La Crosse has so many things to do and cheese isn't the only thing cultured here. Lying alongside the Mississippi River there are many outdoor adventures to explore. And the arts are alive in this river paradise! Not to mention the regional festivals. Year after year La Crosse activities offer fun for visitors and residents of all ages.
With three majestic rivers and the beautiful bluffs surrounding them make La Crosse County the greatest outdoor recreation area. You can enjoy kayaking, fish, or just cruise the Mississippi, and the Hixon Forest is full of trails for hiking and biking. You can work on your short game at any of our six area golf courses, or visit in winter for some of the region's best downhill and cross-country skiing. If spectating is more of what your looking for La Crosse area is home to three semi-professional teams: the La Crosse Loggers of the Northwoods Baseball League, the River City Rough Riders of the Northern Elite Football League, and the Coulee Region Chill of the North American Hockey League, not to mention plenty of NCAA action at UW-La Crosse and Viterbo University.
Located in Genoa, WI, 17 miles south of La Crosse, Clements Fishing Barge has been operating for more than 75 years. This premium fishing location in the heart of the Upper Mississippi River has 12 floating docks and piers where you can fish from April-July and September-November for any of the region's 134 aquatic species. Get all your gear at Captain Hook's Bait & Tackle, 108 Main Street, then raise the flag and wait for the boat to pick you up. Food and refreshments available for purchase.
The cooling temperatures of fall bring wonderful color to the woodlands and bluffs. Fall also brings some of the year's best fishing. Walleye begin to move again in the fall, and while the fall walleye run tends to be less lively than in the spring, the fall run tends to be more predictable and can provide steady action right up until the lakes, pools and waterways freeze over. The first areas to catch the attention of ice anglers are the area's many backwaters. As ice creeps out from the shores of Lake Onalaska, so do intrepid ice anglers looking for some of the best panfishing of the year. As ice covers a wider area, ice anglers begin moving further out to deeper water in search of walleye, yellow perch and northern pike.
Spring is a time when many anglers in La Crosse County turn their eyes to walleye. Shortly after ice leaves the river, walleye are running, and the catching can be spectacular. On the Mississippi, many anglers head to the dams where large numbers of walleye congregate. However, there's often great fishing downriver as well. As waters warm in the spring, panfish action starts picking up, particularly in the flats and backwaters of the Black River, Mississippi River and Lake Onalaska that tend to warm faster than the moving waters near the river's channel. The warming waters also make northern pike fishing pick up.
Late spring, early summer can be an excellent time to catch nearly every species of fish, but bass fishing really stands out. Both largemouth and smallmouth can be found in the river system around La Crosse. Look for smallmouth in the main river channels in spots that protect them from the heavy current, such as rocks, downfalls and wingdams. Largemouth bass are plentiful in the shallow backwaters. Fishing for catfish during the warmest months of the year can be an exciting affair, with both channel cats and flatheads providing some of the best catfishing in the Midwest.
There might not be a better place in the world to explore on foot than La Crosse, WI. With wooded bluffs topped by craggy sandstone outcroppings, vast marshes teeming with wildlife, pristine prairies and meadows, and rivers, lakes, and streams everywhere you turn, there's a whole world to explore in this quiet little corner of the Upper Midwest. And with hundreds of miles of designated, well-maintained trails, you won't need a compass to do it! Whether you prefer leisurely strolls along wide, level paths, or heart-pounding climbs up steep, rocky trails, you'll find your hike in La Crosse.
Nearly ten miles of hiking and multi-use trails crisscross the wooded bluffs on the eastern edge of La Crosse. Four designated parking areas provide convenient access to the trails, which can also be reached by bike or on foot via connecting trails from Myrick Park, or even downtown La Crosse via Riverside Park. The Hixon Forest Trails offer access to the popular Grandad Bluff Park and its stunning views of the city and river valley, as well as four other designated vistas. Hikers and mountain bikers can also connect to Human Powered Trails at the top of the ridge (across County Hwy FA). Visit the City of La Crosse's Parks, Recreation, & Forestry website for trail maps.Green Coulee
Located off of Green Coulee Road and Stonebridge Ave in Onalaska. At 1212 feet, Green Coulee Park is the highest point in the Coulee Region. 67 acres and consisting of hiking trails that run from the wetlands area at the lower end of the park through areas of oak savanna to the rock quarry at the summit of the bluff that overlooks a portion of Onalaska.
