour in the area. Originally known as LE COULEE CLASSIQUE the
current version is a moderately hard route with four medium climbs. What makes it more challenging is
the many rollers on the low traffic back roads in sand bottoms and valleys of the Black river valley. As you
head north from West Salem the forests change from mostly northern hardwoods to pines and other
softwoods typical of the sand areas north and east of the driftless region. With the many farms on the
route you will see many herds of the dairy cattle that helped make Wisconsin the dairy state. This route
returns via twisty hwy 108 through the famous Mindoro cut

Route (27 miles)

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Route (39 miles)

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Route (66 miles)

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La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival

Bike Fest Join us Labor Day weekend as we celebrate cycling in the Driftless Region at the La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival sponsored by Mayo Clinic Health System.  The festival will begin Friday and continue through the weekend at Cameron Park in historic downtown La Crosse.

Coming 2015

Coming 2015

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Brent Hanifl
Director of Media & Membership

La Crosse Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Atten: Bicycling in the Driftless Region
410 Veterans Memorial Drive
La Crosse, WI 54601
(800) 658-9424 or (608) 782-2220
(608) 782-4082 FAX

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