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MVC Trails
Kathy Frise, outreach coordinator with Mississippi Valley Conservancy, hikes the Hass Trail on La Crosse’s South Side. PETER THOMSON photo

Come on — taking the kids to the pool is getting old and you know it. But what else can you do outdoors this summer?

Did you know prairie flowers, bright green moss and trees so tall you are dwarfed by their trunks are only a few miles from downtown La Crosse? The bluffland is packed with trails that weave throughout the natural beauty of this region.

Unfortunately, some trail heads are so small you could easily pass by without taking notice. But, if you look a little closer, you’ll find a new backyard to bike, run or take a relaxing stroll — without the stoplights and traffic.

“All of us know about the Hixon Forest and the Great River Road bike trail,” said Kathy Frise, outreach coordinator for the Mississippi Valley Conservancy. “There is a lot more within a mile of West Avenue.”

Frise is talking about the Blufflands Protection Program area, an eight-mile stretch of Mississippi River blufflands overlooking La Crosse.

The city has set aside money for bluffland protection, which allows MVC to buy blufflands with additional funding from grants. Since 1997, MVC has worked with willing landowners to purchase blufflands as they become available, the most recent being the Medary Quarry in 2008.

MVC not only protects the blufflands — you’ll notice volunteers diligently plucking invasive species like buckthorn and honeysuckle — but the conservancy creates trails through them. MVC doesn’t have mile markers or maps on the trails yet, but plans to add them. For now, they’d like more people to know they are there.

“The more people use the land in its natural state, the more they will develop a deep respect for land and what it has to offer the community,” Frise said.

The mainstays, like Hixon Forest, are only the gateway to all the conservation efforts in the bluffs, Frise said.



Directions: Take Hwy. 33 east out of La Crosse. Drive about 3 miles and turn left on County Road F. Then turn right on FA.

Trail starts and ends: The National Weather Service Office, N2788 County Road FA.

Miles: 12 miles of interconnected trails

Type: Dirt and grass

Best for: Hiking, running or biking (mountain or hybrid bike). Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Because the trails are multi-use, pay attention to “do not enter” signs at trail intersections.

Level: All. Trails are marked with a green, blue and black signs to indicate the level of difficulty. Green is easy, blue is intermediate and black is advanced.

Highlights: Varying difficulty of trails allows for an easy nature walk through woodland and prairie or steep uphill mountain bike climb. Picnic tables behind the weather station at the trail head are great for a family outing. Use the trails and bring a lunch for later.


Directions: Drive north on County Road FA from the weather station.

Trail starts and ends: The north end of County Road FA where the road ends at N3065, town of Medary.

Miles: 11/2 mile loop

Type: Gently rolling, dirt and grass

Best for: Hiking or trail running. Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in winter.

Level: Easy to moderate

Highlights: Not many have been on this trail since the MVC acquired it in 2006. Appreciate the bright green moss undisturbed on the rocks alongside the trail. Also, beautiful prairie scenery and overlooks of the city.


Directions: Follow County Road FA north past the weather station, turn left on Rim of the City Road. Drive to the end.

Trail starts and ends: Cul-de-sac at the end of Rim of the City Road. (Possible end location at outlet behind the Knights of Columbus office on Hwy. 16.)

Miles: 2-3 miles

Type: Starts paved, quickly turns to dirt

Best for: Hiking or a challenging trail run. Lookout for rocks, logs and steep inclines. Snowshoeing.

Level: Intermediate to difficult

Highlights: You won’t realize how high you are until you come out of the woods and see a great view of the city below. Climb out onto the rocky top and get a good view of Grandad Bluff. Many trails wind around Miller Bluff. Some lead to prairie and city outlooks, others to the Medary Quarry and others to Hixon Forest.



Directions: From Losey Blvd., go east on Ward Avenue, south on 33rd. Street, east on Park Lane Drive; south on Maple Drive; east on Easter Road.

Trail starts and ends: 1/4 mile up Easter Road.

Miles: 2 mile loop

Type: Dirt and grass, moderate to somewhat steep hike.

Best for: Hiking or trail running, and snowshoeing in winter.

Level: Intermediate to difficult

Highlights: At the entrance, a canopy of trees hangs overhead, and a creek creeps along the trail’s edge. After an uphill climb, a granite bench awaits with a lookout at the city’s south side. MVC is working to connect Welch, Juniper and Hass trails.


Directions: Off of Easter Road, go south on Cliffside Drive, east on Crown Blvd. Drive about a block up. A small Mississippi Valley Conservancy signs lets you know you’re there.

Trail starts and ends: The entrance to Welch and Juniper trails is the same spot. Follow Welch until it branches off and you can continue to follow Welch or take Juniper.

Miles: 1/2 mile loop

Type: Dirt and grass up hill hike to a prairie outlook

Best for: Hiking. Winter: Snowshoeing.

Level: Difficult


Directions: Same as Welch.

Trail starts and ends: Same as Welch.

Miles: 1/2 mile out and back.

Type: Dirt and grass up hill hike to a prairie outlook

Best for: Hiking.  Snowshoeing.

Level: Difficult

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