Tip: During deer hunting season the trails are closed to hikers. Green Coulee Park Map
Part of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, the 24 acres of Savannah Oaks is open to the public for hiking, hunting, and bird watching. The land borders up against Green Coulee Park See a map of Savannah Oaks here.Human Powered Trails
Human Powered Trails, Inc. is a growing non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with a goal of maintaining and developing sustainable and environmentally correct trails for the La Crosse, WI region. The trails are located just outside of the City of La Crosse, on County Hwy FA. There is a trailhead and parking lot right next to the National Weather Service Station. Look for the big golf ball (weather ball) in the sky! HPT is dedicated to providing trails for all user types and skill levels. From the parents that want to go out and explore nature with their children, to the hardcore mountain biker, and even the first time cyclist. All of the trails built by HPT, Inc. and its many volunteers are open for all types of human powered shared use – including hiking, biking, birding, trail running, skiing, snowshoeing, and more. So grab the kids, or call a friend and come out and explore the ever expanding trails on the bluffs overlooking the beautiful coulee region!Justin Trails Resort
Founded by Don & Donna Justin in 1986, Justin Trails Bed & Breakfast welcomes outdoor enthusiasts of every stripe year-round. Located in a private, secluded valley near Sparta, WI, the resort includes over 50 acres of certified organic farmland and over 150 acres of oak savannah and woodland forest restoration. This family and pet-friendly getaway is the perfect place to spend a day, weekend, or week-long vacation, with plenty of activities for everyone, year-round. Ten miles of multi-use hiking trails lace the resort's 200+ acres, offering stunning views of the area and great wildlife-viewing opportunities.Mississippi Valley Conservancy
Mississippi Valley Conservancy is a regional, non-profit land trust based in La Crosse that has permanently conserved more than 15,000 acres of blufflands, prairies, wetlands, and streams in southwestern Wisconsin since its founding in 1997. The MVC's land protection work preserves scenic beauty, protects wildlife habitat, and provides opportunities for hiking, cross-country skiing, bird watching, hunting, fishing, biking, and nature photography. The hiking trails are easily accessible behind Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center. Visit their website, www.mississippivalleyconservancy.org , for maps of nature preserves and hiking trails.Norskedalen Heritage & Nature Center
Norskedalen, located three miles north of Coon Valley off County Hwy PI, is rich in natural beauty and diversity, encompassing about 400 acres of scenic coulee along Poplar Creek. While hiking 6+ miles of trails one can encounter an amazingly wide variety of flora and fauna. The trails take you through pine plantations, over the cold, clear, creek and the many springs and pools that feed it, along wooded hillsides and rocky outcrops of goat prairies, and along the valley floor. Bring a picnic and the whole family, and be sure to check out Norskedalen's full schedule of cultural and educational programs while you're there.Van Loon State Wildlife Area
The 4,000-acre Van Loon State Wildlife Area, located north of Onalaska, WI, off Hwy 53, is home to six historic arch-truss bridges built in the late 19th century. While the Black River bottomlands are often impassable in spring and early summer due to high water, late summer and fall are a great time to hike the path across all six bridges. The area is also open to primitive camping, canoeing and kayaking, cross-country skiing, hunting, trapping, and fishing.Wisconsin State Trails
Four rail-bed trails spanning nearly 100 miles from Reedsburg, WI, to Trempeleau, WI, offer some of the best hiking and biking in the region. The trails take you through marshes and valleys, along the rivers, and offer access to several communities, parks, and recreation areas, including Perrot State Park, Veteran's Memorial Park, and the La Crosse River Prairies State Natural Area.
The Upper Mississippi US Fish & Wildlife Visitor Center on Brice Prairie has a little under two miles of paved or gravel walkways through 183 acres of sand prairie . The paths are flat and easily accessible from the visitor center. The prairie is full of plant life, including many early summer blooming flowers, and many bird species. The breeze on the prairie and the bluffs in the background make for a relaxing walk.
While there, be sure to stop into the visitor center and enjoy the exhibits that highlight the natural history of the Refuge. The visitor center can be found at: N5727 County Rd. Z, Onalaska. (Tip: if using GPS, put a space between the “N” and “5727”)
North of Holmen, the Holland Sand Prairie is a 61 acre State Natural Area. Hiking, snowshoeing and wildlife observation are all activities that can be done on the sand prairie. A local girl scout troop did a fantastic job creating a flower identification guide of what blooms on the prairie . The Mississippi Valley Conservancy holds a conservation easement on the property.
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