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The 5-day, 500-kilometer ride will take place in the greater La Crosse, Wisconsin area on July 12th through July 16th. (Check-in and overnight accommodations available on July 11th.) Our “base camp" for all five days of riding will be Luther High School in Onalaska, perfectly located for scenic routes taking us in all directions to discover the beauty of what is known as the Driftless, a unique region missed by the glaciers. For more information, watch the trailer for "Decoding the Driftless," a Regional Emmy Award-winning documentary.https://www.sustainabledriftless.org/
The Route Planning sub-committee is excited to announce that our first day will be a beautiful Tri-State Century loop along the Mississippi River to Lansing, Iowa. This relatively flat route through the center of the Driftless region includes many scenic photo ops. Plan to arrive with rested legs and get your century ride out of the way. If that seems too much for day one, a shorter option (of 82 miles) will be possible by omitting the rest stop #1 in Goose Island Park (12 miles from breakfast) and riding straight to rest stop #2 at the Genoa Fish Hatchery (28 miles from breakfast.). As the Driftless region includes southeastern Minnesota and the Root River Trail, our third day will include transporting our bikes to Houston, Minnesota for a 72 mile out-and-back ride on this popular bike trail. Day 4 and Day 5 include several route options of various distances to accommodate single-day riders joining us on the weekend.
This 100-mile (or 82 mile) loop takes you down Old Man River and along the Great River Road through Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota all in one day! See the mighty Mississippi up close and personal and take advantage of 16 wildlife viewing pull-off areas. The bluffs of the Driftless Region will be on your left all morning and shade you as you head south to Lansing Iowa where you will cross the river. You will encounter many quaint river towns including Stoddard, Genoa, Victory, DeSoto, Lansing, New Albin, Brownsville and La Crescent. Take in a stop at Lock and Dam Number 8 and watch a barge or boat lock through!
This is the Wisconsin Driftless Region at its best! Travel the “milk roads” that are the scenic bluff country farm-to-market roads that take you to Chaseburg, Coon Valley and Norskedalen for a metric century. Be on the lookout for some Amish horse and buggy’s as you roll on through the Norwegian woods and take in a well-earned break at the Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center which is a few quick miles out of Coon Valley. Coon Valley, is near the site of the first soil conservation watershed project in the U.S. that instilled better farming practices in this hilly farm land with highly erodible soil. This was accomplished by Aldo Leopold and the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s.
The Root River Trail (RRT) was initiated in 1983 and has had several additions to the original trail segment including to Preston and Fountain and to Houston, MN. For over 20 years there have been efforts to complete the trail through to the cities of Hokah and La Crescent to the Mississippi River. The RRT connects to the Harmony-Preston State Trail. Minnesota State Highway 16 from La Crescent east into the Root River valley is home to the Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway driving route which runs a total of 88 miles. The Root River Trail parallels much of the driving route and is equally if not more scenic when you are pedaling along the former railbed and next to the Root River under a shady canopy of majestic trees. The Root River, as you go upstream changes from a river to a stream as you pedal into its headwaters. Houston, Rushford, Peterson, Preston, Whalan and Lanesboro are all awaiting your arrival! A must stop is in Whalan and the Aroma Pie Shop! The turn-around for this ride is just west of Lanesboro and your RRT experience is complete back in Houston, MN and 72 miles of riding.
After three days of beautiful riding in the Upper Midwest’s Driftless Area you may wonder, how could it get any more scenic? You will not be loopy when you finish one of the three loop options and you will be begging for more Driftless scenery. You will think you are riding in Europe as you traverse the hills and valleys of SE Minnesota. There will be majestic vistas of the Mississippi River as well as numerous apple orchards and vineyards along your ride. You will encounter quiet roads with a tractor here and there as well as some steep and sweeping valley descents that will get your speed up to the low 40s mph. You will go through Pettibone Park and the new Wagon Wheel Trail to La Crescent then a short stretch up the Great River Road toward I-90 with a stop at the lock and dam, then along the river to Dresbach, then Dakota and see your first Apple Orchard in the Apple Capital of Minnesota. Enjoy this day as a scenic primer to Sunday’s final riding day in the unglaciated Driftless Region. Loops of 52, 76 or 98 miles are your Driftless Region’s Most Scenic choices for the day!
The 52 mile loop has one climb up County Road 12 through apple country has a few easy rollers on the way to Nodine for the first stop. From there you will head north to I90 then west along I-90 and then south to New Hartford and a beautiful decent into the valley. You will then head back to La Crescent along valley adjacent to Pine Creek. You will be riding in both Winona County and Houston County so County Road 5 turns into County Road 6 when you get back into Houston County.
The 76 mile loop is the same until to get to New Hartford. For the longer loop you will go right and up the hill on County Road 8 (second of two climbs), then go left on County Road 11. County Road 11 changes to Houston County 9 (Looney Valley), then stay on County Road 9 to Houston, a nice break at the nature center, then you will head east on Minnesota State Highway to Hokah then on to La Crescent.
For the intrepid, the 4-climb, 98-mile loop is the same as the first two loops but you’ll have a turn north on County Road 25 off of Minnesota 16. You will climb “The Wall” and go along the ridge east to the TV towers of Channel 19 and go right on Tschumper Ridge Road. There are beautiful vistas along this ridge road and get ready for a thrilling decent to County Road 21. You will then make your way west on County Road 21 to Minnesota 16, then go right to Hokah the rest stop at the fire station (on your left). You will then go uptown and make a left on County Road 18 on your way to Brownsville. Take the river road north back to La Crescent and then on back to Luther High School.
We are heading north and east of Onalaska for more Driftless scenery and a bit of rolling terrain. After four days of riding, you have already made the cut but now you have to Ride the Cut. The roads are just as scenic as the Minnesota side of the Mississippi River and you will see more Wisconsin barns and lots of corn. Short, medium or medium rare, you have a choice of three loops and any choice is a good one! The Mindoro Cut is locally famous as the cut through the bluff was hand dug. It’s good for bike riders because it lessened the grade to ride over the hill. Take a break at the cut in the shade then get ready for a very enjoyable descent into West Salem. The medium option ride allows you to ride to Grandad’s Bluff which takes you up the “back side” of Granddad’s Bluff. County FO is quite steep (9%), but only for a short segment, but worth the climb to the ridgetop and then a few more miles to Granddad’s Bluff Park and a panoramic view of La Crosse. You can see Iowa and Minnesota before you descend down Bliss Road into La Crosse. Bliss Road has some tight curves so be careful as you descend.